Mitch Linsley, Dump & Change Sports | June 12th, 2017 | 9:19pm
On June 23rd, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will begin their expansion draft to join the NHL as the league’s 31st team.
By June 17th, every NHL team must officially submit their list of protected players who will be exempt from the expansion draft. After this point, all unprotected players will be up for grabs to the Vegas Golden Knights, who right now hold all the cards (get it?). This means that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher (pictured above) has about a week to decide who to (and not to) protect. It’ll be interesting to see what offseason moved this team makes to avoid another premature exit from the postseason.
You can’t just protect any good players, there are rules as to who a team can, cannot, and must protect. Here’s a quick summary of the protection rules (via SB Nation):
- Each team is permitted to protect up to 7 forwards, 3 D-men and 1 goalie total; or nine players regardless of position.
- If a team really wanted to, they could protect 8 forwards, 1 defenseman and a goalie if they weren’t particularly attached to any defensemen.
- All players with no-movement clauses must be protected unless they’ve agreed with their team to waive said clause.
- Any player with less than 2 years of NHL/AHL experience is exempt from the draft
- For example, this protects prospects and teams’ future stock, which means players like Jake Guentzel can’t be snatched because their team had to prioritize protecting players like Crosby and Malkin. In the Wild’s case, this protects rookie forward Joel Eriksson-Ek and defensemen Mike Reilly.
- Teams must expose players who meet a certain criteria:
- There must be at least one defensemen and two forwards who are under contract for 2017-18 and played at least 40 NHL games in 2016-17 or 70 NHL games total since the start of 2015-16.
- Teams must also expose a goaltender who is either under contract for the 2017-18 season or about to enter restricted free agency.
Keep in mind Vegas may take only ONE player from each team.
So what does this mean for the Wild?
First off, our goalie to protect will be Dubnyk so let’s get that out of the way. So now we have to figure out what the Wild will do with their last 10 slots to protect.
WARNING: Although elite, these takes are completely opinionated and do not take trades completely into account. I will only discuss players who are good enough to potentially be taken by Vegas in the expansion draft, I’m not gonna run down the whole depth chart here.
Under our current no-trade clauses, the Wild at this point are required to protect Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and *gulp* Jason Pominville. This means we are allowed protect an additional 4 forwards and 2 defensemen.
We have 2 spots left to protect between Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella. Spurg is by far our best defensemen (maybe our best player) and is bound for a big money extension, he’s getting protected.
That gives us the choice between Dumba, Brodin and Scandella. Scandella had the worst season of the aforementioned players and is the oldest of the three, we will not protect him.
That narrows it down to Brodin and Dumba, two very different players. Brodin is an exceptional skater and penalty killer. He also has the potential to develop into an elite shutdown defender that every team needs. He rarely contributes offensively but seldom makes mistakes and would add depth to any NHL lineup. Now we have Dumba, a rare type of player. He can score goals with his big shot and his defensive game is coming together. He can still be somewhat of a defensive liability but if he can figure it out on the back end, he would be a much harder player to come by than Brodin. Personally, I would protect Brodin to preserve the team’s defensive game and to give Suter or Spurgeon a solid defensive partner which allows the wo to split up, and lets teammates play with more confidence and not be scared to make mistakes. I think that the team will opt to protect Jonas Brodin and leave Matt Dumba exposed.
We can protect 4 forwards. Eligible to be taken by expansion draft rules (worthy of taking) are Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Erik Haula and Jason Zucker. Nino, Granny and Coyle are the core of this forward group. They will be protected.
Now we have 1 spot to protect between Zucker, Staal and Haula. Keep in mind Zucker is an explosive, speedy forward that still has a ton of upside; he’s also a Las Vegas native. If we don’t protect him, there’s a huge chance the Knights pounce on the opportunty to bring in a hometown kid to market as a face of their franchise. Haula contributes in spurts and isn’t coming off his best season. Staal, although old, is one of the best forwards on the team and just had a very good season. His contract is favorable to the cap which will be tempting for Vegas. In addition, with a team in Las Vegas full of young players, a veteran presence might be something that the Knights are looking for. If I’m the Wild, I protect Zucker to preserve the team’s core and leave Staal and Haula to chance.
Now, the Wild HAVE to at least ask Pominville to remove his no-trade clause and allow to the team to protect another player. He’s been so bad that even if we leave him exposed, no team is gonna take him for $6M a yea. By June 17th, we will know if this agreement is made as that is the NHL’s deadline to make such a deal. Let’s assume we do that and use our last protected spot on Staal. Depth center Erik Haula would be less likely to be taken snagged by Vegas than 2nd line center Staal, who played much better than his age would indicate last season.
Who to protect:
Forwards: Parise, Koivu, Granlund, Nino, Coyle, Zucker and Staal; exposing Haula and Pominville.
Defensemen: Protect Suter, Spurgeon and Brodin; exposing Dumba and Scandella.
Goaltenders: Protect Dubs. How nice would it be if Vegas took Kuemper off our hands?
Who we’ll lose:
Based on my predictions, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will get to choose between Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and Darcy Kuemper. The two most valuable players on this list are Scandella and Dumba. My guess if the Knights want a big shot at the blue line and go with Dumba, although a case for Scandella and Haula could easily be made.