With the regular season coming to a close there have been a few developments with several teams in the North Division that affect the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. We will keep this post updated with the latest information on each team as news hits the wire.
Multiple news sources have confirmed that Flames winger Milan Lucic has agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the purposes of the expansion draft. Some have suggested that this was a condition of his trade from Edmonton, though I’m not sure how this is possible given the draft rules governing such things.
Regardless, this means that Lucic will be left exposed, but does not alter our position that Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis shouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot goalie stick. Lucic has horrendous motivation and consistency problems, and his play has deteriorated to the point where he is little more than a 3rd-line shut-down winger. Paying $6 million AAV for such a player is insanity. If Seattle genuinely believes his presence is integral to the team, wait until Calgary buys him out then sign him to a contract more worthy of his production.
No word to this point on the disposition of Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, and since he is not protected by a no-movement clause it is likely we won’t know for certain if he will be left exposed until Calgary releases its list of protected players in July.
We made our protected list assuming that Lucic would be waiving his NMC, so our prediction in that arena has not changed. You can check out what we said about Calgary and the Kraken’s choice here.
The big question in Edmonton concerned their defensive corps, and whether they would utilize the 8-and-1 protection scheme for the expansion draft. The signing of bottom-pairing blueliner Kris Russell seemed to indicate that they would be protecting four defenseman, potentially leaving some juicy morsels in the forward ranks available for the Kraken.
Now comes a health update for one of those defenseman, Oscar Klefbom, and the news is bad in a number of ways. First, it appears that his NHL career is potentially in jeopardy, as even following shoulder surgery doctors are not giving encouraging signals that he will play again. Apparently there is now arthritis to deal with in addition to the underlying injury suffered nearly a decade ago.
But the news gets worse if you’re a Kraken fan. The health news regarding Klefbom means the Oilers are in no danger of losing him if he is left unprotected. This allows Edmonton to leave Klefbom exposed, hold off on re-signing Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie until after the expansion draft, and use the 7-3-1 protection scheme.
So instead of Seattle eating surf & turf, it’s a menu full of expensive and bland leftovers from the Edmonton lineup. Our projection on the Oilers’ protected list is thus revised:
Forwards: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Devin Shore
Defensemen: Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones
Goaltender: Mikko Koskinen
In terms of NHL players under contract that will be left exposed by the Oilers, the list is underwhelming: forwards James Neal, Kyle Turris, Josh Archibald, and Zack Kassian who is currently on LTIR; defenseman Kris Russell; and goaltender Alex Stalock. This is a terrible blow to the Kraken being able to assemble a competitive lineup during the expansion draft, as Edmonton was one of the teams poised to contribute an impact player. That possibility just went up in smoke.
The only glimmer of hope lies in the chance that both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie could test the free agency waters. TSN analysts gave an update on both players’ contract negotiations recently; the Kraken have the best shot at landing one or both of them, and doing so would more than make up for Edmonton’s pathetic offerings during the expansion draft.
Defenseman Victor Mete, claimed off waivers from Montreal in the weeks since our original Ottawa preview was posted, has confirmed in his end-of-season press availability that contract talks with Ottawa are in full swing and he hopes a deal to be in place shortly. Mete is currently set to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
If Ottawa does re-sign Mete before the expansion draft, it increases the likelihood that Mete is protected, with the Senators leaving stay-at-home blueliner Josh Brown exposed instead. That would definitely be a downgrade from the Kraken perspective, and unless Seattle can arrange in advance to flip their choice from Ottawa to a trade partner, our position is still that Seattle should select a UFA and allow them to walk away when free agency opens. With Mete out of the picture, nobody on the Senators’ exposed list compares favorably in terms of cost and talent to other available selections from the rest of the league.
Toronto Maple Leafs
No real news here, aside from the speculation from prominent media sources that the Leafs will use the 8-and-1 protection scheme. This, to us, is lunacy: it would mean exposing forwards Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall, and preclude Toronto from re-signing Zach Hyman, solely for the purpose of protecting Justin Holl.
We see no universe in which Toronto veers from the 7-3-1 protection scheme, but who knows? If we’re wrong, and Kerfoot and Engvall are left unprotected, that makes the dismal news from Edmonton a little easier to bear.