Seattle expansion draft: Predicting Central Division protected lists

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With the Seattle expansion draft one month away, theScore is predicting every team's protected list and putting one club from each division under the microscope. This edition offers potential lists for the Central Division. (We'll project a full 30-player roster for the Kraken closer to the July 21 draft.)

Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific

The 2021 expansion draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 version that welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL:

  • Each team must submit a protected list of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • Any player with a no-movement clause must be protected unless the player waives it
  • Each team must expose two forwards, one defenseman, and one goalie who are under contract and played at least 40 games this past season or 70 combined games over the last two seasons
  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt from selection
  • Any player with a career-ending injury is exempt from selection

Teams must submit their protected lists to the league by July 17.

Note: Our lists of exposed players and exemptions include only the most notable names rather than every player who would fit each category. Teams are also unlikely to protect pending unrestricted free agents, as Seattle will probably not risk selecting a player it can't retain.

(Salary cap and contract source: CapFriendly)

* indicates no-movement clause

Colorado Avalanche

Joe Amon/ / Getty Images

There might not be an NHL general manager with as much due diligence to carry out before submitting his protected list as Colorado's Joe Sakic.

Contracts don't need to be finalized, but surely Sakic would like to get a good feel for where negotiations with Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, and Philipp Grubauer are headed prior to the expansion-draft process. With a stacked roster to keep intact (at least mostly) while the salary cap stays at $81.5 million for the next few years, every dollar counts for Sakic.

However, even if those situations aren't resolved by mid-July, we can assume all three core pieces will be retained eventually this offseason, and they'll need to be protected during the expansion draft. Given the club's depth chart, then, it's a no-brainer to go the 11-player route of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie.

Here's the Avs' projected list under a 7-3-1 scheme:

Exposed players: F J.T. Compher, F Joonas Donskoi, D Ryan Graves, D Erik Johnson, D Jacob MacDonald, G Pavel Francouz, G Hunter Miska
Exemptions: F Shane Bowers, F Martin Kaut, F Alex Newhook, D Justin Barron, D Bowen Byram, D Conor Timmins
UFAs: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Matt Calvert, F Brandon Saad, D Patrik Nemeth, G Devan Dubnyk, G Jonas Johansson

Yes, Johnson, the longtime Avs defenseman with a no-movement clause in his contract, is being exposed here. That's because it's assumed Johnson - who's 33 and often injured - will do the team a solid and waive his clause. After all, the chances of Seattle selecting him are minuscule with Donskoi, Compher, Graves, and Francouz potentially available.

As for Kadri, some believed he should be jettisoned after getting suspended in the playoffs for the third time in four years, and he's one of the NHL's cheapest second-line centers. Is it possible Sakic leaves him exposed? Yes. Big picture, though, it wouldn't be a smart business decision.

Elsewhere at forward, the 26-year-old Burakovsky is a virtual lock to earn a protected spot, while Jost and Nichushkin are debatable yet logical picks. Ideally, the Avs would probably prefer to protect Donskoi and Compher, two quality middle-six forwards. However, they make $3.9 million and $3.5 million, respectively, and Colorado would struggle to squeeze in so many middle-class deals under the cap in the future. Jost and Nichushkin, the two cheaper and less flashy options among the four, are perfectly fine players.

Depending on how the Kraken approach the draft, Graves may be the most desirable offering from the Avs. The smooth-skating, rugged three-year pro would slot in quite nicely into Seattle's top-four while making an immediate impact.

Chicago Blackhawks

Chase Agnello-Dean / Getty Images

Exposed players: F Ryan Carpenter, F Brett Connolly, F Adam Gaudette, D Calvin de Haan, D Riley Stillman, G Collin Delia, G Malcolm Subban
Exemptions: F Kirby Dach, F Dominik Kubalik, F Pius Suter, D Adam Boqvist, D Ian Mitchell
UFAs: F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Zack Smith

Luckily for the Blackhawks, several of their top players are exempt from the expansion draft. Still, a handful of solid skaters from the team will be exposed. Seattle could opt to take one of de Haan or Stillman to boost its defense, but Subban and Delia could also provide good goaltending depth.

