The Flyers have one or two forwards too many heading into the expansion draft, but other than that, they face no real challenges. Nine out of the ten skaters spots are easy to predict for Philadelphia.
For forwards, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Valtteri Filppula, and Sean Couturier will 100% be protected. After that, the last spot comes down to Jordan Weal, Michael Raffl, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Weal was acquired a few seasons ago by the Flyers in the Vincent Lecavalier trade with Los Angeles. He has shown flashes of brilliance offensively and his numbers have been outstanding. Last season, he posted 12 points in 23 NHL games and 47 points in 43 AHL games.
If the Flyers feel confident that they can sign Weal to an extension prior to or after the expansion draft, they will most likely be protecting him. But, that means that Weal has to make the team next year and make an impact. It would be a high-risk, high-reward selection.
Raffl, 28, and Bellemare, 32, both did not post great numbers for the Flyers last season, but both are valuable in their own right to the team.
Jordan Weal still seems like the most likely option, though.
On defense, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas are locks to be protected.
With many of their other core defensemen heading into next season, like Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, being exempt, the Flyers do not really have much of a choice for their last defensive spot. It will be going to Brandon Manning, as Andrew MacDonald will be used to fulfill the exposure requirement.
In goal, the decision is tricky. Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz, albeit under different circumstances, are both worthy of protection.
However, with all things considered, I believe the Flyers will go with Neuvirth as their protection pick. He is slated to be their starter next season, or at least their 1A, and losing him and Steve Mason in one offseason would be crippling.
In total, the Philadelphia Flyers could have a protection list that looks like this:
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Valtteri Filppula, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Jordan Weal
Defense: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning
Goalie: Michal Neuvirth
A forward, whether it be Weal, Raffl, Bellemare, Cousins, or Laughton, is probable to go to Vegas.
Next team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Between Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf, the Ottawa Senators have a lot of important choices to make before the expansion draft. Currently they are at risk of losing a top-four defender, but that could change depending on how the next couple of weeks shake out.
Up front, the Senators have four players that they will definitely be protecting. They are Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Derrick Brassard.
After a strong playoff performance, Jean-Gabriel Pageau also seems like a safe bet to be protected.
Clarke MacArthur should get a spot as well. After being sidelined for almost two full seasons with concussions, MacArthur came back for the playoffs and impressed. He does not meet the exposure requirements regardless.
The last spot comes down to two players, Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith.
Ryan carries a large cap hit at $7.25 million for the next five seasons. After a very disappointing regular season, it seemed like Ryan would be left exposed to Vegas. However, after a strong playoff performance, Ryan could be back on the protection list.
As for Smith, he has four years left on his deal at $3.25 million per. Smith is a versatile forward who can play multiple positions and can play in all situations as well. Just a year ago, he scored 25 goals.
It is still unclear who the Senators will pick to protect with their last spot. Either way it goes, Ryan or Smith, it would not be surprising.
As for defense, Erik Karlsson is obviously going to be protected.
The Senators will also not want to lose any of Dion Phaneuf, Marc Methot, or Cody Ceci, but one of them will need to be exposed. If I had to guess, I would say it will be Ceci.
The Ottawa Senators protection list could look like the following:
Forwards: Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Derrick Brassard, Clarke MacArthur, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Bobby Ryan OR Zack Smith
Defense: Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf
Goalie: Craig Anderson
Prime candidates that could be going to Vegas are Cody Ceci (or whoever is exposed of Ceci, Phaneuf, and Methot) and Ryan Dzingel.
Next team: Philadelphia Flyers
The New York Rangers are in an interesting spot in terms of the expansion draft. They have a bunch of good forwards that they need to worry about, however it is the exact opposite on defense.
It is almost certain that the Rangers will be protecting seven forward and three defensemen.
For the forwards, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Mika Zibanejad are all slated to earn protection slots.
That takes up six spots. The last spot can go to Rick Nash, who has a no-movement clause.
There are definitely some other good players that you could argue deserve a spot on the protection list over Nash. Michael Grabner and Oscar Lindberg are two of them.
All things considered, though, it is not worth it to ask Nash to waive his no-movement clause, try to trade him, or try to buy him out just to protect Lindberg or Grabner. In no disrespect to Grabner and Lindberg, they are not valuable enough pieces to do that for.
The defense is where things get strange. Ryan McDonagh is a no-brainer to be protected, but after that there are no clear choices. Well, technically there are not anyways.
