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Expansion draft preview: Atlantic Division

Matt Larkin
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Expansion draft preview: Atlantic Division

The Vegas Golden Knights will start to take shape soon. Image by: Getty Images

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Expansion draft preview: Atlantic Division

Matt Larkin
By:

How will the expansion draft affect each NHL roster? We preview each division, starting with the Atlantic.

The Vegas Golden Knights will start negotiating with free agents and selecting players in a little more than a month. Time to predict which players each team protects, which they trade and whom they lose to the Golden Knights.

A quick rule refresher:

1. The Golden Knights will have an early negotiation window, expected to be two days, with restricted and unrestricted free agents leading up to the official unveiling of their 30-man roster June 21. Vegas can sign UFAs and RFAs during that period and include them as part of their expansion draft.

2. Any player Vegas signs as a free agent during the exclusive window will count as his previous team’s “picked player” for the expansion draft, and that team cannot lose another player.

3. After Vegas’ exclusive window expires, it can’t sign additional players until July 1.

4. Vegas must draft at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. It must pick at least 20 players already under contract for 2017-18.

5. Vegas must amass a roster with a minimum payroll of at least 60 percent of the league-wide cap.

6. Players with no-movement clauses must be protected by their teams unless the players agree to waive their clauses.

7. Teams can only protect one goaltender.

8. First and second-year pros and unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection.

9. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.

Click here to review additional rules.
 

BOSTON BRUINS

Projected Protected players

David Backes (NMC)
Patrice Bergeron (NMC)
Zdeno Chara (NMC)
David Krejci (NMC)
Torey Krug
Brad Marchand
Kevan Miller
Riley Nash
David Pastrnak
Tuukka Rask
Ryan Spooner

Trade candidate: Spooner deserves a shot as a No. 2 center somewhere but is constantly fighting for top-six minutes in Boston. He’s also an RFA.

Expansion draft bait: Malcolm Subban is still just 23, which is fairly young for a goalie. Might the Golden Knights claim him as a farmhand project? Keep in mind Vegas is allowed to pick more than three goalies.

Wild card: The Bruins’ toughest choice should come down to defensemen Kevan Miller, Colin Miller and Adam McQuaid. The guess here is Boston retains Kevan Miller. The Knights could eat McQuaid’s $2.75-million cap hit if they want a veteran leader type.
 

BUFFALO SABRES

Projected protected players

Zach Bogosian
Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno
Zemgus Girgensons
Evander Kane
Johan Larsson
Robin Lehner
Jake McCabe
Kyle Okposo (NMC)
Ryan O’Reilly
Rasmus Ristolainen

Trade candidate: By the time Buffalo is ready to compete for a championship, Tyler Ennis won’t be around. His contract expires in 2019. He still has some skill at 27 and could attract a trading partner, though the Sabres might have to eat some of his $4.6-million cap hit.

Expansion draft bait: Blueliner Dmitry Kulikov makes for an interesting reclamation project. He’s coming off a horrible year but is quietly just 26. Vegas could try to sign him on the cheap as a UFA.

Wild card: Maybe Buffalo decides 2012 first-rounder Zemgus Girgensons has hit a wall and exposes him, opting to protect William Carrier.
 

DETROIT RED WINGS

Projected protected players

Justin Abdelkader
Andreas Athanasiou
Danny DeKeyser
Mike Green
Anthony Mantha
Petr Mrazek
Frans Nielsen (NMC)
Gustav Nyquist
Xavier Ouellet
Tomas Tatar
Henrik Zetterberg

Trade candidate: It can’t hurt for GM Ken Holland to test the goalie market and see if a team would want to give up a draft pick for Jimmy Howard, fresh off a bounce-back year, or Petr Mrazek, who struggled in 2016-17 but has flashed major potential in the past.

Expansion draft bait: There’s a good chance Detroit exposes some useful, relatively young checking centers in Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. They wouldn’t be sexy picks for Vegas, but someone has to kill penalties and battle opposing teams’ scoring lines there.

Wild card: Third-string netminder Jared Coreau is expansion draft eligible now. If Holland can’t find a trade partner for Howard or Mrazek, what about exposing both and hoping the Knights bite on one? They earn more than $9 million combined, so it would give the Wings some salary relief.
 

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Projected protected players

Aleksander Barkov
Nick Bjugstad
Aaron Ekblad
Jonathan Huberdeau
Jussi Jokinen
Roberto Luongo
Jonathan Marchessault
Alex Petrovic
Reilly Smith
Vincent Trocheck
Keith Yandle (NMC)

Trade candidate: The Cats likely will protect just three blueliners since they have more than four forwards they want to retain. If they go with the younger, cheaper Alex Petrovic over Jason Demers, who has four years left at a $4.5-million cap hit, they could still likely find a trade market for Demers, who is just 28 and can be a serviceable depth addition on a defense-starved team.

Expansion draft bait: The Panthers owe it to team ambassador Roberto Luongo to keep him, right? That leaves backup goalie James Reimer exposed. He carries a reasonable $3.4-million cap hit through 2021 and would make a decent No. 1 netminder for the Knights.

