Expansion Draft Preview: North Division Update

Updated July 17th, 2021, 2:30pm PST.

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.

Calgary Flames

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.

The latest on the Mark Giordano saga is that the Flames have reportedly been in discussions with the Kraken about ways to make sure Calgary’s captain stays with the team for whom he has played the past 15 seasons. No terms have been released as of this writing, but the fact that the Flames did not move a defenseman before the expansion draft roster freeze kicked in suggests that a deal in principle has been reached. We will find out the specifics in a few days.

We made our predictions concerning the Kraken’s selection from Calgary assuming that Lucic would be waiving his NMC, and that Giordano would not be selected regardless of his protected status. You can check out what we said about Calgary and the Kraken’s choice here.

Edmonton Oilers

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 until after the expansion draft, and use the 7-3-1 protection scheme.

An additional wrinkle was thrown into the works this past week, as veteran blueliner Duncan Keith was traded to Edmonton, with Chicago acquiring young defenseman Caleb Jones. Keith’s no-movement clause comes with him, mandating protection in the expansion draft, but Jones’ departure makes room for him. 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, Duncan Keith (NMC), Ethan Bear

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 has gone up in smoke.

Even the free agent picture got more depressing in Edmonton, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was signed to a long-term contract with a preposterous hometown discount, keeping the potential franchise center off the free agent market for good. The only glimmer of hope lies in the fact that defenseman Tyson Barrie will definitely be heading to free agency. The Kraken have the best shot at landing him, and doing so would more than make up for Edmonton’s pathetic offerings during the expansion draft. Fingers crossed.

Montreal Canadiens

Lots of frantic speculation on Saturday — mainly from prognosticators without quoted sources — suggesting that Montreal was trying to cut a deal with Seattle to avert their eyes from goaltender Jake Allen. Not a single report can state conclusively that there have even been talks between Ron Francis and Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin on this subject, so this is just a lot of hot air. We’ll know more later this week.

The only other “news” out of Montreal is that, coming as no surprise to anyone paying attention, center Phillip Danault will not be in a Canadiens uniform this October. It has been widely reported in the Montreal press since January that management is all in on Suzuki and Kotkaniemi up the middle, and that Danault is welcome to stay — with a 3C role, and at a 3C price. That is plainly unacceptable to somebody who played as big a role in the Canadiens’ playoff success as Danault did, so he will be available during free agency on July 28th. Here’s hoping the Kraken can lock him up during their exclusive negotiating period in the next 72 hours.

Ottawa Senators

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

In recent weeks the Maple Leafs have done everything except put up a billboard on the 401 saying that they will be using the 8 skaters and 1 goalie protection scheme. This, on the surface, looks like suicide. However this, when married with a puzzling deal to acquire Jared McCann from Pittsburgh in advance of the expansion draft, suggests that the Leafs already have a deal in principle worked out with the Kraken, and know in advance who Seattle will be selecting.

There’s no debating who gets a protected slot under the 8-and-1 for Toronto: forwards Tavares, Matthews, Marner, and Nylander; defensemen Muzzin, Reilly, Brody, and Holl; and goaltender Campbell. But they could protect 9 AHL guys if there is already a deal in place, so it doesn’t really matter which players the final list contains. Suffice to say the drama surrounding any deal with Toronto will come to a head on Wednesday.

Winnipeg Jets

The news here is, there’s no news here. Rumors started in the early morning hours on Saturday that Winnipeg was aggressively trying to move RW Mason Appleton to avoid losing him to Seattle. A deal for the 23-year-old never materialized, so things remain status quo in the ‘Peg. Appleton is the consensus pick from the Kraken, though I would think defensemen Dylan DeMelo or Nathan Beaulieu would also warrant consideration. If the Jets decide to protect DeMelo and instead expose towering youngster Logan Stanley, then Stanley becomes the prohibitive favorite.

Author: Tim Currell

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