Predicting Protected Lists: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins, as everyone knows by now, have a huge decision to make in goal before the expansion draft. Marc-Andre Fleury has a no-movement clause and needs to be traded beforehand. Matt Murray is the future in the crease of Pittsburgh and that is not expected to change.
We will get to goalies later, so starting up front, three Penguins have no-movement clauses. They are Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. None of these are a problem, though, as none were going to be exposed anyways.
The Penguins are highly likely to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, so that makes Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust obvious selections.
After those five players, though, the field is mixed and the players getting the last two spots are unclear.
Carl Hagelin, granted, seems like a safe bet. This is based only on the ideology that there are not many other players that could be protected.
Unless the Penguins sign Chris Kunitz or Matt Cullen to an extension, both Tom Kuhnhackl and Scott Wilson will need to be exposed to meet the requirement.
Nick Bonino is left off of this list because he is an unrestricted free agent as well. If he is re-signed before the expansion draft, which rightfully seems improbable, he will be protected.
The last spot could perhaps go to Josh Archibald or Oskar Sundqvist. Neither are ideal options, but it is the only choice Jim Rutherford has.
On defense, Kris Letang is the only sure-fire pick. However, it appears that the Penguins will want to protect Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz as well.
Both Dumoulin and Schultz are pending restricted free agents. Although they play different styles, both players have been integral to Pittsburgh’s success this season and last.
This scenario would leave Olli Maatta exposed. The first round pick from 2012 is not a bad player, however he has not progressed as well as the Penguins would have hoped. His skating is the most glaring issue in his game.
As for goaltenders, the expectation is that Marc-Andre Fleury and his no-movement clause will be traded. This would allow for Matt Murray to be protected.
Even if Fleury is not immediately traded, he will likely waive his no-movement clause for the team. He has been nothing but supportive over the past two years with him and Murray battling for the crease and he has been a team first guy for the Penguins for the entirety of his career. It will hurt the organization and fans to see Fleury go, but it is just what has to happen.
In total, the Penguins protected list could look like this:
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin, and Josh Archibald OR Oskar Sundqvist
Defense: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz
Goalie: Matt Murray
Olli Maatta seems like the most likely to go to Vegas in this case. If Maatta is protected, it becomes Schultz or Dumoulin.
Next team: San Jose Sharks