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi both have no-movement clauses, which means both are required to be protected during the expansion draft.
The thought floating around most hockey minds currently is that the Rangers will buyout one of them, Girardi being more likely.
Is it worth it though? I know that sounds crazy to say, but the fact of the matter is that Vegas is not going to take a defenseman from the Rangers.
Brady Skjei is exempt. Kevin Klein and Nick Holden are not good enough for George McPhee to waste his time on, especially given the crop of defensemen that will be available for him.
At the end of the day, why not just bite the bullet and lose Jesper Fast, Michael Grabner, or Oscar Lindberg in expansion? A Girardi buyout can always come after. But there is no need to immediately rush into anything.
The Rangers could bribe Vegas to take Girardi’s contract, though. But, it seems improbable. It would likely cost Jeff Gorton a solid prospect plus a first round pick, which would heavily hurt the Rangers already depleted prospect pipeline.
Regardless, the moral of the story is that it should not be surprising if Dan Girardi is on the Rangers protection list. That does not mean that he will be back with the team next season.
In all, the Rangers protection list could look like the this:
Forwards: Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, JT Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash
Defense: Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi
Goalie: Henrik Lundqvist
The Rangers expansion draft plan, in the end, could go in a number of directions. Like the Islanders, only time will tell.
Next team: Ottawa Senators
The expansion draft status of the New York Islanders is currently incredibly difficult to predict. They are expected to make a trade or two beforehand, and it is also nearly impossible to tell how they are thinking in terms of who they will protect at forward.
As far as guaranteed protection picks go, John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Thomas Greiss will be there.
Tavares, Boychuk, and Ladd all have no-movement clauses. None will be asked to waive. Leddy has been the backbone of the Islanders’ defense for the past three seasons and is going nowhere. For Greiss, he recently signed a new three year contract with the team and is slated to be the starting goaltender headed into next season.
Anders Lee and Ryan Pulock are also highly likely to be protected.
Lee posted a career-high 34 goals last season. He became a dominant net-front presence last season and the hope is that he will continue to put up the same numbers far into the future.
Pulock did not see more than one game of NHL time this season, but he is still too valuable for the Islanders to lose. His rocket of a shot will be featured on the powerplay for years to come.
Now, this is where things get tricky. The Islanders could either go the route of protecting four more forwards and no defensemen or two more forwards and one more defensemen.
The assumption is that one of Travis Hamonic or Calvin de Haan will be traded before the expansion draft. There is no inkling being given as to which of the two it might be, but regardless one will likely be gone in the next few weeks.
Further complicating things, Garth Snow is looking for a top-six forward in return for one of these defensemen.
Hamonic or de Haan would be an attractive option for Vegas to take. The Islanders certainly do not want to lose both, so I believe they will go with four forwards and four defensemen protected for the expansion draft.
Those four defensemen would be Leddy, Boychuk, Pulock, and one of Hamonic or de Haan.
The last forward spot could go to a number of players. Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Josh Bailey are all options.
Strome and Nelson are two talented players but have struggled at times over the last couple of seasons. For Strome, his struggles have come offensively. For Nelson, it is defensively.
If the Islanders go with four forwards and four defensemen, the exposed of Strome or Nelson immediately becomes a top candidate to be selected by the Golden Knights. The talent of Strome and Nelson are undeniable, but there is a rightful risk that comes with these two players.
Bailey set a career-high in points last season with 56. At 27-years-old, he is not an ideal candidate for Vegas, but he would not be bad by any means. The Islanders clearly value Bailey and the two-way game he brings to the team, so it is entirely possible that he gets the last protection spot up front.
But, remember that trade involving Travis Hamonic or Calvin de Haan mentioned before? That’s where things get even trickier.
The trade, as aforementioned, would likely be bringing back a top flight forward to the Islanders. So, in the end, all three of Strome, Nelson, and Bailey could wind up being unprotected.
Or, to be fair, the Islanders could lose Hamonic and de Haan to expansion and trade and protect Tavares, Lee, Ladd, Bailey, Nelson, Strome, acquired player, Leddy, Boychuk, and Pulock.
There are an absurd amount of variables right now for the Islanders. Only Garth Snow knows his plan of action. We all just have to wait and see.
