V1.0 - https://www.allaboutthejersey.com/2020/8/20/21376907/my-mock-expansion-draft-protected-list-v-1-0
Earlier this offseason, I compiled a projected list of players the Devils could protect for the Seattle expansion draft and who they might realistically lose. Since that time, the team has added several notable NHL players with the additions of Corey Crawford and Dmitry Kulikov in free agency and the trades for Ryan Murray and Andreas Johnsson. They've also said goodbye to several players who probably aren't NHL-calibur players anymore in Cory Schneider, Mirco Mueller, John Hayden, and Kevin Rooney.....players that I don't think anyone is going to miss too much moving forward.
With the offseason transactions most likely done and the season nearly upon us, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic and see what direction the Devils might go in in regards to protecting players and minimizing the impact of a loss on their end.
First, one important thing to note in regards to the eligibility. From the NHL's '20-'21 Transition Rules.
The 40/70 thresholds as set out in section 3 of the Expansion Draft Rules (Exhibit B) shall be pro-rated as follows: i) 40 games played threshold shall be pro-rated by a factor of [56/82]. ii) 70 games played threshold shall be pro-rated by a factor of [(56+70)/164].
Second, the following players remain exempt from the Seattle expansion draft: Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, Nikita Gusev, Nolan Foote, Ty Smith, Reilly Walsh, Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotyuk, Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Shakir Mukhamadullin
Looking at the Devils list of eligible players (you can as well with Cap Friendly's handy Seattle Expansion Draft tool - https://www.capfriendly.com/expansion-draft/seattle), my initial lean was to go with the 8 skater-1 goaltender option, but the issue is that the Devils don't have 4 defensemen worth protecting at the moment. Its debatable if they have 3 depending how you feel about Butcher coming off a down year, Subban who is clearly in decline, and Murray with his health. I also think they're unlikely that they acquire more NHL-calibur defensemen between now and the time the protected lists are due. So here we go.
Any players italicized are pending UFAs
Forwards: Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Jesper Bratt, Andreas Johnsson, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Nick Merkley
Forwards exposed who would likely satisfy the expansion draft rules: Wood, along with one of McLeod, Kuokkanen, or Bastian assuming one of them gets into 27 NHL games this year
Thoughts: The only thing that has really changed since my version from the summer is that Johnsson replaces Joey Anderson and Sharangovich replaces Kuokkanen, but just like earlier this summer, the last few protected spots are very fluid and any players who establish themselves as NHL regulars will likely claim those spots. Heck, they might not even have to establish themselves, but there's little reason for the Devils to expose young players otherwise. Another spot would open up if Kyle Palmieri is traded. But it goes without saying that if Sharangovich, Merkley, McLeod, Bastian, Kuokkanen, or whoever has a big year, the Devils will keep them. There's no reason not to.
Defensemen: Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Ryan Murray
Defenseman exposed who would likely satisfy the expansion draft rules: PK Subban
Thoughts: The big caveat with Murray is health, but if he's healthy and the Devils resign him to a modest contract extension, there's little reason not to expose Subban even if he has a bounceback year. Of course, I think Seattle is unlikely to take him unless the Devils were desperate enough to dump the salary where they gave up some draft compensation, but they have to expose somebody who satisfies the rules, and Subban is unlikely to be a major part of the Devils two years from now.
Goaltender: Mackenzie Blackwood
Goaltender exposed: Corey Crawford
Seattle selects: Corey Crawford
Thoughts: Little has changed here as Blackwood is still the future at the goaltending position. The million dollar question for the Devils will be if they think they're close enough to contention where its worth doing one of two things with their draft capital.....use it to steer Seattle away from taking Crawford or use it to steer them towards taking Subban.
Myself personally, I think the Devils should probably be playing the long-game, so while losing Crawford would hurt short-term, they'd likely be able to replace him with relative ease next offseason, whether its in UFA or revisiting the Marc-Andre Fleury trade rumors. I don't think they should be giving up draft picks to keep a 36 year old goaltender, even with him in a 1B role on a bad team....if anything, I'd rather take a sweetener from Vegas to take on MAF for one year. I suppose its also possible the Devils move Crawford themselves rather than lose him for nothing, which might be the best use of him in terms of being an asset. They could expose someone like Cormier who would also satisfy the expansion requirements.
I guess it comes down to whether its worth it for the Devils to give up something tangible to get rid of the final year of PK Subban's contract. They'd have to replace him in the lineup (unless you think someone like Reilly Walsh will be ready by then), but you could argue that it might be worth moving him out a year early and using his 9M AAV to get a couple players who can help the team.
Ultimately, I think with just a year left on his deal as well and with the Devils where they are in their rebuild, there's little reason to give up draft picks to manipulate the expansion draft. If anything, I think they might use their draft picks similarly to what they did when they acquired Mirco Mueller before the Vegas expansion draft and hope the results work out better. Even though I've written nearly 1000 words now overthinking the expansion draft, the smartest thing the Devils can do is not overthink it, lose one player, and be done with it.
What are your thoughts on V 2.0 of my Devils protected list? I'll likely come up with V3.0 after the trade deadline when Kyle Palmieri is likely playing elsewhere and the Devils take on a bad contract with another year left and a final version right before the protected lists are due. Feel free to share your thoughts below.