A Way Too Early Look At The Expansion Draft
Jump ahead to the distant future of 2021. COVID19 is not only a thing of the past but the vaccine developed also increases your lifespan by ten years and has the extra added side effect of people becoming interested in that story where you caught a trout that was "this big."
The Edmonton Oilers stun the League by not only winning the Stanley Cup and Presidents Trophy, but having the best record in the history of the NHL (only 2 regulation losses and no OT losses, can you believe it?!). Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl tie for the scoring race with 160 points a piece with the next highest scoring being Johnny Gaudreau, who had a Hart worthy season in Buffalo, going 52-80-132 after being traded by Calgary in the off-season... much to the ire of Flames fans who had to watch their own team finish dead last in the Pacific Division.
With all of that said and done, now attention has turned to the Expansion Draft where the 32nd team in the NHL, the Seattle Kraken will make their selections from each team to build the foundations of their NHL roster.
The rules for the Expansion Draft are identical to what occurred for the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are the key rules taken directly from the NHL itself (skip down to the first set of dash-marks if you are familiar with the rules):
- Seattle must choose a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2021-22 regular season and those with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100 percent of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap. Seattle cannot buy out players chosen in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.
- Current NHL teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie, under the following conditions.
* All players with no movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected and will be counted toward their team's applicable protection limits.
* All first- and second-year NHL players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward protection limits.
In addition, all NHL teams must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the draft:
* One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
* Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
* One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team's protected list.
* Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a team's player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection.
I am sure once HockeyBuzz brings in whoever they will hire as the Kraken writer, that individual will break things down brilliantly but until then I thought we might as well take an early look at who Edmonton should protect and which players are most likely to be selected.
Tthere are two different ways that an NHL team can go about protecting it's players:
1.) Protecting 7 Forwards, 3 Defencemen, 1 Goalie
2.) Protecting a mix of 8 Forwards/Defencemen and a Goalie
First off let's take a look at the obvious protects for Edmonton.
Currently the Oilers do not have a long list of essential forwards they cannot afford to lose and should a Zack Kassian or James Neal be taken than not only will Holland not lose any sleep but will have valuable cap space earned from their loss. With the current roster in toe, Edmonton could protect the players listed above and with their final option protect a young defender such as Caleb Jones or Matt Benning.
Knowing what Edmonton's needs are this off-season, it is safe to assume however that the Oilers will be adding a third line centre and at least one more winger, capable of playing in the top 9 (preferably top 6). There is also the real possibility of a couple of young players like Tyler Benson or Jesse Puljujarvi having a successful season and needing to be protected. The 7/3/1 option looks like the most likely bet.
*A quick note on Koskinen. Originally it was reported that Koskinen had a NMC but CapFriendly has it listed as a 15 team M-NTC. Koskinen could have Seattle on that list in which case the Oilers would have to protect him unless he agreed to waive it.
Here is my guess for what the Oilers protection list will look like:
Third Line Centre
Top 9 Forward
Which players are most at risk at being selected?
JAMES NEAL - This is the best case scenario for Oilers fans. Owners losing money due to the shortened season as well as Holland's own comments suggest that buying Neal out is not an option for this season. Seattle will need to get to the cap floor through this expansion and will need to take on some bigger contracts like Neal's 5.75 million dollar cap hit to make that happen. James Neal comes with the added value as being a player who has been through Expansion and can help mentor that team to try and match how the Golden Knights found success in their first season.
ZACK KASSIAN - After signing his 4 year deal on January 29th, worth 3.2 million per season, Kassian went 2-4-6 through the final 12 games of the season. Kassian was also a complete non-factor through the post-season. Kassian has shown he can play a complimentary role in the top six while at other times looks like a fourth liner. Depending on how well Kassian plays early in the 20/21 season will impact whether or not he is protected.
TYLER BENSON - Last expansion, Edmonton lost Griffen Reinhart, a young prospect who hadn't yet been able to crack the NHL roster. This time a similar scenario could happen with Tyler Benson. Benson will be 23 by the time the expansion rolls around and will likely have split time between the AHL and NHL. If the Golden Knights are comfortable with getting to the cap and are looking for some value, low risk high reward options I could see them taking a flyer on Benson.
CALEB JONES - The 23 year old left shot defenceman is signed for the next two seasons at a team friendly $850,000 price tag. Jones skates well with the puck and has good instincts at both ends of the ice. If he can continue to trend as he is there could be a top 4 player there for Edmonton. Which is why it would sting the most if he was selected by the Kraken. I could see Edmonton offering a pick or prospect in exchange for the Kraken not selecting this player.
A couple final thoughts on Expansion:
- I do not see Jesse Puljujarvi at risk for expansion. If the player comes in and performs well and elevates himself into the top 6 than he will certainly be a protection priority for Edmonton or will be traded at a higher value. The same goes for if he struggles and bolts for Europe again Holland will trade him.
- I didn't include Matt Benning above because I don't see him as an Oiler a year from now. Matt Benning will either be traded this summer or sign another one year deal which would then make him a UFA.
- There is a scenario where Edmonton can protect an extra player but it would involve some trust between RNH and Holland. RNH is UFA after this season but all reports suggest he will sign a new contract in Edmonton. RNH could be left unprotected as a UFA, which would give Seattle a window to speak to him about signing a contract and if the two sides agreed, that would count as Seattle's selection from Edmonton.
RNH and the Oilers could come to a verbal agreement and sign a contract after the Expansion Draft. Seattle would talk to RNH, the two sides would not come to an agreement and the Kraken would then have to select another player from Edmonton. Effectively this gives the Oilers one extra player they can protect.
- Bouchard, Broberg, Haas, Lavoie, and McLeod are among the key players that Edmonton does not have to worry about protecting due to their rookie status.
What do your protection lists look like?