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 Lightning and the Maple Leafs!
Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman has a NMC, but he would be protected anyway. After that, Mikhail Sergachev is an obvious choice. After that, there are two options. Ryan McDonagh is a good defenseman still, but the team would not want to give up Erik Czernak. Esteves points out that the Lightning need to alleviate their cap crunch, and that Seattle selecting McDonagh could be a way to help out there. According to Esteves:
He’s still a valuable player, and even though he is overpaid, Seattle does need a few heavy contracts to help them hit the salary floor. Now, moving McDonagh does help the cap situation, but not entirely, which is why I feel the Lightning could make a deal as they did in the Vegas draft. It worked out splendidly for Tampa Bay, but it’s unclear if that will be the case this time.
Tampa has some obvious choices at forward, and in fact was one of the easier teams for me to select forwards for in my original predictions.
Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos both have NMCs, but would be protected anyway. After that, I’m just going to go down the list for the other five and jump to some more quotes from Matt about other possibilities.
Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, and Alex Killorn round out the list.
There are some interesting potential scenarios. As said earlier, Tampa could try to use this to alleviate some of their cap issues. Esteves talks about what this would look like:
My concern is making a deal that sees Seattle take Johnson and McDonagh in a trade; more assets are sent to get it done. The Lightning doesn’t have a ton of assets left in the cupboard. Many folks are high on Alex Barre-Boulet (I’m not one of them), but I don’t think that moves the needle enough for Seattle to take on 11.75M in cap space. In my opinion, Tampa should be more careful with their draft picks after this season. Eventually, they’re going to run into the issue that Chicago ran into after 2015 (albeit you take those issues after 3 cups in less than a decade). If they want to maintain competitiveness, they need to start thinking about drafting players who could help in the coming years.
Let’s remember, Stamkos is 31. Kucherov is 27. Hedman is 30. Vasilevskiy is 26. Time isn’t entirely on the Lightning’s side here; there’s some wiggle room, but not as much as initially thought. They’re going to need to keep producing the Ross Colton’s and Mathieu Joseph’s and hope players like Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk can make the jump. There’s more optimism there, given how well Tampa has produced forwards from the AHL, but that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee.
If TB doesn’t see a trade as their best option, and they would rather lose a forward than lose McDonagh, Esteves says they could go 8-1 and protect McDonagh while exposing Palat, Killorn, and Gourde from the players I listed before. Matt laid out the pros and cons for each of these players:
In Palat, they get a good two-way forward, but he isn’t a play driver; he’s a playmaker who compliments higher-end players. However, he only has one year left on his contract, which might deter Seattle.
In Killorn, they get a player with less upside but a higher floor and the ability to play in any situation. Killorn is essentially a swiss army knife and can do whatever is asked of him. He’s also a leader, and his contract isn’t nearly as bad as many in the Lightning world believe (it might be too long, but he hasn’t shown any signs of post 30 regression yet). He could also be a valuable trade piece for Seattle at the trade deadline, given his production in the playoffs (and, of course, RINGZZZZ).
In Gourde, you have arguably the best forward of the bunch. He’s a clear 2C and plays any situation but does have consistency issues scoring. That said, Cs are hard to find in this league, especially good ones, and if Seattle surrounds him with players that complement his aggressive forechecking approach, they will thoroughly enjoy having him on their team.
Current Predicted Protections
Victor Hedman (NMC)
Nikita Kucherov (NMC)
Steven Stamkos (NMC)
Notable Unprotected Players
(Possibly more if they choose 8-1)
Toronto Maple Leafs
As it currently stands, Toronto is one of the easiest teams to predict, which of course means that I will be the most wrong about them. I asked past and future Fer Sure guest Dom Luszczyszyn to help make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
Jack Campbell didn’t have a great Game 7 against Montreal, but he was good for Toronto overall this season. He’s the easy protection choice for their current roster.
Defense is where the team has the biggest decision, according to Luszczyszyn. They are one of the few teams that will be better off protecting four defensemen, but even so, the fourth choice is open to debate.
Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie, Morgan Reilly are easy choices. The last spot in the 8-1 scheme (assuming 4 forwards, which as you will see is incredibly likely) will go to Justin Holl. This leaves Travis Dermott as someone that Seattle may look at.
While there obviously could be one or more trades made between now and the expansion draft, If you don’t look at Toronto’s available forwards and mark off Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, I don’t know what to tell you. Leaving any of them exposed would be a fireable offense. Tavares has an NMC, but he’d obviously be protected anyway.
The big question for Toronto is going to be if they want to expose defenseman Justin Holl or forward Alex Kerfoot. If they protect Kerfoot, then they would be going 7-3-1, exposing Holl and being able to protect newly signed Jason Spezza and another forward. Seattle’s pick will likely be either Holl or Kerfoot.
I think it’s pretty unlikely that Seattle would select Jason Spezza, so I don’t think that Toronto has to worry about protecting him, even though he just re-signed.
Current Predicted Protections
John Tavares (NMC)
Notable Unprotected Players
Justin Holl (If Toronto decides to go 7-3-1)
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
Article 12 - New Jersey and New York (Islanders)
Article 13 - New York (Rangers) and Ottawa Senators
Article 14 - Philadelphia and Pittsburgh
Article 15 - San Jose and St. Louis