The possible New York Islanders protection list:
Forwards: John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, and ONE OF Bailey/Strome/Nelson/player acquired in trade
Defense: Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Pulock, and ONE OF Calvin de Haan or Travis Hamonic
Goalie: Thomas Greiss
If the Islanders protect four and four, Strome, Nelson, and Bailey become prime targets for Vegas. If they protected seven and three, it becomes Hamonic or de Haan.
Next team: New York Rangers
The New Jersey Devils have a long road ahead before they are ready to compete again. They have a solid core of Cory Schneider, Taylor Hall, and Adam Henrique, but the pieces just are not there yet. Losing someone significant in the expansion draft will not be of worry for Ray Shero.
Up front, Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac will absolutely be protected. These four were New Jersey’s best forwards last season and, barring a major trade, will be again next season.
After that, there are no clear choices for players to protect.
Beau Bennett and Stefan Noesen are two guys that may be worth protecting. Neither are ideal, but the Devils really do not have many other options up front.
The same situation can be said for Mike Cammalleri. Not a good pick for protection, but it is not like the Devils are keeping him over a better player. They have nothing to lose by doing it.
You could also argue for Devante Smith-Pelley to be protected over any of the previous three players mentioned
On defense, they at least have a few good pieces to protect. It will likely be Andy Greene, John Moore, and Damon Severson.
In goal, Cory Schneider is a no-brainer.
The New Jersey Devils potential protection list:
Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Beau Bennett, Stefan Noesen, Mike Cammalleri
Defense: Andy Greene, John Moore, Damon Severson
Goalie: Cory Schneider
On the bright side for the Devils, in a couple of weeks they will have either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier as a part of their organization. There is also a strong possibility that they can string together a trade or two to fill up protection spots.
Next team: New York Islanders
The plan of action for the Nashville Predators in regards to the expansion draft is relatively easy to predict. They will be going with four forwards and four defensemen and there are clear choices for those slots for most part.
Up front, Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and Filip Forsberg will be protected. All three are key to Nashville’s offensive success.
The other spot could either go to Viktor Arvidsson or Craig Smith, depending on who David Poile and Peter Laviolette prefer.
The four defensemen are even less difficult to put together. It will be PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi.
In goal, Pekka Rinne has a no-movement clause and will be protected.
Vegas will probably be taking a forward from Nashville. Whoever is exposed out of Arvidsson or Smith will be a top choice. Calle Jarnkrok (and his insane contract that has five more years at $2 million per) is a prime candidate as well. Colin Wilson and Colton Sissons are less likely possibilities.
Had he not been exempt, goaltender Juuse Saros would have been a good bet too.
Nashville’s likely protection list:
Forwards: Ryan Johansen, James Neal, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson OR Craig Smith
Defense: PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi
Goalie: Pekka Rinne
Next team: New Jersey Devils
It is hard to make out how the Montreal Canadiens will be thinking for the expansion draft. There are a few guaranteed players to be protected, but after that, your guess is as good as mine.
Definitely being protected by Montreal are Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price. Jeff Petry, who has a no-movement clause, will be as well.
That leaves four forward slots and two defensive slots to be filled.
Andrew Shaw, Phillip Danault, and Paul Byron are three solid guesses. Shaw excelled in his first year in Montreal, albeit his points did dip from the previous year. Byron was able to break out as well and learned how to use his speed to his advantage. As for Danault, he was acquired two seasons ago from Chicago and has cemented himself in the center core of the Canadiens for years to come.
The last forward spot could go to a number of players.
It could be Tomas Plekanec, a veteran center who has, granted, lost some of his offensive touch in recent years. It could be Charles Hudon on the other hand, a center prospect looking to make the full time leap into the NHL next season.
Lastly, Alexander Radulov’s situation must be examined. Currently an unrestricted free agent, Radulov technically does not require protection. The team will want to sign him after the expansion draft, but Radulov wants a contract done as soon as possible.
Radulov will be staying in Montreal regardless, but the variable that stands is if he will take a protection spot away from Plekanec or Hudon or not.
On defense, it will be either Nathan Beaulieu or Alexei Emelin joining Weber and Petry. Due to age and contract status, I suspect it will be Beaulieu. That does not rule out him being traded later in the offseason, though.
In the end, the Montreal Canadiens could have a protection list that looks like the following:
Forwards: Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, and Tomas Plekanec OR Charles Hudon
Defense: Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Nathan Beaulieu
Goalie: Carey Price
If Hudon is exposed, he will likely be in Vegas next season. If not, Jacob de la Rose and Daniel Carr are options.