Wild card: It’s unlikely Florida protects Jaromir Jagr, a UFA, but he sure seems like the type of player Vegas should try to sign during its negotiation window. It would give the team a legendary star to market, and Jagr has shown an affinity for warm climates and a playboy lifestyle.
 

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Projected protected players

Nathan Beaulieu
Paul Byron
Phillip Danault
Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk
Charles Hudon
Max Pacioretty
Carey Price (NMC)
Jeff Petry (NMC)
Andrew Shaw
Shea Weber

Trade candidate: Galchenyuk regressed this season to the point Montreal moved him from center back to the wing, and he even started the playoffs on the fourth line. He still has first-line talent. Maybe it’s time the Habs explored a mutual parting of ways via trade. There would be no shortage of suitors.

Expansion draft bait: The Habs loaded up on depth D-men during the season, which should yield some decent options for Vegas. Rugged Alexei Emelin could wind up available, and the Habs will likely expose Brandon Davidson, Jordie Benn and Nikita Nesterov.

Wild card: There’s a strong chance Montreal has already agreed to an extension with Alexander Radulov but won’t sign him until after the expansion draft so they don’t have to use a protection spot on him. Still, having already inked KHL star Vadim Shipachyov, Vegas would be wise to kick the tires just in case Radulov’s return to the Habs isn’t a sure thing yet.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Projected protected players

Craig Anderson
Derick Brassard
Cody Ceci
Ryan Dzingel
Mike Hoffman
Erik Karlsson
Marc Methot
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Zack Smith
Mark Stone
Kyle Turris
NMC waived: Dion Phaneuf

Trade candidate: Mark Borowiecki seems destined to be the odd man out on Ottawa’s blueline and led the NHL hits this season. Maybe he could net the Sens a mid-round draft pick if moved before the expansion draft.

Expansion draft bait: Don’t expect Vegas to bite on Phaneuf or Bobby Ryan, who make $7 million and $7.25 million, respectively and are essentially expansion-draft proof. That’s why Phaneuf, theoretically, should have no qualms waiving his NMC as a favor to his team. Mike Condon could be a UFA target if Vegas wants a reliable No. 2 netminder, and Chris Wideman’s mobility makes him an intriguing potential add for the Golden Knights’ blueline.

Wild card: Clarke MacArthur is an important part of Ottawa’s lineup when healthy. He’s probably worth exposing, however. His concussion history makes him a huge risk, and he carries a $4.25-million cap hit through 2020, so the Knights likely won’t claim him anyway.
 

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Projected protected players

Jonathan Drouin
Victor Hedman (NMC)
Tyler Johnson
Slater Koekkoek
Nikita Kucherov
Vlad Namestnikov
Ondrej Palat
Cedric Paquette
Steven Stamkos (NMC)
Anton Stralman
Andrei Vasilevskiy
NMC waived: Ryan Callahan

Trade candidate: The Jonathan Drouin rumors won’t die, no matter how much he improves. Tampa reportedly had a deal in place for Kevin Shattenkirk, with Drouin going to the St. Louis Blues, so it’s plausible to picture Lightning GM Steve Yzerman shopping Drouin again in hopes of landing a top-four defenseman. Given the emergence of young pivot Brayden Point, though, wouldn’t it make more sense to deal Tyler Johnson, essentially an older version of Point?

Expansion draft bait: Yzerman has to sign RFAs Drouin, Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr this off-season and needs to free up cap space. Ryan Callahan could waive his no-movement clause but won’t get claimed given his price tag and injury woes. That move would at least free the Bolts to protect another player. But how about exposing Alex Killorn? He’s pricy for a cash-strapped team like Tampa at $4.45 million through 2023 but has some leftover upside a team like Vegas might want to explore.

Wild card: Peter Budaj had such a good year that he could appeal to Vegas as an affordable backup goalie. He’s a UFA but would actually count as Tampa Bay’s “lost player.”
 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Projected protected players

Frederik Andersen
Tyler Bozak
Connor Brown
Connor Carrick
Jake Gardiner
Nazem Kadri
Leo Komarov
Brendan Leipsic
Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly
James van Riemsdyk

Trade candidate: Forget the year’s worth of JVR-for-a-defenseman rumors. His chemistry with Tyler Bozak and Mitch Marner is too good to abandon. The Leafs could land a decent young blueline prospect with an offer involving Brendan Leipsic, a Brendan Gallagher type who had a great year in the AHL when healthy. The Anaheim Ducks are an overwhelmingly logical fit.

Expansion draft bait: It appears one of Connor Carrick and Martin Marincin must be exposed, and the smart money is on Marincin, who fell behind Carrick on the depth chart and would bring Vegas’ D-corps good size.

Wild card: I’ve listed Josh Leivo as a protected player because he, ahem, deserves to be protected, but his lack of usage at the NHL level suggests the Leafs don’t necessarily agree. Maybe they protect veteran banger Matt Martin instead, exposing Leivo, who could be a steal for Vegas.

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Expansion draft preview: Atlantic Division