Welcome to the Expansion Plan, our summer series projecting the protected lists for the 30 NHL franchises who will participate in the June 2021 Expansion Draft.
Over the next two seasons, every team – save the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt – will be planning for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd franchise and Seattle GM Ron Francis will begin to consider the options for his inaugural roster. As such, over the course of the next 30 days, we will profile one team, in alphabetical order, and forecast their potential list of protections and exposures, as well as address each team’s expansion strategy, no-brainers, tough decisions and what lessons they learned from the 2017 expansion process.
This exercise requires some important ground rules. The 2021 Expansion Draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 Expansion Draft, but some assumptions are necessary. These are the guidelines followed:
- No pre-draft trades
- All no-movement clauses are honored
- Players who will become restricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 remain with current teams
- Players who will become unrestricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 either remain with current teams or are left off lists entirely (eg. Nicklas Backstrom protected by the Washington Capitals, Tyson Barrie not protected by Toronto Maple Leafs or any other team.)
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The Ducks weren’t the team most shackled by no movement clauses at the 2017 expansion draft – that was the eight-NMC Chicago Blackhawks – but Anaheim did have to deal with some handcuffing of their own creation. To wit, there were four players with whom the Ducks were stuck: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa. That limited who Anaheim was able to protect, and when push came to shove, the Ducks decided shipping Shea Theodore to the Golden Knights in order for Vegas to select Clayton Stoner was the best course of action.
Luckily, however, Anaheim won’t need to worry about a similar situation in 2021. In fact, the roster, as currently constituted, doesn’t feature a single player with an NMC. That stands to give the Ducks the kind of flexibility they could have only dreamed of at the Vegas expansion draft. Adding to the freedom Anaheim has, as well, is that Getzlaf’s contract will be up and Kesler’s NMC will transform into an exposable no-trade clause. (Though it’s likely he’ll be exempt from the draft given his injury status.)
There is also one interesting and unintentional come-up for the Ducks. Because Getzlaf’s contract will be expiring and he will be a pending UFA, there’s no need for Anaheim to protect him. In fact, the two sides could come to something of a handshake agreement which would see Getzlaf re-sign post-expansion draft. The Sharks took this tack with Joe Thornton, who re-signed on a one-year deal in July 2017.
PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G):
- Jakob Silfverberg
- Rickard Rakell
- Ondrej Kase
- Troy Terry
- Sam Steel
- Isac Lundestrom
- Max Jones
- Cam Fowler
- Hampus Lindholm
- Josh Manson
- John Gibson
NOTABLE EXPOSURES: C, Adam Henrique; LW, Nick Ritchie
STRATEGY: For the most part, it comes down to youth up front and keeping the blueline intact. The top end of the defense corps is reliable enough and will remain viable by the time the expansion draft rolls around, but offensively, it will be time to pass the torch to the youngsters who are coming up. By ensuring the up-and-comers such as Terry, Steel, Lundestrom and Jones are protected, Anaheim keeps its group of promising prospects together and maintains a certain level of offensive upside. By leaving Henrique and Ritchie exposed, too, the hope is that Seattle stays away from Maxime Comtois, who can be another useful piece moving forward.
As noted, the Ducks can use the free agency rules to their advantage to keep Getzlaf, who will be finishing up his pact, in town. The veteran captain is an important part of the franchise and can shepherd along the young players.
THE NO BRAINER: John Gibson has arguably cemented himself as one of the five-best goaltenders in the NHL and his performance last season would have been Vezina Trophy caliber if he had a better roster around him. In two years’ time, he’ll remain the backbone of the team’s defensive strategy and continue to provide the true last line of defense. And without any top-tier prospects on the way, there isn’t much that will be lost by exposing the other keepers on the roster.
THE TOUGH DECISION: The more things change, the more they stay the same. At the 2017 expansion draft, one of the Ducks’ biggest concerns was exposing a defender. That will again be a concern at the 2021 expansion draft, as Anaheim can protect Fowler, Lindholm and Manson, but that leaves Jacob Larsson and Brendan Guhle wide open.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t make the choice for Seattle, make Seattle make the choice. Moving Theodore didn’t really pay dividends for Anaheim, even if it meant getting Stoner’s contract off the books.
Up Next: Arizona Coyotes
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
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