Seattle expansion draft: Predicting Atlantic 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 Atlantic 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

Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Maple Leafs have two legitimate options to consider as they attempt to navigate another offseason that should feature plenty of roster turnover.

Toronto could very well opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. Doing so would guarantee forwards Alexander Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, and Pierre Engvall stay put. But that 11-player protection scheme would also leave defensemen Justin Holl and Travis Dermott unprotected. While the Maple Leafs can afford to give up Dermott, losing Holl for nothing would be a tough pill to swallow. A second-pairing blue-liner making $2 million a year through 2022-23, Holl is the type of player Toronto desperately needs on its books.

The less risky - and more likely - option is a nine-player protected list of four forwards, four defensemen, and one goalie. To meet the league's exposure requirements under that configuration, however, the Maple Leafs must sign another defenseman to have at least one available for the Kraken. That shouldn't be too difficult, with Dermott, Zach Bogosian, and Ben Hutton all due for new contracts.

Here is Toronto's projected list under a 4-4-1 scheme:

Exposed players: F Pierre Engvall, F Alexander Kerfoot, F Jason Spezza, D Travis Dermott, G Michael Hutchinson
Exemptions: F Ilya Mikheyev, F Nicholas Robertson, D Timothy Liljegren, D Rasmus Sandin
UFAs: F Nick Foligno, F Alex Galchenyuk, F Zach Hyman, F Riley Nash, F Wayne Simmonds, F Joe Thornton, D Zach Bogosian, D Ben Hutton, G Frederik Andersen

Realistically, the Maple Leafs are hoping Seattle picks Kerfoot. Not because Kerfoot is a liability or can't help win games, but because he makes $3.5 million a year in each of the next two seasons. Cap space is at a premium when four forwards are earning $40.5 million combined; Kerfoot is serviceable as a middle-six center or wing, but he's simply too expensive.

From Seattle's perspective, why not select Kerfoot? The 26-year-old can fill a key role up front on opening night, and his cap hit - which isn't onerous for a team with more flexibility than the Maple Leafs - can help Seattle reach the $60.2-million floor. And if he doesn't work out, no big deal: Kerfoot is a UFA in two seasons.

There's a chance the Kraken choose Dermott instead, which would be less than ideal but not catastrophic for Toronto. The organization is relatively deep on the left side of the blue line. As for Spezza, we're assuming he isn't a priority for Seattle after he threatened to retire if a team claimed him off waivers from the Maple Leafs this past season.

Boston Bruins

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Exposed players: F Trent Frederic, F Ondrej Kase, D Connor Clifton, D Jeremy Lauzon, D Jakub Zboril
Exemptions: F Jack Studnicka, D Urho Vaakanainen, G Jeremy Swayman
UFAs: F Taylor Hall, F David Krejci, D Mike Reilly, G Jaroslav Halak, G Tuukka Rask

The Bruins' biggest decision essentially comes down to protecting Ritchie, Kase, or 2016 first-rounder Frederic. Kase hasn't been able to stay healthy, and Frederic has yet to carve out a role for himself, so we decided to protect Ritchie. It may not matter, though; the Kraken could see the 24-year-old Lauzon as the most desirable asset.

Buffalo Sabres

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Exposed players: F Rasmus Asplund, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Kyle Okposo, D Colin Miller
Exemptions: F Dylan Cozens, G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
UFAs: D Jake McCabe, G Carter Hutton

Ullmark is a pending UFA, but the Sabres have no other goalie worth protecting (no offense, Dustin Tokarski). Buffalo didn't move Ullmark at the trade deadline, strongly suggesting the team hopes to re-sign him. Miller - whom Vegas selected in the last expansion draft - might be the most tantalizing piece for the Kraken.

Detroit Red Wings

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Exposed players: F Vladislav Namestnikov, F Frans Nielsen, F Richard Panik, F Givani Smith, D Danny DeKeyser, D Christian Djoos, D Troy Stecher, G Thomas Greiss
Exemptions: F Joe Veleno, F Filip Zadina
UFAs: F Valtteri Filppula, F Luke Glendening, F Darren Helm, F Taro Hirose, D Marc Staal, G Jonathan Bernier

The Red Wings are well-positioned to lose nobody of significance in expansion. Stecher is a nice player but he probably doesn't factor into their long-term plans. Fulcher isn't a big-time prospect, but protecting the youngster seems wiser than using a spot on the 35-year-old Greiss. Detroit's roster is so thin it could theoretically acquire a player for pennies on the dollar from a team that doesn't want to lose someone for free.

Florida Panthers

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Exposed players: F Noel Acciari, F Mason Marchment, F Lucas Wallmark, D Gustav Forsling, D Radko Gudas, D Markus Nutivaara, D Anton Stralman
Exemptions: F Grigori Denisenko, F Aleksi Heponiemi, F Owen Tippett, G Spencer Knight
UFAs: F Alexander Wennberg, D Brandon Montour, G Chris Driedger

Bennett's play after joining the Panthers at the trade deadline earned him must-protect status. Duclair was non-tendered by the Senators last year and became a UFA, but his stellar play this season should earn him an extension with Florida. The Kraken have some decent options here - particularly Acciari, Marchment, Forsling, Nutivaara, and Gudas.

Montreal Canadiens

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Exposed players: F Paul Byron, D Ben Chiarot, D Brett Kulak, G Jake Allen
Exemptions: F Cole Caufield, F Nick Suzuki, D Alexander Romanov
UFAs: F Joel Armia, F Phillip Danault, F Corey Perry, F Eric Staal, F Tomas Tatar, D Erik Gustafsson, D Jon Merrill

The Canadiens are unlikely to use a 4-4-1 scheme, as doing so would leave a key player up front exposed. Petry must be protected, while Edmundson is three years younger than Chiarot and signed for two more years. There's an off chance Montreal strategically exposes Weber, as Seattle probably wouldn't be overly intrigued by a 35-year-old with a long injury history who's signed through 2026. But it's difficult to imagine the Habs would risk losing their captain.

Ottawa Senators

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Exposed players: F Vitaly Abramov, F Jonathan Davidsson, F Chris Tierney, F Austin Watson, D Josh Brown, G Matt Murray
Exemptions: F Alex Formenton, F Josh Norris, F Shane Pinto, F Tim Stutzle, D Artem Zub
UFAs: F Artem Anisimov, F Ryan Dzingel, F Derek Stepan

It may seem hard to envision the Senators exposing Murray a year after trading a second-rounder for him and signing the netminder to a hefty contract. But Gustavsson, formerly a highly touted prospect, is just 23 years old and had a strong showing in his rookie season with a .933 save percentage over nine games. Tierney should garner interest from Seattle.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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Exposed players: F Yanni Gourde, F Tyler Johnson, F Alex Killorn, F Ondrej Palat, D Cal Foote, D Jan Rutta
Exemptions: None of note
UFAs: F Blake Coleman, F Barclay Goodrow, D David Savard, G Curtis McElhinney, G Anders Nilsson

The Lightning seem like one of the more obvious candidates to negotiate a side deal with the Kraken. Perhaps Tampa Bay will offer Seattle some sort of sweetener to take Johnson - a native of Spokane, Washington - and his $5-million annual cap hit through 2024. If not, one of Killorn, Palat, and 2017 first-rounder Foote is likely gone. There's a fair argument that the Lightning should protect Foote over McDonagh, but the Bolts need the veteran blue-liner as long as they're in win-now mode.

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Seattle expansion draft: Predicting Atlantic Division protected lists
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