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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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Watching the Vegas Golden Knights nearly skate to their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons of existence should have been a reminder to 31 other NHL teams that the Kraken are coming.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman unequivocally said on Saturday that the Seattle Kraken will debut in 2021-22 – one start date unfazed by the pandemic.

The lesson is clear: The teams that waited until the last moment to get comfortable with their 2017 Expansion Draft protected list lot were leveraged by Vegas into unforced errors.

That means there is work to be done as the NHL prepares for its final regular season as a 31-team league.

Moves made over the next three weeks, trades ahead of the Oct. 6-7 Draft and free agents inked beginning with the Oct. 9 Free Agent Frenzy, will go a long way in determining those protected lists. The inverse is also true: With a few years to officially prepare, the current view of those protected lists will also determine in part the moves made.

It is helpful, then, to take a cursory look at some of those protected lists. But first, a refresher on the rules:

- Teams may protect either seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender - OR - eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender.

- Two forwards and one defenceman must be left exposed by each team who are both under contract for 2021-22 and meet the games played requirements for 2020-21. (Note: The games played requirements will likely be prorated if the season is shortened due to COVID-19.) Also, each team must expose a goaltender under contract in 2021-22 or who is an RFA.

- All players who have accrued two or less pro seasons by the end of 2020-21, as well as unsigned draft picks, will be exempt from the Expansion Draft.

- Players with no-move contracts MUST be protected unless the player waives his clause.

Teams will have decisions to make with not just this year's pending free agents, but also with their own pending free agents for 2021. Free agents can be exposed, but will also be free to sign back with their previous team, even if they are selected by Seattle.

Almost all of Canada’s seven clubs are well-positioned to escape from the Expansion Draft relatively unscathed. But the picture may not be as clear one month from now.

With that, here is an early Canadian Expansion Draft primer, with projections based on the information available today ahead of the NHL off-season:
 

CALGARY FLAMES

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImageMilan Lucic - NMC
Mikael Backlund
Johnny Gaudreau
Elias Lindholm
Andrew Mangiapane/Dillon Dube
Sean Monahan
Matthew Tkachuk

Defence (3)

Rasmus Andersson
Mark Giordano
Noah Hanifin

Goaltender (1)

David Rittich/TBA

Potentially Exposed Players

F Sam Bennett
F Andrew Mangiapane/Dillon Dubé
F Mark Jankowski
D Oliver Kylington
F Derek Ryan (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

- A decision looms on captain Mark Giordano. The face of the Flames franchise since Jarome Iginla left has done more than everything Calgary has asked of him. But the 2019 Norris Trophy winner will be 39 by the time 2021-22 starts and entering the final year of his deal. Protecting him will mean exposing a younger defenceman like Kylington.

- The only silver lining to missing Juuso Valimaki for the season with an ACL tear is that he is exempt from the Expansion Draft. Returning to play in the Edmonton bubble, nearly a year after surgery, would have made him eligible.

- If Milan Lucic is willing to waive his no-movement clause, the Flames can protect another forward.

What To Watch For

- GM Brad Treliving’s quest to find a new starting netminder will likely determine who will be protected in net, but David Rittich would require a contract extension to meet the exposure eligibility.


EDMONTON OILERS

Protection Scheme: 8/1

Skaters (8)

Embedded ImageD Ethan Bear
F Leon Draisaitl
D Caleb Jones
D Oscar Klefbom
F Connor McDavid
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (UFA 2021)
D Darnell Nurse
F Kailer Yamamoto

Goaltender (1)

Mikko Koskinen/TBA

Potentially Exposed Players
F Josh Archibald
F Tyler Benson
F Zack Kassian
F Jujhar Khaira
D Matt Benning
F Alex Chiasson (UFA 2021)
D Adam Larsson (UFA 2021)
D Kris Russell (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

- The Oilers are potentially Canada’s only club to go with the 8/1 protection scheme.

- Tyler Benson, 22, would be Edmonton’s biggest exposure risk. The 2016 second-round pick was ranked as the Oilers’ No. 2 prospect by TSN director of scouting Craig Button in January.

What To Watch For

- The re-emergence of Jesse Puljujarvi – or the forward the Oilers receive in return for 2016’s fourth-overall pick - could push Edmonton back toward the 7/3/1 scheme. But the elite athleticism of Caleb Jones, who had underlying numbers that suggest he could be trending toward a No. 4 defenceman, will have something to say about that.

 

MONTRÉAL CANADIENS

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImagePaul Byron
Phillip Danault (UFA 2021)
Max Domi
Jonathan Drouin
Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen
Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Defence (3)

Ben Chiarot/Joel Edmundson
Shea Weber
Jeff Petry (UFA 2021)

Goaltender (1)

Carey Price - NMC

Potentially Exposed Players

F Jake Evans
F Charles Hudon
D Ben Chiarot / Joel Edmundson
D Victor Mete
D Cale Fleury
D Noah Juulsen
D Brett Kulak
G Jake Allen (UFA 2021)
F Joel Armia (UFA 2021)
F Tomas Tatar (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

- Will one of Victor Mete, Cale Fleury or Noah Juulsen emerge into must-protect defencemen, forcing the Habs to consider the 8/1 protection scheme?

- If not, which defenceman would garner the Habs’ last protected spot: Ben Chiarot or the newly signed Joel Edmundson? Edmundson is younger and has a long deal; Chiarot was a key cog in the Canadiens’ wheel with a career-best nine goals and 21 points, averaging more than 23 minutes per night.

