Twice previously, I have taken a stab at what I think the Devils protected list will be for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, which you can check out at the links above. The time is now almost here, as on July 17th, the expansion trade freeze will take place and protected lists must be submitted to the league, and the draft results will be made public on July 21st.
I had planned on doing a post-trade deadline version of this, but decided to hold off for a few reasons. Mainly, I'm lazy and not a whole lot changed. Palmieri is out, Siegenthaler is in. So why write 1000+ words about it only to do it again in early July with essentially the same list?
I decided to mix things up with my final mock by including a trade, and depending how you feel about bottom of the roster forwards on a bad hockey team, a pick that might annoy you. I don't really care. Its my list and you're reading it. I win.
I won't rehash the expansion draft rules themselves, nor will I list the exempt players, because why bother? You should know them by now, and if you don't, you can click on one of the links above for a refresher or Google it. Once again, I will continue with the 7-3-1 format.
Goaltender: MacKenzie Blackwood
Goaltender exposed: Scott Wedgewood (and perhaps Evan Cormier as well if Fitz wants to get weird and qualify him, but they only need one and they have it in Wedge)
Analysis: I nailed this. I'm smart. John should put me on the payroll for these good and correct takes.
In all seriousness though, not much has changed here other than Wedgewood is the guy exposed so the Devils are compliant with the rules. I still think there are legitimate questions in regards to Blackwood's ultimate ceiling and what the Devils will do with the other goaltending spot at the NHL level, but those are questions for another day. For the purposes of the expansion draft, we're done here, folks.
Forwards: Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, and Mike McLeod
Forwards exposed: Andreas Johnsson, Nate Bastian
Analysis: If you told me a year ago that those last 4 names would be protected, I would've been surprised. Wood's contract almost looked tailor made to be exposed in an expansion draft, Sharangovich had yet to make his NHL debut, and the other two players had yet to really establish themselves as NHL regulars.
I'm not the biggest Miles Wood fan but I do have to give him credit for playing his way onto said list. I still think there are legitimate questions about his fit with this group long-term, but he's also stepped up and helped fill the leadership void since Palmieri and Zajac were traded. I hesitate to call one-time draft bust McLeod a must-protect, but the Devils center depth isn't great and he fills an important role between 3rd/4th line center and penalty killer for now, so I gave him a spot. Sharangovich became a no-brainer with his play this season, so for me, the last spot really came down to Kuokkanen and Johnsson and it was as simple as Johnsson is signed and would satisfy those requirements. I do have reservations in regards to exposing Johnsson and why I think it could be a mistake, but ultimately, I'll take a chance that Seattle goes in a different direction with a friendlier contract.
This brings me to the blueline, where I decided to make a trade.
New Jersey trades Mikhail Maltsev and the 2020 NY Islanders 2nd round pick to St. Louis for Vince Dunn
Defensemen: Damon Severson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Vince Dunn
Defensemen exposed: PK Subban, Will Butcher (Devils only need one defenseman to meet the standard, so either one is fine)
Seattle selects: Will Butcher
Analysis: I made the Vince Dunn trade. Why would St. Louis make this deal now? I think there is a realistic chance he would be exposed otherwise, as they'd likely protect Faulk, Krug, and Parayko (they also signed Scandella to an extension mid-season). Ultimately, I'm gambling that St. Louis wants to use a protection slot on Tarasenko as well rather than risk exposing him, not to mention their other forwards that they'd protect with the 7-3-1 option
Long story short, I think the writing is on the wall that Dunn won't be there long-term regardless and it makes sense to get something for him now. A 2nd round pick and a fringe NHL player in Maltsev who would NOT need to be protected but might be useful as a depth forward may be as good an offer as the Blues get. I don't think the Tarasenko trade, which is complicated with his injury history and NTC, gets done in the next 8 days, so I do think the Blues feel obligated to use a spot to protect him and protect their interests there.
Why would the Devils make this deal? Dunn is 24 years old but already has 267 games of NHL experience, fills a position of need, and may be available at a relative discount. He's not the shutdown defenseman the Devils sorely need, but he'd make their blueline deeper by virtue of being an actual NHL player. Either way, he's worth the gamble of a late second round pick. I like Maltsev, but with the Devils forward depth internally, I do think it makes sense to clear out some of the fringe guys like they did a year ago with Joey Anderson because odds are, Maltsev will only continue to be passed on the depth chart as other guys develop and they start adding forwards from outside the organization. The fact that he would not need to be protected could make him an attractive trade chip in the next week leading up to the deadline.
You could argue that if the Blues were going to consider exposing him, that the Devils shouldn't need to give up both a Top 60 draft pick and a potential NHL player. Fair point. But I would argue that the Devils are going to need to start making deals they're uncomfortable with to address the blueline at some point, and in terms of 'uncomfortable deals', this one is relatively tame, all things considered. If they can get a potential second-pairing defenseman without giving up a 1st round pick or a prospect that would move the needle, its a trade they should make.
So if this happened, the Devils expose both PK Subban and Will Butcher and I think that sounds about right. Subban's AAV makes it unlikely the Devils lose him in the expansion draft, nor do I think the Devils should be giving up any additional picks to make other guys off-limits for Seattle. If Seattle wants to tie up 9M AAV in a 32 year old defenseman who is likely gone from Seattle in 12 months by taking Subban, more power to them. But I think their front office, which is loaded in terms of analytics, takes a stab at a reclamation project in one-time analytical darling Will Butcher and selects him over Andreas Johnsson and Nate Bastian. If he bounces back to his 2017-18 form, he could be worth signing long-term or trading at the deadline. More power to Seattle if he does, although I think he kind of is what he is at this point.
What are your thoughts on V 3.0 of my protected list? Do you see the Devils swinging another trade before the lists are due? Could it be for Dunn, or somebody else? Feel free to share your thoughts below and thank you for taking the time to read these predictions that almost surely will not happen.