This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Pacific Division.
Before diving into our Pacific Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:
All players with no-movement clauses must be protected
All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked
Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt
And some notes about our process:
We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave
We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021
In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause
The Ducks could find themselves in a pickle if they don't move a defenseman before the expansion draft. They could protect Lindholm, Fowler, Montour, and Manson, but that would limit themselves to protecting four forwards and they'd almost certainly lose either Kase or Steel. Needing offense, we project the Ducks would bite the bullet and go with seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. This will expose Manson, handing Seattle a tough, shutdown rearguard.
Could Neal be taken in consecutive expansion drafts? It's a possibility, but we don't think it will happen, considering the availability of both Brodie and Giordano. Even though we believe Calgary will re-sign Brodie - and let Travis Hamonic walk - in 2020, he's the pick here. At 31, he'll be seven years younger than Giordano for Seattle's first season.
The Oilers don't have the cap flexibility to make significant free-agent additions over the next few years, but we do have them signing Greiss to replace Cam Talbot in goal. With little to choose from, it seems plausible Seattle would pluck Khaira, a versatile forward with size, strength, and underrated skill.
We're projecting the Kings will sign Smith and Hamonic in free agency to replace Tyler Toffoli and Jake Muzzin. In a youth movement, we expect the Kings will leave franchise legends Brown and Quick exposed. Although Walker - a puck-moving defenseman who's posted gaudy numbers in the AHL - is enticing, we think Seattle will start its existence with Quick, a former Conn Smythe winner, between the pipes.
We don't believe the Sharks' roster will look a whole lot different three years from now, with a number of pending free agents signing up for more time in the Bay Area - most notably Karlsson and Pavelski. Although this leaves Seattle with few enticing options, Suomela would provide the first-year club with some much-needed depth down the middle.
As the Canucks shift from a rebuilding team to a contending squad, we envision them signing Simmonds this summer and Faulk in 2020. Seattle would likely take a long look at Hutton, who's having a strong season, but ultimately wind up selecting Goldobin, who's oozing with potential.