Note: It appears Alex Nylander will be considered a second-year pro and exempt from the expansion draft after missing the entire 2020-21 season with an injury, a source told The Athletic's Scott Powers. The NHL has not made an official announcement regarding Nylander's status.

Dallas Stars

Scott Audette / Getty Images

Exposed players: F Blake Comeau, F Jason Dickinson, F Tanner Kero, D Joel Hanley, D Andrej Sekera, G Anton Khudobin
Exemptions: F Ty Dellandrea, F Joel Kiviranta, F Jason Robertson, D Thomas Harley, G Jake Oettinger
UFAs: F Andrew Cogliano, F Justin Dowling, D Jamie Oleksiak, D Mark Pysyk, D Sami Vatanen

It won't be tough for the Stars to decide who's worth protecting, but two good players will be up for grabs. Khudobin, 35, could be a viable option for Seattle's starting goalie spot, while Dickinson has proven over the past few seasons that he can be a potential top-six NHL forward.

Minnesota Wild

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Exposed players: F Victor Rask, F Nico Sturm, D Matt Dumba, D Carson Soucy, G Cam Talbot
Exemptions: F Kirill Kaprizov, F Matt Boldy, F Marco Rossi, D Calen Addison
UFAs: F Nick Bjugstad, F Nick Bonino, F Marcus Johansson, F Kyle Rau, D Ian Cole, D Brad Hunt

Talbot produced an incredible season with the Wild, but it would only make sense to protect Kahkonen, who's evidently the club's goalie of the future after breaking out as a rookie. As a result, Seattle will undoubtedly snag a quality player from Minnesota, but it remains to be seen if it's Dumba or Talbot.

Nashville Predators

Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

Exposed players: F Matt Duchene, F Ryan Johansen, F Rocco Grimaldi, F Calle Jarnkrok, F Nick Cousins, D Alexandre Carrier, D Matt Benning, D Mark Borowiecki, G Connor Ingram
Exemptions: F Eeli Tolvanen, F Philip Tomasino
UFAs: F Mikael Granlund, F Erik Haula, F Brad Richardson, D Erik Gudbranson, G Pekka Rinne

The Predators' roster is one of the trickiest heading into the expansion draft. Duchene and Johansen haven't justified their mammoth contracts, and leaving them exposed could be an easy way to get one off the books. Would Seattle gamble on a resurgence? Or will the Kraken take the safer route with a solid winger like Jarnkrok, or a depth defenseman like Borowiecki or Benning?

St. Louis Blues

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Exposed players: F Sammy Blais, F Ivan Barbashev, F Kyle Clifford, F Jacob De La Rose, F Zach Sanford, F Mackenzie MacEachern, D Vince Dunn, D Robert Bortuzzo, D Niko Mikkola, D Marco Scandella, G Ville Husso
Exemptions: F Klim Kostin, D Scott Perunovich
UFAs: F Tyler Bozak, F Mike Hoffman, F Jaden Schwartz, D Carl Gunnarsson

The Blues' roster is deep, so they'll unsurprisingly provide a decent list for Seattle to choose from. Kyrou produced a breakout season in 2020-21, so he's earned his roster spot moving forward. Meanwhile, several of St. Louis' top players are pending UFAs. It seems more than likely the Kraken will grab Dunn, who's due for a breakout of his own at 24 years old.

Winnipeg Jets

Jonathan Kozub / Getty Images

Exposed players: F Mason Appleton, F Jansen Harkins, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Dylan DeMelo
Exemptions: F Cole Perfetti, F Kristian Vesalainen, D Ville Heinola
UFAs: F Paul Stastny, F Trevor Lewis, F Mathieu Perreault, F Nate Thompson, D Jordie Benn, D Derek Forbort, D Tucker Poolman, G Laurent Brossoit

The Jets' biggest decision will be tied to its defensemen. Stanley played well in the playoffs and throughout his rookie season after being selected 18th overall in 2016. On the flip side, DeMelo is a reliable rearguard and can easily play top-four minutes. Stanley may possess more long-term upside, which is why DeMelo is being exposed. But it could all be for nothing if Seattle instead grabs the underrated Appleton.

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