Well that was a fun way to spend a Sunday morning. Waiting on the edge of your seat, clinging to your phone or computer, while constantly refreshing Twitter to find out who your favorite team protected and who it exposed.
Now the cats out of the bag and there were several surprises to go along with the expected moves made by 30 of the NHL’s General Managers (Vegas is exempt from the Expansion Draft).
Seattle GM Ron Francis knew most of what was coming, but even he had to have been at least mildly stunned by some of the decisions his GM brethren made. Of course, now comes the fun/hard part for the Kraken; choosing who to select out of the 669 available players while attempting to keep as much cap space and roster mobility as possible.
It would be easy to look at the list of players who were left exposed, either because they’re pending RFAs or UFAs or for whatever other reason they weren’t protected and salvate over the possibilities.
Players like: Carey Price; Shea Weber; P.K. Subban; Matt Duchene; Ryan Johansen; James van Riemsdyk; Jakub Voracek; Matt Murray; Braden Holtby; Jonathan Quick; Ben Bishop; Mark Giordano; Milan Lucic; Jeff Skinner; Kevin Shattenkirk; Alex Killorn; Ondrej Palat and Vladimir Tarasenko were either asked to waive contractual clauses that meant they would have needed to be protected or just flat out left in the cold.
Meanwhile, pending UFAs like: Alex Ovechkin; Taylor Hall; Tyson Barrie; Kyle Palmieri; Frederik Andersen; Jaden Schwartz; Phillip Danault; David Krejci; Ryan Getzlaf; Dougie Hamilton; Gabriel Landeskog; Brandon Saad and Zach Hyman were left exposed so they’re current teams could use their protection slots on players who are already under contract.
Now, just because a player is a pending UFA and was left exposed doesn’t mean that Seattle is guaranteed to pick them. A player like Alex Ovechkin is not going to sign with the NHL’s newest club. His is a paperwork exposure and there’s less than a zero percent chance Francis gets Washington’s superstar signed to a new deal.
As for our local teams in the Islanders and Rangers, there were a couple of minor surprises that perhaps got Francis and his staff thinking just a bit harder.
For the Islanders, Lou Lamoriello chose to protect:
Forwards: Anders Lee; Brock Nelson; J.G. Pageau; Mathew Barzal; Anthony Beauvillier; Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin.
Defensemen: Adam Pelech; Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield.
Goalie: Semyon Varlamov.
That means the following list of Isles were left on the outside looking in: Jordan Eberle; Josh Bailey; Leo Komarov; Andy Greene; Sebastian Aho; Thomas Hickey; Michael Dal Colle; Kieffer Bellows and Otto Koivula.
It’s a bit of a surprise to see Eberle and Bailey left unprotected but if you think about it, their names had been floating out there for months due to the remaining length and cap hits of their contracts. Each of them have three-years left on their current deals while Eberle’s carries a cap hit of $5.5M and Bailey’s is at $5M.
After Lamoriello’s recent moves to get out from under Nick Leddy’s and Andrew Ladd’s contracts, it’s clear the Isles GM is doing everything he can to create as much cap room as possible for the following season.
The Isles currently have $12.2M in projected cap space and that soars to $18.2M once you factor in Johnny Boychuk’s $6M hit being transferred to LTIR.
Unfortunately, once you take into account the new deals that will be given to Beauvillier, Pelech, Ilya Sorokin and (likely to) Casey Cizikas, most, if not all, of that $18.2M goes away. And that still leaves the Isles in need of a defenseman to replace Leddy.
Plus, there’s no doubt Lamoriello wants to improve his team after back-to-back third-round playoff losses to the Lightning. So, new players will need to be brought in who will have a positive impact on the team.
That’s where Eberle or Bailey being selected by Seattle comes in handy. But that’s not without some drawbacks. Sure, Isles fans probably don’t appreciate Bailey as much as they should, but there’s no denying his value to the club. Between his lineup versatility and his standing on the Isles franchise list for games played — he’s currently third all-time at 919 — it will be hard to find an adequate replacement for the longtime Islander.
Now, Lamoriello could also have a side deal or deals in place with Seattle to make sure one of two things happens. One, they don’t take Eberle or Bailey. Two, they do take one of them and it’s the one Lamoriello wants them to. We’ll know one way or another by Wednesday night as Seattle will make its formal announcement at 8pm(EST).
As for the Rangers, here’s who Chris Drury chose to protect:
Forwards: Artemi Panarin; Mika Zibanejad; Chris Kreider; Pavel Buchnevich; Ryan Strome; Filip Chytil and Kevin Rooney.
Defense: Jacob Trouba; Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek.
Goalie: Alexander Georgiev.
The only surprise here is Rooney being protected over the likes of Colin Blackwell and Julien Gauthier. This was a decision that was rumored to have gone several different ways over the past several weeks but when it came down to it, the Blueshirts chose to protect the gritty fourth-liner over the played-above-his-head Blackwell and the frustratingly inconsistent Gauthier.
Of course, after acquiring the rights to pending UFA Barclay Goodrow from Tampa yesterday there was some thought he could be protected. But in the end, Drury and company decided to leave him exposed, just like many other pending UFAs.
And in case you’re wondering who else the Rangers left unprotected, here’s the list:
Forwards: Julien Gauthier; Colin Blackwell; Tim Gettinger; Mason Geertsen; Jonny Brodzinski; Ty Ronning; Gabriel Fontaine and Anthony Greco.
Defensemen: Tony DeAngelo; Anthony Bitetto and Brandon Crawley.
Goalie: Keith Kinkaid.
There’s no real surprises or painful losses on that list and that’s partially a byproduct of the Blueshirts having so many good, young players/prospects who are exempt from the Expansion Draft process.
Here’s the full list of their exempt players: Igor Shesterkin; Adam Fox; Alexis Lafrenière; Kaapo Kakko; Vitali Kravtsov; Morgan Barron; K’Andre Miller; Nils Lundkvist; Tarmo Reunanen; Matthew Robertson; Braden Schneider; Patrick Khodorenko; Justin Richards; Austin Rueschhoff; Jake Elmer; Patrick Newell; Will Cuylle; Lauri Pajuniemi; Karl Henriksson; Yegor Rykov; Hunter Skinner and Adam Huska.
Again, we’ll know who Seattle has selected from the Broadway Blueshirts by Wednesday night.
Until then, you can live out your GM fantasies and try out Capfriendly.com’s Expansion Draft simulator. The wonderful folks over at the site have put together everything you need to attempt your best Ron Francis impersonations. And yes, I chose to try it for myself. You can see my results below.
I’m definitely not in the running for GM of The Year, but that’s a team who could finish in third- or fourth-place in the Pacific Division. And depending on how things unfold, maybe it could even win a round or two in the playoffs.
(I look forward to all your wonderfully entertaining comments on social media telling me how you feel about my GM skills).