Welcome back to our Seattle Expansion Draft Series. If you haven’t read the first article that lays out the rules of the expansion draft, that would be a good starting point, as I’ll only give the very basic rules in each of these follow up articles. If you are interested in Detroit, that was the second article and the seventh article.
I’m going to take a look at either one or two other NHL teams each week. My goal is to get some input from people who cover the team because let’s face it, I don’t have the knowledge of each NHL team to be able to give you the best idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that there’s a lot that could happen between now and July, when the lists are finalized. So let’s dive into the Devils and the Islanders!
New Jersey Devils
I started looking at the Devils options, especially on defense, and I felt I had no idea about many of their potential choices, so for this team in particular, it was very nice to be able to talk to someone who knows the team a lot better. I asked CJ Turturo, who covers NJ for All About the Jersey, to help me think through what the Devils are likely to do.
Luckily, there is at least one easy position. Mackenzie Blackwood is going to be the goalie protected.
A few years ago, P.K. Subban would have been an automatic protect, but at this point, NJ is likely not going to protect him. CJ says that Damon Severson is the one player NJ will definitely protect on defense. After that, he thinks Jonas Siegenthaler is a good choice, since they recently traded for him, and they already meet the exposure requirements on defense. I think that makes sense.
After that, I honestly don’t know who the third player is. I’m going to protect Ryan Murray. I know he’s a UFA, but he ended the season on their top pair, he is the top defenseman for them in Evolving Hockey’s WAR metric, and I really don’t know who else to pick. I thought Will Butcher would be the third name, but CJ doesn’t think NJ will protect him. I can see Seattle picking Ryan Murray and trying to sign him, considering the other options.
At forward, NJ has some players that are likely locks for protection. Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, and Yegor Sharangovich are all current NHL top 6 players, and CJ thinks those are the players to pencil in as protected before looking at the rest of the lineup.
Let me just quote what CJ told me about the issues figuring out the last two spots:
That means that two(!) of McLeod, Bastian, Johnsson, and Wood need to be exposed if we go 7/3. Wood had a career season and could lay claim to being the most valuable forward outside Jack Hughes this past year. McLeod and Bastian were invaluable at hogging up the most unenviable 5v5 minutes and were a strong PK pairing too. Johnsson struggled to produce points, but probably has the highest ceiling of those 4 and had very strong 5v5 impacts. I think, were it not for Seattle, all 4 would be back next season.
Based on this, I’m putting Miles Wood as the 6th forward protected. For the last spot, I’m really not sure, but I’m going to put Andreas Johnsson, although I can certainly see reasons to keep the other two.
There is an issue with this protection list: it would leave NJ without the two qualifying forwards mandated to be exposed. NJ has three RFAs that would qualify if the Devils sign them before the expansion draft in Nick Merkley, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian. Of course, not protecting Andreas Johnsson and instead protecting McLeod or Bastian would mean they only need to sign one of the other two RFAs.
Of course NJ could try to trade with Seattle, but I think that in most cases, teams are better off just losing one player.
Current Predicted Protections
Notable Unprotected Players
New York Islanders
Those of you who have been here for a while know that I grew up an Islanders fan, and followed the team for a long time. I don’t really pay close attention to them anymore, so I reached out to Dan Saraceni from Lighthouse Hockey to see if I was off base on my initial ideas.
Goalie is easy. They only have one goalie who is not a UFA, and that is Semyon Varlamov. Ilya Sorokin is exempt, so it’s an easy choice
On the defensive end, there aren’t too many tough choices. The Islanders have a defenseman in Thomas Hickey that Seattle may be interested in taking, but he’s not better than the three players they will protect: Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech.
The Islanders are one of the more straightforward teams because they can protect the forwards they really don’t want to lose for free. You can make most of their list just by looking at the best Goals Above Replacement (from Evolving Hockey) players.
Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are very likely to be protected. The seventh forward, Brock Nelson, did not have a great regular season, but as he’s already shown in the playoffs, he can be a clutch player, and the team won’t want to lose him for nothing.
Seattle would likely look at Hickey, Scott Mayfield, or Kieffer Bellows. But Saraceni sees another possibility, even though he originally referred to it “a conspiracy theory” in our conversations. I’ll let him explain it:
My “conspiracy theory” isn’t really a conspiracy theory and more like wishful thinking, plus it ties in with the earlier question. I think (and maybe Lou Lamoriello thinks) that the Kraken are his last, best chance at extricating himself from the onerous Andrew Ladd contract of 2016. Ladd was reportedly amenable to a trade to Minnesota last season that would have brought Zach Parise to Long Island. That never materialized but it opens the door for Ladd (a BC native) to waive his NMC and be eligible for the expansion draft.
Thing is, Lou won’t get that away that easily. So I can see a scenario in which Lamoriello makes a deal with Ron Francis to ensure Seattle takes Ladd by sweetening the deal with either one or both of the two second rounders he picked up in the unfortunate Devon Toews trade or a certain player Francis might want. Sorta like what Vegas did with Marc-Andre Fleury except Fleury is still good and Ladd is not. But he’s old and expensive for just two more years so he might be of use to an expansion team that will need vets and cap mules.
Like I said, it’s wishful thinking. But I feel like a deal (Ladd or no Ladd) is more likely than just a straight draft situation. The Islanders will need cap space for next season so Lou’s going to have to get creative and the Kraken offer him a bunch of options.
Could that happen? Sure. It would be good for the Islanders to be able to get out of the Ladd contract, but it’s a situation in which Seattle has all the leverage, which is a bad position to be trading from.
Current Predicted Protections
Notable Unprotected Players
Article 1: The Rules
Article 2: Detroit (First Time)
Article 3: Anaheim and Arizona
Article 4: Boston and Buffalo
Article 5: Calgary and Carolina
Article 6 - Chicago and Colorado
Article 7 - Detroit (Second Time)
Quick Rules Update
Article 8 - Columbus and Dallas
Article 9 - Edmonton and Florida
Article 10 - Los Angeles and Minnesota
Article 11 - Montreal and Nashville