- Carey Price is one of just three goaltenders in the NHL who demands automatic protection via a no-movement clause, joining Sergei Bobrovsky and Ben Bishop.

What To Watch For

- In a frozen cap world, will Montreal have converted draft assets and cap space into protection-worthy players by the time the 2020-21 season rolls out? Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin and maybe even Phillip Danault could be up for grabs on the trade market over these next weeks.

 

OTTAWA SENATORS

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImageDrake Batherson
Connor Brown
Logan Brown
Anthony Duclair
Chris Tierney
Brady Tkachuk
Colin White

Defence (3)

Thomas Chabot
Christian Wolanin
Nikita Zaitsev

Goaltender (1)

TBA

Potentially Exposed Players

F Vitaly Abramov
F Rudolfs Balcers
F Filip Chlapik
F Jonathan Davidsson
F Bobby Ryan
D Andreas Englund
D Christian Jaros
D Max Lajoie
F Artem Anisimov (UFA 2021)
D Mike Reilly (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

- Almost all of the significant pieces that GM Pierre Dorion has acquired to rebuild Ottawa’s roster will be exempt from the Expansion Draft: Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, Erik Brannstrom, Lassi Thomson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Shane Pinto and all three of the Sens’ upcoming  first-round picks.

What To Watch For

- The Sens will be scratching the bottom of the barrel to protect players, meaning Dorion might even have to acquire inexpensive players for exposure purposes.

 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImageJohn Tavares – NMC
Pierre Engvall
Zach Hyman (UFA 2021)
Andreas Johnsson
Mitch Marner
Auston Matthews
William Nylander

Defence (3)

Travis Dermott/TBA
Jake Muzzin
Morgan Rielly

Goaltender (1)

Frederik Andersen (UFA 2021)

Potentially Exposed Players

F Frederik Gauthier
F Alex Kerfoot
F Evan Rodrigues
D Justin Holl
D Martin Marincin (UFA 2021)
D Calle Rosen (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

The only surprise up front – as the Leafs are a no-doubter for the 7/3/1 scheme with their depth at forward – might be protecting Pierre Engvall instead of Alex Kerfoot for cap considerations.

- Travis Dermott may be a proxy for whomever the Leafs add to bolster their blueline this summer.

- Would the Leafs find a home for Justin Holl, who has cost certainty on the backend, before potentially exposing him?

What To Watch For

- Is Frederik Andersen a placeholder for the different goaltender the Leafs will have in net next season? Toronto has been linked to a number of different netminders in recent weeks as they might look to shake things up. Andersen provides a real financial benefit to cash-strapped teams with just $1 million owed to him this season in real dollars.

 

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImageBrock Boeser
Adam Gaudette
Bo Horvat
Kole Lind
J.T. Miller
Tyler Motte
Elias Pettersson

Defence (3)

Olli Juolevi
Tyler Myers
Brogan Rafferty

Goaltender (1)

Thatcher Demko

Potentially Exposed Players
F Loui Eriksson
F Micheal Ferland
F Antoine Roussel
F Jake Virtanen
D Jalen Chatfield
F Tanner Pearson (UFA 2021)
F Brandon Sutter (UFA 2021)
D Jordie Benn (UFA 2021)
D Alex Edler (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

GM Jim Benning said recently that the Canucks needed to make tough decisions on young players – and the Expansion Draft is just one of the reasons why. Jake Virtanen, coming off an 18-goal campaign, is probably No. 1 on that list. The restricted free agent will be due a raise, which the Canucks might not be able to afford, and also expansion protection. If Virtanen is still in the fold next season, he would bump either Lind or Motte to the exposed list.

- Who would have predicted Olli Juolevi and Brogan Rafferty make up two-thirds of Vancouver’s protected defenceman list? Both Edler and Benn will be pending UFAs, with Juolevi and Rafferty among the players Benning acknowledged will be knocking on the door for roster spots in training camp.

- Re-signing pending UFA Tyler Toffoli would add him to the protected list.

What To Watch For

- What every Canucks fan will be watching for this off-season: Vancouver’s goaltending tandem for 2020-21. If Benning can re-sign Markstrom, he says he is comfortable keeping both Markstrom and Demko into the season and figuring out which one to protect (or trade) later.

 

WINNIPEG JETS

Protection Scheme: 7/3/1

Forwards (7)

Embedded ImageBlake Wheeler - NMC
Kyle Connor
Andrew Copp
Nikolaj Ehlers
Patrik Laine
Jack Roslovic
Mark Scheifele

Defence (3)

Josh Morrissey
Neal Pionk
Logan Stanley / Tucker Poolman

Goaltender (1)

Connor Hellebuyck

Potentially Exposed Players
F Mason Appleton
F Jansen Harkins
F Bryan Little (LTIR)
D Tucker Poolman / Logan Stanley
D Sami Niku
F Adam Lowry (UFA 2021)
F Mathieu Perreault (UFA 2021)

Talking Points

- Winnipeg’s biggest question at the moment involves which defenceman warrants protection among Logan Stanley and Tucker Poolman? Stanley is one of four first-round picks from 2016 who has yet to make his NHL debut; Poolman is older but has made the transition into an NHL regular.

- Teams would be interested in giving Mason Appleton and Sami Niku a change of scenery, but the Jets will also need to find players who meet the exposure games played requirements.

What To Watch For

- GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is big-game hunting this off-season in search of a top-pair defenceman and a second line centre. Will Trade Bait board member Patrik Laine still be on the projected protected list?

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli