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Who to Protect: The Expansion Draft

Well, if you didn’t know, Las Vegas will have an NHL team for the 2017-2018 season. The hope is that Vegas can be competitive right away and be a team that other teams can’t automatically pencil in as a win. So how do they plan on accomplishing that? A new version of the expansion draft. There are a lot of details to it but basically every team is allowed to protect a certain amount of players from the draft and Las Vegas is only allowed to select one player from each of the 30 current NHL teams. There are two options as well as some exemptions. The first option is the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The second option is to protect a total of eight skaters and one goalie. Two of the major rules/exemptions are that 1. Anyone with a no movement clause has to be protected and 2. Anyone who is a second-year pro or under as well as an unsigned draft choice is exempt. I will be trying to decide on who I think the Islanders will choose to protect using both options the 7F, 3D, 1G and then eight skaters, one goalie option. Before I go on, here is what you need to know…

Isles Exemptions via generalfanager.com: Eamon McAdam, Devon Toews, Stephon Williams, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang, Bracken Kearns, Carter Verhaeghe, Parker Wotherspoon, Kyle Schempp, Ross Johnston, and Kyle Burroughs.

First Option (7F, 3D, 1G):

Forwards:

Only two forwards on the Islanders have to be protected under because of their no movement clauses, those two players being Andrew Ladd and John Tavares. John Tavares is the Islanders’ captain and the face of the franchise meanwhile Andrew Ladd is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion who just signed with the Islanders for seven years and is projected to play on Tavares’ left wing.  So right away there are two forwards. Next I think you have to go with the three who used to make up the very successful kid line back in the 2014-2015 season, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Ryan Strome. Brock Nelson is a goal scorer. The 24 year old put up 26 goals in a year where he was arguably inconsistent, he also put up 20 goals the year before that. If 26 goals in a year is considered inconsistent, imagine how many Nelson would score at a consistent rate. Anders Lee had a really good rookie year in the 2014-2015 season. Lee didn’t do so well at the beginning of last season but he changed his game a little. At the end of the season, before his injury, Lee’s new style of play was effective. His new style of play is what earned time on the power play and time when the game was on the line. What he did was he went to the front of the net, the dirty areas. He screen opposing goaltenders and deflected in shots from the point. Storme’s 2015-2016 season wasn’t great. Strome had 28 points last year compared to his 56 the year before that. After recently re-signing for two years, Strome seems like a bounce-back candidate for this season. Next I would protect Casey Cizikas. Cizikas signed a five year deal at the beginning of the Isles’ offseason and is a great two-way player that should see an upgrade from his fourth line ice time either this season or in the coming years. I believe the logic behind the Isles giving Cizikas a big contract like that was because they think he can be a player similar to Frans Nielsen who left the Isles for the Red Wings this summer. And lastly, I would protect Shane Prince. You may or may not be shocked by that because of the other guys that would be left un-protected, mainly Cal Clutterbuck and Josh Bailey, but I think there is a lot of potential for the 23 year old who is coming off his rookie season. His rookie season started in Ottawa and after only playing 42 games, scoring three goals, and having nine assists, Prince was traded to the Isles at the trade deadline. Prince played 20 regular-season games with the Isles scoring there goals and two assists. His speed was on display and he also showed that he had a nice shot too… In the playoffs Prince would appear in all 11 of the Isles’ games and scored three goals and one assist. Two of those three goals coming in game one of the second round. Prince re-signed with the Isles the summer for two more years.

So to recap here are the seven forwards:

John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, and Shane Prince.

