The Seattle expansion draft is roughly a calendar year away, depending upon whenever the 2020-21 season is actually started and when it ends. I thought it would be fun to do a series of mock protected lists, so I'm doing to do one now with a few quick thoughts, one sometime after the dust settles in the offseason (post free agency/trades), one around next year's trade deadline, and one final one shortly before Seattle takes a player from the Devils roster.
By now, you should know the expansion draft rules in terms of format and satisfying the 40/70 rule (2 F, 1 D need to be exposed and eligible who satisfy that rule). For my first version, I'm going to go the 7-3-1 route over the 8 skaters-1 goaltender route, but let's be frank. Most of the Devils best options to protect aren't even eligible. Gusev, Hughes, Smith, Boqvist, Foote, Bahl, and every member of the 2019 and 2020 draft classes are exempt. And given that we're a year out with more roster changes on the way, there's a good chance that this list will be obsolete after the initial free agency wave.
Forwards protected: Hischier, Palmieri, Bratt, Zacha, Anderson, Kuokkanen, Merkley
Forwards exposed who would likely satisfy the expansion draft rules: Wood, Hayden
Thoughts: Honestly, there's not a whole lot here and the Devils could easily go the 8 skater route if they add defensemen this offseason, so I simply chose to go with quantity of forwards rather than force an unproven defenseman like Josh Jacobs, a journeyman like Dakota Mermis, or someone who is flat out bad in Mirco Mueller. I chose to protect a few younger forwards with theoretical upside in Anderson, Merkley, and Kuokkanen but these players would easily get bumped as other improvements to the roster are made. Hischier and Bratt are the only two stone cold locks assuming they're both still on the roster by then, which they almost assuredly would be. Palmieri is a lock if he signs an extension, but until he does, there's a possibility that he is traded between now and when the Devils have to submit their protected list to the league. Zacha is at least an NHL player, so there's little benefit to exposing him in this particular format assuming he's still around.
I think Wood is almost assuredly going to be one of the forwards exposed if he's still on the team since he's signed through 2022, will hit RFA again, and will be on the NHL roster if he's here. I'm believe Hayden is eligible for UFA in 2022, so assumng the Devils let him be terrible for another 40 games or so next season, he should be eligible.
Defensemen protected: Severson, Butcher, Subban
Defenseman exposed who would likely satisfy the expansion draft rules: Mueller
Thoughts: I actually gave some consideration to the Devils potentially exposing Subban, since he'll have 1 year and $9M AAV remaining on his contract and at his age and where the Devils are in their rebuild, they probably wouldn't be too upset if Seattle ever did take him off of their hands. I ultimately decided to protect him for two reasons.....the Devils organizational depth problems at RHD, so Subban fills a short-term need, and I think Subban is still enough of a "name" where he might be of more value to the Devils if he's traded at 50% retained salary down the road.
Assuming he's still here, Severson is a lock to be protected, and I would think Butcher would be as well, but I'm not sure if the Devils are still planning on building around either one long-term, so that should be noted.
I exposed Mueller for this exercise since he should hit UFA in 2022 and will likely be involved on the Devils roster next season to some extent given their lack of LHD depth at the NHL level. I don't think he'll be particularly missed should Seattle take him, but I think they'll have better options from other teams in terms of building a blueline and look elsewhere from the Devils pool of available players.
Goaltender protected: Blackwood
Goaltender exposed who would satisfy the expansion draft rules: Schneider
Thoughts: A no brainer that needs little explanation. In the off-chance Schneider is bought out between now and then, I'd expect Cormier to be the goaltender that would satisfy the NHL's rules. Once Seattle passes on taking Schneider, I'd expect the Devils to strongly consider buying him out at that point since he will only have 1 year left on his deal at that point. Gilles Senn is exempt.
Seattle selects from the Devils: Michael McLeod
Final thoughts: Where the roster currently stands, there are very few good options for Seattle to take from the Devils roster. There appears to be little incentive for the Devils to even go through the trouble of trying to bribe Seattle to take one of their 'bad contracts' off of their hands when Subban and Schneider only have one year to go and Zajac is a UFA after next season.
I would guess Seattle takes a flier from the Devils roster and does most of their heavy lifting in the expansion draft elsewhere as teams like Tampa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and so on have too many good players to protect. So I decided to go with a former first round pick who has really yet to establish himself as an NHL regular, and perhaps never will. Given the Devils won the lottery twice after taking McLeod and changed the organizational depth chart at C for the foreseeable future, I don't think they'll miss McLeod too much aside from the sting of him being another first round bust. But in 2021, that'll be 5 years ago at this point and is what it is.
What are your thoughts on V 1.0 of the Devils protected list with a roster that will almost look entirely different a year from now? Would you expose Subban and dare Seattle to take him? Or perhaps go with the 8 and 1 format instead of 7-3-1? Will Palmieri still be around? Feel free to share your thoughts below.