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New Jersey Devils Protect 8 Skaters for Las Vegas Expansion Draft

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Earlier this morning, the NHL released the protection lists for all 30 teams ahead of the Las Vegas Expansion Draft. This post lists who the New Jersey Devils protected and reacts to a somewhat small surprise inclusion.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
John Moore is the fourth defenseman protected on NJ.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This morning, the NHL released the protection lists for Las Vegas’ expansion draft for all thirty teams. These are the players that cannot be selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights over the next few days. The NHL helpfully also listed who was left unprotected; those are the players they can select.

After much discussion, we know now what Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils decided to do. The Devils decided to protect eight skaters and one goalie in this draft. The trade for defenseman Mirco Mueller yesterday did lead to Mueller being one of the eight protected skaters. This is the full list of who was protected:

Forwards (4): Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensmen (4): Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goalie (1): Cory Schneider

I think the only points of contention here are the the format the Devils chose and John Moore being protected. Let’s touch on the former first. The only other option for protection was the seven forward, three defensemen, and one goalie list. While its arguable the Devils only have three defensemen worth protecting, and one of whom is the guy the Devils just acquired; I’m not seeing seven forwards that needed protection. I like Beau Bennett, but I wouldn’t call him essential. Stefan Noesen may be a useful bottom-six forward like Bennett; likewise, I wouldn’t call him essential either. And I think the Devils should move on from Jacob Josefson anyway. There were four forwards on last year’s team that absolutely need to be on next year’s team even just to ice a competitive roster and they were all protected. So I’m fine with the eight skater set-up.

As for Moore, I’m a little surprised he was protected. When I did a video with Matt Henriques on this very subject, I lamented that the Devils don’t really have any defensemen worth keeping around after Greene and Severson. With Moore potting in twelve goals last season, it’s easy to think he’s the most valuable. However, I highly doubt he’ll shoot at 11.8% again (he never shot above 5%). Further, Moore is the leakiest defenseman on the team. Moore has had high SA/60 values that he led the team in the last two seasons (2015-16, 2016-17) - and he wasn’t on the ice for or helping to generate enough shots for to balance that out. He’s not really an offensive defenseman and he’s not a good defenseman. That said, the other options were to protect Ben Lovejoy, Jon Merrill, Dalton Prout, or a defender who spent most of their time with Albany last season. I don’t think either are superior options to Moore for protection. Prout is terrible, Merrill may have improved but he’s not particularly good at anything, and Lovejoy is an albatross. If anything, I’m surprised he’s exposed given that Shero signed him last summer. While the Devils could have chosen five forwards and three defensemen for this option, the whole point of this set-up is to allow for more than three defenders to be protected. So a fourth defenseman was protected and the Devils decided it would be Moore. I’m not that bothered by it.

To be clear, the Las Vegas Golden Knights can only select one player from each team. Whatever deals they have in place combined with their strategy for 2017-18 will drive how they handle this draft. If they need a big contract to meet the cap floor, then Michael Cammalleri would be a legitimate option. If they want a veteran defenseman, then they can take Ben Lovejoy. If they need a solid third liner, then Beau Bennett and Stefan Noesen are available. If they need a body for their depth, then there’s a mess of minor leaguers to take. There isn’t a clear-cut name among the unprotected Devils that should entice the Knights to go take them immediately. We’ll find out who that will be on Wednesday night. In the meantime, you can go visit our network’s new Las Vegas Golden Knights blog, Knights on Ice, to see what they have to say about this draft.

As a final point, while only one of the unprotected Devils may be gone, I think the release of these lists will drive plenty of player movement over the next few weeks. The protection list essentially tells the rest of the league who a team thinks is important to them. Those not on the list aren’t that crucial and could be available to be moved for not a whole lot. I think a reason, maybe the main reason, these protection lists weren’t initially going to be made public was that the lists make it clear who the teams think are valuable. For a re-building team like New Jersey, there’s not a lot of those players to begin with. But it’s never good to learn that you’re unprotected, even if told ahead of time. I don’t think the unprotected will get a lot of value in a trade. In the case of the Devils, the value could really be just in moving out not-so-effective players - which is important for any team, especially a team trying to build their way back to playoff contention. We’ll see if that happens though. As usual, I could be wrong.

The Devils decided to protect eight skaters in the Las Vegas Expansion Draft. Now I want to know what you think. Are you surprised with who they protected? Do you think someone else should have been protected over John Moore, and why? Who do you want Las Vegas to take and who do you think Las Vegas will take? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this list in the comments. Thank you for reading.