Next team: Nashville Predators
The Minnesota Wild are in an undesirable spot when it comes to the expansion draft. General manager Chuck Fletcher is going to have to wind up making a trade or two to ensure that he does not lose quality players for nothing.
The Wild have three forwards on no-movement clauses, those being Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville. The first two do not present a problem, however Pominville does.
Pominville is 34-years-old and has two years remaining on his deal at $5.6 million per. Pominville’s statline last season of 47 points in 78 games is not horrible, but he is still not an ideal protection candidate.
The Wild can ask Pominville to waive his no-movement clause or buy him out. It just depends on how they value him over someone like Eric Staal.
Staal is the odd man out if Pominville is protected. With young players such as Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker needing protection, one of Staal or Pominville must be exposed.
On defense, the choices are just as difficult. Ryan Suter has a no-movement clause. Jared Spurgeon is also slated to be protected.
That leaves one spot for Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba. One will not be exposed, but rather one will be traded. It is unclear which one player will be on his way out.
For goalies, Devan Dubnyk is the obvious selection to be protected.
The Wild’s protection list could look like this:
Forwards: Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Nino Neiderreiter, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, and Eric Staal OR Jason Pominville
Defense: Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin OR Matt Dumba
Goalie: Devan Dubnyk
Vegas has a number of options to take from Minnesota in this scenario. Staal if unprotected is one. Staal is not young, but he would provide a veteran presence for Vegas and help the franchise adjust nicely. His resurgence last season in Minnesota made this possible.
Erik Haula is another attractive option, as is Marco Scandella.
Next team: Montreal Canadiens
The Los Angeles Kings may go a more unconventional route than what people are expecting in terms of the expansion draft. Instead of protecting seven forwards and three defensemen, new general manager Rob Blake may elect to go with four forward and four defensemen.
Up front, the four locks to be protected would be Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson.
That’s it. That’s where it ends here. There are certainly other candidates that could have been protected, like Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis, but the Kings have four valuable defensemen that they will not want to lose.
The four defensemen are Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Brayden McNabb.
To be fair, the Kings could send McNabb somewhere in a trade in exchange for a forward in the upcoming days. Or, the Kings could bribe George McPhee to take Marian Gaborik or Dustin Brown from them. The second scenario would likely come at a cost of their 11th overall pick, though.
If the Kings were to protect seven forwards and three defensemen with their current roster, it would likely be Trevor Lewis, Nick Shore, and Nic Dowd in and Brayden McNabb out.
For goalies, Jonathan Quick will undoubtedly be protected.
My guess is that the Los Angeles Kings’ protection list will look like the following:
Forwards: Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson
Defense: Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb
Goalie: Jonathan Quick
As I previously said though, it would not be surprising to see Los Angeles pull off a trade in the upcoming days. If a trade is made, it will obviously affect their standing for the expansion draft heavily.
Next team: Minnesota Wild
The Florida Panthers had a disappointing 2016-2017 season, however they possess a number of quality young players and the future looks bright for them. However, that poses an issue for the expansion draft.
Up front, there are a few locks for players to be protected. They are Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Aleksander Barkov, and Reilly Smith. All four have been signed to long-term deals past 2020.
Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Marchessault should also be protected.
Bjugstad struggled last season, but a new coach may help him get back on track. As for Marchessault, he broke out with Florida last year and set a career high in points with 51. He may just be a one-year-wonder, but Florida cannot risk it and leave him exposed. It is equally as likely that he will repeat his success next season.
As for the last spot, it comes down to Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, and Colton Sceviour.
Jokinen, 34, is still an NHL player, however he has been on the decline recently. Due to his age and contract, it is unlikely that Vegas would select him if he was left exposed.
Sceviour is younger and is coming off a 24 point season. He is a bottom-six player, but has the potential to put up consistent 30 point seasons in the future.
My personal preference would be to protect Sceviour, but would it be surprising to see Florida protect Derek MacKenzie? He is Florida’s captain and signed through 2019. He definitely does not fit the Golden Knights’ bill, but Florida clearly values him highly. It will be interesting to see.
On defense, Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad will absolutely be protected.
The last spot comes down to Jason Demers, Mark Pysyk, and Alex Petrovic. I believe it will be between Demers and Pysyk in the end. Regardless, the two who are left unprotected will be prime candidates to be taken by Vegas.
