Seattle expansion draft: Predicting Metropolitan Division protected lists

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With the Seattle expansion draft one month away, theScore is predicting every team's protected list and putting one club from each division under the microscope. This edition offers potential lists for the Metropolitan Division. (We'll project a full 30-player roster for the Kraken closer to the July 21 draft.)

Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific

The 2021 expansion draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 expansion draft that welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL:

  • Each team must submit a protected list of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • Any player with a no-movement clause must be protected unless the player waives it
  • Each team must expose two forwards, one defenseman, and one goalie who are under contract and played at least 40 games this past season or 70 combined games over the last two seasons
  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt from selection
  • Any player with a career-ending injury is exempt from selection

Teams must submit their protected lists to the league by July 17.

Note: Our lists of exposed players and exemptions include only the most notable names rather than every player who would fit each category. Teams are also unlikely to protect pending unrestricted free agents, as Seattle will probably not risk selecting a player it can't retain.

(Salary cap and contract source: CapFriendly)

* indicates no-movement clause

Washington Capitals

Patrick McDermott / National Hockey League / Getty

The Caps are entering an offseason in which GM Brian MacLellan has plenty on his plate, despite the relative inflexibility of managing a core of old players.

Among the situations MacLellan is tasked with addressing: Icons Alex Ovechkin and Zdeno Chara becoming UFAs; star Evgeny Kuznetsov's time in Washington appearing to be over; No. 1 goalie and RFA Ilya Samsonov needing a contract extension; and, of course, the whole expansion draft thing.

It wouldn't make a ton of sense for the Caps to opt for the nine-player protected list and tag four forwards, four defensemen, and one goalie. With a glut of forward talent to preserve, 7-3-1 is the smarter route. The tricky part is deciding which forwards and defensemen are worthy of inclusion on the list.

Here's a crack at it, with Ovechkin excused from the exercise since the 35-year-old captain recently stated his intention to re-sign and retire as a Capital.

Exposed players: F Nic Dowd, F Carl Hagelin, F Garnet Hathaway, F Daniel Sprong, D Nick Jensen, D Michal Kempny, D Justin Schultz, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, G Vitek Vanecek
Exemptions: F Hendrix Lapierre, F Connor McMichael, D Alexander Alexeyev
UFAs: F Alex Ovechkin, F Michael Raffl, D Zdeno Chara, G Craig Anderson

Kuznetsov earns a spot on the protected list because the Caps need to get something in return for the Russian center if they're indeed eager to bid farewell to him this offseason. Gifting him to the Kraken would be the easy way out.

​​​​Sheary is the real decision at forward. Washington could instead protect one of Hagelin, Hathaway, Dowd, or Sprong, but Sheary costs only $725,000 next season and keeping a value deal on the books is crucial. On the blue line, Orlov is an expensive piece for the next two seasons, so it's tempting to leave him exposed to save money. However, the other viable options - Schultz, Jensen, and Kempny - are a step or two below Orlov in terms of on-ice performance.

Perhaps MacLellan figures out a way to convince the Kraken to take on Hagelin's deal ($2.75 million a year for the next two seasons) in exchange for a draft pick. A trade like that shouldn't be off the table at this point.

Then again, MacLellan played the 2017 expansion draft cooly by not interfering with Vegas' selection of defenseman Nate Schmidt. Washington lost a quality player, sure, but MacLellan otherwise stayed out of the transaction game. He didn't overthink expansion like some of his peers, who panicked and forked over a second player, or picks, via trade.

Carolina Hurricanes

Gregg Forwerck / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Warren Foegele, F Morgan Geekie, F Steven Lorentz, D Jake Bean, D Jake Gardiner
Exemptions: F Seth Jarvis, F Martin Necas, F Ryan Suzuki
UFAs: F Jordan Martinook, F Brock McGinn, F Cedric Paquette, D Jani Hakanpaa, D Dougie Hamilton, G Petr Mrazek, G James Reimer

The biggest piece of Carolina's expansion-draft puzzle is Hamilton. The Hurricanes will reportedly let the star defenseman test the free-agent market, opening up an extra protection slot - which we used on Skjei. That would make Bean, who Kraken general manager Ron Francis drafted 13th overall in 2016, a suitable option for Seattle. If the Kraken want a forward, there are some attractive role players available from Carolina's group as well.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Jamie Sabau / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Eric Robinson, D Dean Kukan, G Matiss Kivlenieks
Exemptions: F Emil Benstrom, F Liam Foudy, F Alexandre Texier, G Elvis Merzlikins
UFAs: F Mikhail Grigorenko, D Michael Del Zotto

The Blue Jackets' list is rather straightforward, as all their best players can be protected or exempt without any complications. The most desirable exposed player is probably Kivlenieks, the 22-year-old Latvian stuck behind Korpisalo and Merzlikins on Columbus' depth chart. All things considered, the Blue Jackets' focus this offseason will surround Jones, who could be on the trade block after reportedly telling the club he won't sign an extension.

