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Expansion draft preview: Metro Division

Matt Larkin
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Expansion draft preview: Metro Division

Marc-Andre Fleury. Image by: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

News

Expansion draft preview: Metro Division

Matt Larkin
By:

How will the expansion draft affect each NHL roster? We continue our previews with the Metropolitan Division.

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

Atlantic Division expansion draft previewCentral Division expansion draft preview

Next up is the Metropolitan Division.

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 defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.

Click here to review additional rules.


CAROLINA HURRICANES

Projected protected players:

Trevor Carrick
Scott Darling
Phil Di Giuseppe
Justin Faulk
Elias Lindholm
Brock McGinn
Ryan Murphy
Victor Rask
Jeff Skinner
Jordan Staal (NMC)
Teuvo Teravainen

Trade candidate: It’s no secret the Canes need to add an impact forward, and they’re more likely to do that via trade than in free agency, where they’re typically conservative. The emergence of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce on defense alongside Faulk and Noah Hanifin gives Carolina a rock-solid top four to build around, meaning it can spare one of its other high-end ‘D’ prospects such as Haydn Fleury or Jake Bean in pursuit of a scoring forward. The Colorado Avalanche and Matt Duchene feel like an ideal fit.

Expansion draft bait: Three of the Canes’ four stud blueliners are exempt from expansion, and Faulk will obviously be protected, leaving the Canes very few defensemen who meet the exposure requirements. Murphy didn’t play enough games this season to qualify, so it appears Carolina will be forced to expose Klas Dahlbeck. He’s big, youngish at 25 and cheap at $850,000, making him a decent depth grab for the Golden Knights.

Wild card: Carolina could decide it needs veteran right winger Lee Stempniak’s scoring and/or that he’ll be a decent rental piece to shop at the 2018 trade deadline if the team isn’t in contention. Protecting him means exposing one of McGinn and Di Giuseppe, however, and both are young enough to have some upside left.


COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Projected protected list:

Josh Anderson
Cam Atkinson
Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)
Brandon Dubinsky (NMC)
Nick Foligno (NMC)
Boone Jenner
Seth Jones
Ryan Murray
Brandon Saad
David Savard
Alexander Wennberg
NMC waived: Scott Hartnell

Trade candidate: One of Murray, Savard and Jack Johnson will be exposed on ‘D’ with Columbus almost guaranteed to go the 7-3-1 protection route. Johnson is the oldest and priciest of that trio and is thus most likely to be exposed, but that doesn’t mean Vegas claims him. The Blue Jackets might want to explore the trade market and see if any team can stomach his $4.36-million cap hit for one more season, even if it means the Jackets swallow a chunk of it to get a deal done. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen could really use the cap space with center Alexander Wennberg due a big extension as a restricted free agent.

Expansion draft bait: Josh Anderson’s 17-goal breakout is probably too impressive to ignore, so the Jackets may have no choice but to leave third-line center William Karlsson flapping in the breeze. He, Matt Calvert and backup netminder Joonas Korpisalo should all tickle Vegas’ fancy.

Wild card: The Anderson/Karlsson/Calvert decision is moot if Hartnell doesn’t waive his no-movement clause. He’s unlikely to be claimed if he does but, as Jackets beat reporter and THN correspondent Aaron Portzline reminds us, Hartnell may be afraid to take that chance. He’s getting married this summer, loves Columbus and wants to pursue a Stanley Cup there.


NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Projected protected list:

Beau Bennett
Mike Cammalleri
Andy Greene
Taylor Hall
Adam Henrique
John Moore
Stefan Noesen
Kyle Palmieri
Cory Schneider
Damon Severson
Travis Zajac

Trade candidate: Ilya Kovalchuk intends to rejoin the NHL in 2017-18 after four seasons in the KHL, and he remains New Jersey property. A sign-and-trade scenario looks likely. General manager Ray Shero suddenly holds one of the off-season’s most valuable trading chips. Plenty of contenders should come calling.

Expansion draft bait: The Devils don’t look like they’ll go 4-4-1 with their protection strategy, meaning they’ll expose a decent young blueliner, most likely Jon Merrill. He hasn’t reached his ceiling and thus should intrigue the Golden Knights.

Wild card: What if New Jersey exposes injury-prone Mike Cammalleri, who carries a $5-million cap hit through next season? He’s not cheap, but his gregarious personality would make him an appealing face for a new franchise. The Devils could expose him and several other forwards, then keep Merrill as part of a 4-4-1. It’s more likely they keep Cammalleri around for his scoring, but it’s something to consider.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Projected protected list:

Johnny Boychuk (NMC)
Thomas Greiss
Travis Hamonic
Andrew Ladd (NMC)
Nick Leddy
Anders Lee
Brock Nelson
Ryan Pulock
John Tavares (NMC)

Trade candidate: Ugh. No team enters the expansion draft in a greater pickle than the New York Islanders. Whom do you protect between Nelson, Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome? Between Pulock and Calvin de Haan? Vegas will land a high-quality player from the Islanders. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolay Kulemin, Thomas Hickey and Jaroslav Halak all look like locks to be available. The Isles’ depth works against them here. They would be wise to pursue a trade for one of their D-men and/or young scoring forwards rather than risk losing someone pretty valuable for nothing.

Expansion draft bait: Vegas has a lovely buffet of Isles players to choose from at every position, but it’ll be hard to pass up whichever of Pulock and de Haan gets exposed. Pulock has a bomb of a shot and greater upside, so he’s more likely to get protected, leaving rugged minute-muncher de Haan exposed following his best NHL season. That would be a very nice anchor for the Golden Knights’ D-corps.