In goal, Roberto Luongo gets the nod.
The Florida Panthers protection list could wind up looking like this:
Forwards: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Marchessault, Nick Bjugstad, and Colton Sceviour OR Derek MacKenzie
Defense: Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, and ONE OF Demers/Pysyk/Petrovic
Goalie: Roberto Luongo
Next team: Los Angeles Kings
Luckily for the Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid is exempt from the expansion draft. It is just mind-boggling to even think about that to be fair — a 100 point scorer, Art Ross Trophy winner, and potential Hart Trophy winner is exempt from the expansion draft. It just goes to show the true brilliance of McDavid at such a young age.
As for the rest of the team, the Oilers should not have many problems when it comes to the expansion draft.
Up front, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, and Patrick Maroon are guaranteed to be protected. Jordan Eberle could go on this list too, even if he is likely to be traded after the expansion draft happens.
The last two spots could go to Zack Kassian and Jujgar Khaira.
Edmonton is Kassian’s third NHL team and he has seen time split between the NHL and the AHL over time, but he seems to have found a home with the Oilers. He was dominant as a power forward in the playoffs, especially in Edmonton’s first round matchup against San Jose.
Khaira was a third round pick in 2012 by Edmonton. He has only appeared in 25 NHL games, but he is a more attractive option to protect than Benoit Pouliot, Iiro Pakarinen, or Mark Letestu are.
As for defense, it seems extremely likely that it is Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, and Adam Larsson that will get protected. Sekera has a no-movement clause and the other two are young defensemen with plenty of time left to grow.
In goal, Cam Talbot has a no-movement clause and will be protected.
The Edmonton Oilers protection list could shake out like this:
Forwards: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira
Defense: Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson
Goalie: Cam Talbot
For players that Vegas could take, Griffin Reinhart and Mark Letestu are options.
Next team: Florida Panthers
The Detroit Red Wings’ roster is in an odd place leading up to the expansion draft. They have a mix of veterans and young, fringe NHL players on the team with no middle ground of prospects existing. They may have one or two players that will be at risk to go to Vegas, but otherwise they are not in a terrible position.
Frans Nielsen is the only player on Detroit with a no-movement clause. After signing him last summer, it is not expected that Detroit will ask him to waive.
In terms of other players up front, Henrik Zetterberg is almost certain to be protected. Despite his age, he is still a consistent producer and led Detroit in points last season.
Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist both had disappointing 2016-2017 campaigns, however that should not affect their standing for the expansion draft. Anticipate both to be protected.
The same can be said for Andreas Athanasiou, although he did pick up his pace near the end of the season.
Justin Abdelkader is another forward that Detroit highly values. Ken Holland signed him to a pretty ridiculous deal a few years ago, though. He still has six years at $4.25 million left on the deal.
The last forward spot is likely to go to Anthony Mantha. He was in trade speculation last year, but he solidified his spot as a bonafide NHL caliber player this season. The Red Wings will not want to lose him. The first round pick from 2013 is a former 57 goal scorer in the QMJHL.
With those seven forwards being protected, that leaves Riley Sheehan unprotected. Despite only having two goals last season, both of which came in the last game, Sheehan is still a good player with potential to become a reliable middle-six center. He’ll be an enticing option for Vegas.
On defense, things are a little strange as well.
Nick Jensen and Danny DeKeyser both should be protected. Outside of that, it is hard to pinpoint what Ken Holland will do.
Niklas Kronwall has been a cog in Detroit’s defensive system for years, but time has taken its toll on the Swedish defender. Do the Wings expose him and risk Vegas taking him? Vegas seems to want younger players, but it becomes a hard call either way.
Other defensive options include Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. Both are young yet unestablished full time in the NHL.
Still, though, despite his age, I think the Wings will wind up protecting Kronwall. He is too important still for them to risk losing him for nothing.
In goal, Petr Mrazek is likely to be protected just due to his age in comparison to Jimmy Howard. That does not mean his starting job is safe, though.
In total, the Detroit Red Wings protection list could like this:
Forwards: Frans Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou, Justin Abdelkader, Anthony Mantha
Defense: Nick Jensen, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall
Goalie: Petr Mrazek
For players that Vegas might take, the aforementioned Sheehan, Ouellet, and Sproul are all potential options.
Next team: Edmonton Oilers