New Jersey Devils

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Exposed players: F Nathan Bastian, F Michael McLeod, F Nick Merkley, D P.K. Subban, G Evan Cormier
Exemptions: F Jesper Boqvist, F Alexander Holtz, F Jack Hughes, F Dawson Mercer, D Kevin Bahl, D Ty Smith
UFAs: D Connor Carrick, D Ryan Murray, G Aaron Dell, G Scott Wedgewood

New Jersey's promising forward core is exempt or easy to protect, leaving the Devils with a tough decision to make on defense. It's plausible that general manager Tom Fitzgerald exposes Subban rather than the younger, cheaper option in Siegenthaler, freeing up some valuable cap space heading into free agency as a result. The Kraken could benefit from Subban's potential availability. His contract would make it easier to reach the salary cap floor, and Seattle would instantly ice a marketable household name while establishing its fanbase.

New York Islanders

Andre Ringuette / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Cal Clutterbuck, F Michael Dal Colle, F Leo Komarov, F Matt Martin, D Nick Leddy
Exemptions: F Oliver Wahlstrom, D Noah Dobson, G Ilya Sorokin
UFAs: F Casey Cizikas, F Kyle Palmieri, F Travis Zajac, D Andy Greene

The Islanders stand to lose a significant player off a roster that's reached the third round of the playoffs in back-to-back years. Clutterbuck has long been an important piece to New York's identity, and Leddy is a quality offensive blue-liner who's eaten up over 20 minutes per night in each of his seven years with the team. GM Lou Lamoriello could expose Mayfield over Leddy, but removing the latter's $5.5 million cap hit would help the Isles immensely going into a critical offseason with multiple key players to re-sign.

New York Rangers

Andy Marlin / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Brett Howden, F Julien Gauthier, F Kevin Rooney, D Anthony Bitetto, D Tony DeAngelo, G Keith Kinkaid
Exemptions: F Morgan Barron, F Kaapo Kakko, F Vitali Kravtsov, F Alexis Lafreniere, D Adam Fox, D K'Andre Miller, G Igor Shesterkin
UFAs: F Phil Di Giuseppe, D Brendan Smith

The Rangers' expansion list is as favorable as it gets. The important forwards on entry-level contracts are all exempt, and New York's stars all have no-movement clauses. Even the top two goaltenders on the depth chart are safe. At best, Seattle stands to get a role player - like Howden or Gauthier - off Broadway. There's little chance the Kraken touch the controversial DeAngelo.

Philadelphia Flyers

Len Redkoles / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F Nolan Patrick, F Jakub Voracek, D Justin Braun, D Shayne Gostisbehere, D Robert Hagg
Exemptions: F Joel Farabee, F Tyson Foerster, F Morgan Frost, D Cam York
UFAs: D Samuel Morin, G Brian Elliott

The glaring omission from our projected Flyers list is Voracek. While he's still a quality point producer, he'll be 32 by the start of next season and counts for a hefty $8.25 million against the cap until 2024. Philadelphia could use this as an opportunity to get out of a burdensome contract for an aging player and allocate the cap space elsewhere after a highly disappointing 2021 season. That said, Seattle could instead snag Patrick, the second overall pick in 2017 who is primed for a fresh start after an injury-plagued stint in Philly.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Joe Sargent / National Hockey League / Getty

Exposed players: F Zach Aston-Reese, F Teddy Blueger, F Mark Jankowski, F Sam Lafferty, F Jared McCann, F Brandon Tanev, D Michael Matheson, D Chad Ruhwedel, G Casey DeSmith
Exemptions: D John Marino, D Pierre-Olivier Joseph
UFAs: F Frederick Gaudreau, F Evan Rodrigues, F Colton Sceviour, D Cody Ceci, D Juuso Riikola, G Maxime Legace

The Penguins seem likely to lose a quality forward to the Kraken. Adding Carter at the trade deadline shook up Pittsburgh's depth chart, and while he's an exposure option at 36 years old, it would be poor asset management to potentially lose him for nothing just months after paying to bring him in. If Pittsburgh has cap savings at the top of its priority list, exposing Zucker in favor of cheaper options - such as McCann and Tanev - is also an option.

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