Defense:

This is the hardest part. You can only protect three defensemen in this format and right away I could think of four I want to protect. First there is Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk has to be protected because of his no movement clause. That leaves two spots left. Nick Leddy is signed up until 2022 (so is Boychuk) and is a fast skater, great defensemen, and is only 25 years old. I would give Leddy one of the two remaining spots. I would give the third spot to Travis Hamonic. Hamonic is on a very team-friendly deal that ends after the 2019-2020 season. He is a solid defensemen and a great penalty killer. Now here is the situation with a lot of controversy to it. Ryan Pulock is not exempt. Pulock played 15 regular-season games with the Isles scoring two goals and two assists. In the playoffs Pulock had a goal and assist through six games. The 21 year old is known for his slapshot that has been clocked at over 100 mph. He is seen as a key component to the Isles defense core and power play for years to come. If the Isles decide to use the format of 7F, 3D, 1G, it would be unlikely that Pulock is protected. George McPhee is Las Vegas’ general manager and last year he was the special assistant to the Isles’ GM Garth Snow. Given this I am sure he knows all about Pulock and his potential.

Goaltender:

The Islanders are a little unusual for carrying three goaltenders on their 23 man roster but for the expansion draft they could only protect one. Of the three, JF Berube was labeled as the third string goaltender ending last season with a 3-2-1 record, a 2.71 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage. He re-signed with the Isles this summer on a one-year deal. Originally listed as the backup, Thomas Greiss played amazing in his first season with the Isles and wound up splitting starts with listed starter Jaroslav Halak until Halak went down and Greiss became the clear #1. Greiss helped lead the Isles to their first playoff series win in 23 years and for that seems like an obvious choice for the goalie to protect but not so fast. Despite being a little injury-prone Halak has been solid in his time with the Islanders. He is a veteran goaltender, a playoff performer, and currently is the only one of three who is signed after the end of this 2016-2017 season. Halak has currently been playing amazing for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey and has led his team to the finals where they will play Team Canada. I am not 100% sure on this choice mainly because I don’t know what the Isles are going to do with their three goaltenders this season but if I had to make the choice right now, it would be Jaroslav Halak.

Who Would Las Vegas Take?:

There is a chance they could go for a guy like Cal Clutterbuck (who would be a UFA at that time) or Josh Bailey if they need a forward or maybe Thomas Greiss who would be a UFA at the time so unlikely but it would seem that Ryan Pulock would be the most obvious choice for Vegas.

Second Option (Eight Skaters, One Goaltender):

Why even discuss this option? Protecting 10 skaters and one goaltender is better than protecting eight skaters and a goalie, right? You’re technically right except the Isles have four really good defensemen they should protect and in the first option they can only protect three of them. So lets see how they could look if they choose this format. Starting off in the defensive position I am going with the three I chose in the first format (Johnny Boychuk (No Movement clause), Nick Leddy, and Travis Hamonic) plus Ryan Pulock. As mentioned earlier John Tavares and Andrew Ladd both have a No Movement clause so that leaves room for two more skaters. To me it is two of these tree, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee. As I mentioned earlier, Nelson is a goal scorer. I would protect him, leaving one spot for Ryan Strome or Anders Lee. Right now I would say Ryan Strome. A potential bounce-back player, a player who could put up 50+ points. However, if he doesn’t have a bounce-back year then I would choose Lee. But this was if the expansion draft was today and if it was today then I would choose Strome over Lee. As for my goaltender, I am sticking with the man I chose for the first format, Jaroslav Halak.

 

Who Would Las Vegas Take?:

Under this format the defense is safe. I can’t see Vegas taking guys like Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey especially with the other guys they left unprotected. If Cizikas has a breakout season then maybe him but his deal of five years and an average of $3,350,000 a year might be too much of a risk. Cal Clutterbuck or Shane Prince perhaps but at that time Clutterbuck will be a UFA and Prince will only have on year left on his deal. Thomas Greiss could be an option if they needed a goaltender but I think there will be plenty of other options when you think about the Red Wings who have Howard and Mrazek, the Flyers with Mason/Neuvirth, the Penguins with Fleury/Murray, and the Hurricanes with Ward/Lack. With Lee unprotected I think he would be the one to go if they protected those eight skaters I listed.

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