The final part of the Expansion Draft prediction series is here! If you have read the others, you know that the only division missing is the Metropolitan. As was the case with the Atlantic and Central, there are eight teams to break down here, so let’s dive right in.
You can find the rundown of other divisions here.
The Hurricanes will have a lot of decisions to make with their seventh forward spot and third on defense. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trocheck, and Nino Niederreiter are all fairly easy to protect. Jordan Staal is as well thanks to his no-move clause. The last spot comes down to Warren Foegele, Jesper Fast, and Morgan Geekie. Fast is a decent bottom-six winger coming off of a down season. Geekie does not have a ton of NHL experience but he has been fine. Foegele is easily the best of the bunch, but he is an RFA and will probably be traded or lost in this draft. If the Canes are worried about Foegele’s upcoming contract, then they should trade him soon. Fast is not expensive at $2 million and would give the Kraken good depth.
Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce will lead the Carolina defense in 2021-2022, as Dougie Hamilton departs in free agency, barring a shocking change. Who gets the final spot? It won’t be Jake Gardiner, who has two more years left at $4.1 million and has struggled in Carolina. Brady Skjei is also expensive, with three more years left at $5.3 million. He has performed better than Jake Bean, but neither has been exceptional. Bean, a 2016 first-rounder, has offensive potential but has not played tough minutes in the NHL yet. After a surprise season ascending to the starting role, Alex Nedeljkovic will get a nice contract as an RFA.
Forwards Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Staal, Warren Foegele
Defensemen Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Jake Bean
Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic
Projected Pick: Forward Morgan Geekie
Columbus Blue Jackets
The biggest question of the Blue Jackets’ offseason is clearly Seth Jones. The defender will not sign an extension with the team and is a year away from free agency. A trade is imminent. If it doesn’t happen before the expansion draft, he’ll be protected and then likely traded afterward. His partner in crime, Zach Werenski, will be the face of the defense going forward. Vladislav Gavrikov has become one of the league’s most underrated defensemen. Trading Jones before the draft would make sense since that would give the team a chance to protect Dean Kukan. Since Elvis Merzlikins is still exempt, Joonas Korpisalo is the easy pick to protect as the goalie. Korpisalo is also on the trade block.
The next Columbus star to be a possible trade piece is Patrik Laine, who will get a lot of money as an RFA this year. His defense is terrible and there are concerns on if he is more than just a shot. Cam Atkinson, Gustav Nyquist, and Oliver Bjorkstrand are all good right-wingers. Max Domi is also on the trade block because basically the whole team is. It will be interesting to see if Boone Jenner is protected. He is a year from free agency and earns under $4 million against the cap. His production has decreased with every coming season. Jack Roslovic improved a lot after being acquired with Laine from Winnipeg. This leaves it between Eric Robinson and Kevin Stenlund. The speedy Robinson is definitely the choice between the two and could be protected anyways. Or, Kukan may be the pick outright.
Forwards Cam Atkinson, Max Domi, Patrik Laine, Gustav Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic
Defensemen Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Vladislav Gavrikov
Goalie Joonas Korpisalo
Projected Pick: Forward Eric Robinson
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are loaded with young talent who are projected as future bottom-six players. They can only protect one of them and will lose another. Guys like Andreas Johnsson, Miles Wood, and Jesper Bratt are a tier ahead. Nico Hischier is their captain, so obviously he isn’t going anywhere. Yegor Sharangovich had a really nice rookie season, with 16 goals. Pavel Zacha finally showed his potential, tying Wood for the team lead in goals with 17. That leaves us with the aforementioned group. Of them, Michael Mcleod, a 2016 first-rounder, has shown to be the best. But Janne Kuokkanen is not far behind, as he had 25 points last year. Nicholas Merkley and Nathan Bastian are up for consideration as well.
P.K. Subban has fallen down the depth chart in New Jersey, and his $9 million cap hit is untouchable. Ryan Murray and Connor Carrick are both UFAs, which simplifies things. Damon Severson has become the team’s number one defenseman, and Will Butcher is a fine player despite a down season. The third spot will go to Jonas Siegenthaler. Acquired from Washington at the deadline, Siegenthaler has good defensive numbers in limited NHL playing time. Mackenzie Blackwood is the goaltender of the future and present for New Jersey.
Forwards Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Andreas Johnsson, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Michael Mcleod Defensemen Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Jonas Siegenthaler
Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood
Projected Pick: Forward Janne Kuokkanen
New York Islanders
The back-to-back Conference Finalists are pressed up against the salary cap, which could lead to some trades or surprising protection moves. The player in question here is Jordan Eberle, who has three more seasons left with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Isles may try to bait the Kraken into taking Eberle. He has been a top-line winger for seasons on the team, so it would be a surprise to try to lose him for nothing. His main linemates have been Mat Barzal and Anders Lee, both locks to be protected.
Brock Nelson has developed into a great second-line center under Barry Trotz. The same could be said for Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but replace “second” with “third”. Josh Bailey and RFA Anthony Beauvillier are both key wingers on the team’s second line. If they choose to expose Eberle, then 2016 first-rounder Kieffer Bellows would be protected. He has fallen out of favor with Trotz and co. thanks to inconsistent play.
Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock may be the league’s top defensive pair. They are at the very least top-five. Pelech is a restricted free agent and Pulock is a year away from unrestricted free agency. Both should get a lot of money. Scott Mayfield was not as good in the regular season but was one of the team’s best in the playoffs. The opposite could be said for Nick Leddy, who had 29 assists but really struggled defensively against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Leddy is on the block. With Ilya Sorokin exempt, Semyon Varlamov is the easy goaltender choice.
Forwards Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle Defensemen Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield
Goalie Semyon Varlamov
Projected Pick: Forward Kieffer Bellows
New York Rangers
The forward stars of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad would have been protected anyway, but their no-move clause says otherwise. Chris Kreider also has that clause. Ryan Strome has developed nicely as a center in New York. Will the Rangers trade Pavel Buchnevich? They have the right-wing depth and he will get paid as an RFA this summer. Also an RFA is Filip Chytil, the perennially 21-year-old man. The last spot is between Colin Blackwell and Julien Gauthier. Neither earns much money, but Gauthier is considerably younger. Blackwell scored 12 goals in 47 games this season. Kevin Rooney is also an option.
Since Norris-winner Adam Fox is still exempt, the Rangers will have a much easier time. In fact, they will protect someone who they don’t even want to protect! Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren are both integral parts of their defense. Then it comes down to Libor Hajek and Anthony Bitetto. Bitetto is better but older. Hajek is young but has had awful results in NHL playing time. Also somehow exempt is Igor Shesterkin. That means Alexandar Georgiev is the easy choice to protect.
Forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Chris Kreider, Julien Gauthier Defensemen Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek
Goalie Igor Shesterkin
Projected Pick: Forward Colin Blackwell
Both Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes have a no-move clause, but Jakub Voracek does not. The star winger is not expected to be on the protected list as his play has diminished and he still has three years left on his contract that carries an $8.25 million cap hit. It is unlikely that the Kraken would take a bite. But with James van Riemsdyk? Potentially. He also will not be protected. van Riemsdyk still has talent and can be a second-line player. However, he will cost $7 million against the salary cap for two seasons.
The real stars nowadays in Philly are Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. Scott Laughton was extended at the deadline instead of traded. He’s a fine bottom-six center. Oskar Lindblom is a good middle-six winger. Nolan Patrick has a lot to prove. The 2017 2nd overall pick is always injured and has never shined in the NHL.
The Flyers still view Ivan Provorov as a top-pairing defenseman despite a rough 2021 season. The team is looking for someone to be his long-term partner. They have a very good second pair in Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, who both suffered from bad goaltending this year. Shayne Gostisbehere has two more seasons left with a $4.5 million cap hit. He has good offensive numbers. Will he be the one to reunite with former coach Dave Hakstol? It looks like it is between him and van Riemsdyk. The cap may dictate towards fourth-liner Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Carter Hart completely collapsed in 2020-21. He is still the goalie of the future.
Forwards Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick Defensemen Ivan Provorov, Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim
Goalie Carter Hart
Projected Pick: Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere
No-move clauses will guarantee that the Penguins will not lose a franchise icon again to an expansion team. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang all have one. Crosby’s linemates, Jake Guentzal and Bryan Rust will both be on the list as well. Jason Zucker, who has not worked out at all in Pittsburgh, will not. Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann were both solid pickups by Jim Rutherford at the end of his tenure. One of the members of Pittsburgh’s great fourth line will be protected. Zach-Aston Reese is probably the best of the bunch but could get a decent sum in restricted free agency. Brandon Tanev is pesky and signed long-term. With not a lot of centers available for the taking, Teddy Blueger is the favorite. He just signed a new two-year extension.
Along with Letang, Brian Dumoulin is the second lock to be protected on defense. John Marino is still exempt, which means the final spot comes down to Mike Matheson and Marcus Pettersson. Matheson is more expensive and not as good, but Pettersson could be traded before the draft. After what Tristan Jarry did in the first round, it is hard to see him stay in Pittsburgh. Casey DeSmith was hurt in the playoffs but was the better regular-season goalie and is cheaper.
Forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzal, Kasperi Kapanen, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev Defensemen Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson
Goalie Casey DeSmith
Projected Pick: Forward Teddy Blueger
Washington’s protected list is interesting since Alex Ovechkin probably won’t be on it unless he signs an extension very quickly. Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie will be on it. So will Evgeny Kuznetsov, barring a trade. The Caps sold their soul for Anthony Mantha at the deadline. Everyone’s favorite player, Tom Wilson, is too valuable to expose. Lars Eller is a fine middle-six center who the team really missed at portions of the season. Who is the seventh protected player? Daniel Sprong has a great shot and Carl Hagelin is fast and good defensively. Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway, and Conor Sheary are also options.
John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov are easy choices on defense, but there are a ton of options for the third spot. Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen are easily the best, although Trevor van Riemsdyk is signed cheap for two more seasons. Jensen may be traded anyway for cap reasons. There are a ton of options for each position to go. However, Seattle should go goaltender. Ilya Samsonov will certainly be protected. That gives them Vitek Vanecek for free. Vanecek was solid last year and was the team’s starter for most of last season. Vanecek will earn the league minimum next year as well.
Forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, Daniel Sprong Defensemen John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen
Goalie Ilya Samsonov
Projected Pick: Goalie Vitek Vanecek
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