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.)
• • •
There is a real, honest-to-goodness chance that when the Ottawa Senators make their protections ahead of the 2021 expansion draft, not a single player who was a part of their list four years earlier is on the list again. In goal, Craig Anderson will be a 40-year-old free agent. Blueliners Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci have all been traded. And the same can be said for six of the seven forwards, as Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel have all been shipped out.
The odd-man out – or in, if you want to look at it that way – is Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He received Vegas protection and remains part of the organization. But there’s a catch here, you see. Pageau will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, which makes him either top trade fodder this season or free to leave Ottawa if he so chooses come next July.
The changing of the guard has been swift for the Senators, and if the coming expansion draft is any indication, it will be 100 percent complete by the time Seattle enters the league.
PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G):
- Brady Tkachuk
- Colin White
- Connor Brown
- Logan Brown
- Drake Batherson
- Vitaly Abramov
- Filip Chlapik
- Thomas Chabot
- Maxime Lajoie
- Christian Wolanin
- Filip Gustavsson
NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Bobby Ryan, Chris Tierney, Anthony Duclair, Nikita Zaitsev
STRATEGY: It’s all about what comes next in Ottawa, and what comes next is a total reset of the roster. The entire operation is led by Tkachuk and a supporting cast that will include the likes of Batherson, Brown, Brown and Abramov as early as this coming season. The blueline conversation begins and ends with Chabot, though there’s hope Lajoie and Wolanin can become fixtures, while Gustavsson is the top goaltending prospect in the system.
The rules of the expansion draft really work in Ottawa’s favor, too. Among those who will be exempt are Erik Brannstrom, Alex Formenton and Josh Norris, who are considered three of the four-best prospects in the Senators’ system. The ability to avoid spending protection slots on any of the three is a boon for Ottawa.
THE NO BRAINER: Chabot is considered by some to be a future Norris Trophy contending defenseman and he’s already shown the kind of offensive upside that can make him a cornerstone for the franchise. Nothing was ever going to make the departure of Karlsson easy, but Chabot’s arrival took a bit of the sting off of the Senators trading the best player in franchise history.
THE TOUGH DECISION: If the Senators are going all-in on the youth movement, that might mean Tierney is the player who’s exposed. Granted, the assumption there is a number of the prospects turn into valuable NHLers, which is no guarantee. But there’s likely more upside in players such as Chlapik and Davidsson, plus a cost-conscious franchise such as Ottawa might be willing to open up Tierney to walking if it means less money on the books when it comes time to sign Chabot.
LESSON LEARNED: Good luck getting rid of Ryan’s contract. Try as the Senators might ahead of the 2017 expansion draft, the Golden Knights wouldn’t bite on picking up his deal. Seattle won’t, either, at least not unless Ottawa is willing to really sweeten the pot.
Up Next: New York Rangers
Previous: Anaheim Ducks | Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens | Nashville Predators | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | New York Rangers
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
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