Wild card: Travis Hamonic is a name to watch. He’s been a trade candidate in the past and just completed a nightmarish, injury-plagued season. Might GM Garth Snow consider shipping him out and protecting de Haan and Pulock? Hamonic is still just 26 and carries a reasonable $3.86-million cap hit. He’d have suitors for sure.


NEW YORK RANGERS

Projected protected list:

Kevin Hayes
Nick Holden
Chris Kreider
Henrik Lundqvist (NMC)
Ryan McDonagh
J.T. Miller
Rick Nash (NMC)
Marc Staal (NMC)
Derek Stepan
Mika Zibanejad
Mats Zuccarello
NMC waived: Dan Girardi

Trade candidate: It’s a tossup between keeping Nick Holden and Kevin Klein as the third protected Ranger defenseman under a 7-3-1 strategy. Holden’s role increased this season, as did his offense, while Klein’s role diminished. Both players have some trade value, however, so GM Jeff Gorton could shop one rather than lose one to Vegas for nothing.

Expansion draft bait: Maybe the Rangers don’t lose a blueliner anyway because their backup goaltender, Antti Raanta, is so darned appealing for Vegas. He’s shown enough talent at 28 to earn a crack at a starting gig in the NHL, and he’s under contract just one more season at $1 million. That’s an ideal goalie for Golden Knights GM George McPhee to target. Should Vegas want some speed and goal-scoring prowess, it appears Michael Grabner will be exposed.

Wild card: The Rangers would be crippled if Girardi refused to waive his no-movement clause. They’d be guaranteed to lose a very important forward in that case. If he won’t waive his NMC, Gorton must buy him out.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Projected protected list:

Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula (NMC)
Claude Giroux (NMC)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning
Michal Neuvirth
Michael Raffl
Brayden Schenn
Wayne Simmonds
Jakub Voracek

Trade candidate: The Flyers have no standout trade candidate right now, especially with unrestricted free agents Michael Del Zotto and Steve Mason unlikely to return. There’s been some minor buzz about Philly dealing the No. 2 overall pick in this June’s draft. General manager Ron Hextall says he expects to make the pick but won’t rule out a deal.

Expansion draft bait: The Flyers’ biggest decision comes down to forwards Michael Raffl, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Scott Laughton. Bellemare has the ‘A’ on his sweater but Raffl logs top-line minutes sometimes and is thus the most likely to be protected. Vegas, then, could take a hard look at Laughton, a 2012 first-rounder who hasn’t panned out but is just 22.

Wild card: Jordan Weal, a UFA, has a dynamite AHL track record and flashed nice skill in 23 games with the Flyers this season, scoring eight goals. He’s the type of player Vegas could try and steal away and sign. If the Knights ink him or, for instance, Del Zotto, either would count as the Flyers’ “lost” player.


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Projected protected list:

Nick Bonino
Sidney Crosby (NMC)
Patric Hornqvist
Phil Kessel (NMC)
Kris Letang (NMC)
Olli Maatta
Evgeni Malkin (NMC)
Matt Murray
Bryan Rust
Justin Schultz
Scott Wilson
NMC waived: Marc-Andre Fleury

Trade candidate: Fleury, of course, is the off-season’s biggest no-brainer trade candidate. He’s gone. Matt Murray is the Pens’ long-term starter and will be protected. Fleury showed in the 2017 playoffs he can still be a No. 1, and there should be a trade market for him since he has just two years left on his deal. He’ll waive his NMC, whether it’s to take a chance on the Golden Knights or to accept a trade to, say, the Calgary Flames.

Expansion draft bait: It sure looks like the Pens will have to expose a decent D-man. They don’t have seven must-protect forwards, but they do have five in Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist and Rust, with Bonino the rare UFA worth protecting since a grinder like Tom Kuhnhackl wouldn’t be a massive loss. Without a 4-4-1 protection approach, Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin get exposed and would be solid additions to Vegas’ D-corps.

Wild card: The Pens have to hope Vegas gets taken in by Carl Hagelin’s speed and eats his $4-million price tag. Doing so may require draft-pick compensation, though.


WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Projected protected list:

Nicklas Backstrom
Andre Burakovsky
John Carlson
Lars Eller
Braden Holtby
Marcus Johansson
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov
Alex Ovechkin
Tom Wilson

Trade candidate: This is a win-now team fresh off a second straight Presidents’ Trophy, so all the pieces are working pretty nicely, and few Caps are rumored to be trade bait right now. That said, the franchise can’t get past that second-round hump, prompting some talk of an Ovechkin trade. It’s a long shot, but there would be tons of interested teams. And, hey, last summer gave us Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Blockbusters aren’t impossible.

Expansion draft bait: Beagle has appeal as a hulking checking pivot. Nate Schmidt flashed some great speed from the blueline in the playoffs. But Phillip Grubauer is the guy. He boasts a .923 career save percentage but will never pass Holtby on the depth chart. It’s time for Grubauer, 25, to earn a bigger role in a new crease. He’s an ideal match for Vegas.

Wild card: Having a quartet of big-ticket UFAs – Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams – actually helps with the expansion draft, as the Caps don’t need to protect them. But those four have so much to offer that almost every team should have interest – including Vegas. It’ll be interesting to see if the Golden Knights use their 48-hour early negotiation window the kick the tires on any of those four.

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Expansion draft preview: Metro Division