The Devils’ expansion draft protection list was released on Sunday, with the Devils mostly matching expectations with their final group of protected players.
The offseason is now entering a big couple weeks with the expansion draft, entry draft, and free agency all looming in the near future. The Devils already made their first significant move this week, acquiring Ryan Graves from Avalanche in a trade facilitated by the expansion draft’s exposure rules, and we now know the final list of players the Devils will protect in next week’s expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. By extension, we now also know the players who will be exposed and available for Seattle to select on Wednesday.
Here is the final list, via Corey Masisak (and many others) on Twitter:
- Nico Hischier
- Jesper Bratt
- Yegor Sharangovich
- Janne Kuokkanen
- Pavel Zacha
- Miles Wood
- Michael McLeod
- Damon Severson
- Ryan Graves
- Jonas Seigenthaler
- Mackenzie Blackwood
So this aligns pretty much with what most folks expected the Devils to do, especially after the Graves trade made it pretty clear who the protected players would be on defense. That leaves the list of significant exposures to the following:
- P.K. Subban
- Andreas Johnsson
- Will Butcher
- Nathan Bastian
- Nick Merkley
- Scott Wedgewood
The question now shifts to a) who we should expect Seattle to take and b) who the Devils would want Seattle to take.
On question a), P.K. Subban is of course the Devils highest-profile exposure, but there will be some big names apparently available for Seattle that likely have higher bounceback potential than the Devils’ former-Norris-Trophy winning defenseman. Andreas Johnsson could be a target after his disappointing 2020-21 season led to his exposure here, the question will be whether Seattle is encouraged enough by his underlying numbers to take a chance on a resurgence in the right situation with multiple years left on his contract. Will Butcher is another player who could make some sense for Seattle, as he might be the best “change of scenery” candidate of the bunch after the one-time rookie standout was stapled to the bench for much of this season. If the Kraken have loaded up on cap hit elsewhere, they could also look for an inexpensive role player like Bastian or Merkley. Bastian showed he can be an effective fourth line bruiser with the ability to chip in the occasional goal, so perhaps he could be attractive for Seattle, depending on their strategy.
As far as who the Devils want Seattle to take, they probably wouldn’t be too broken up to see Subban’s cap hit and salary head out the door but he also likely has more on-ice value to the team at this point than some of the other options. They similarly probably would not be too worried to see Johnsson selected either, given the multiple years left on his deal. From a hockey perspective, I think Butcher might have the least value to the team relative to his cap hit at this moment, given that I don’t even know how much ice he will see under Lindy Ruff’s system, but he’s also the kind of player who you can see the potential for a resurgence that makes the Devils regret their decision. For me, as I said in the roundtable this week, I think Butcher would be my choice, given that I don’t think he is long for this team either way, but we shall see the direction Seattle goes.
Overall, I’d be lying if I said the Devils protection list is particularly impressive on its face, but this is pretty much what was expected of them coming into the weekend. They have protected anyone who could reasonably be construed as part of the core of what they are trying to build and the exposures are mainly disappointing contracts and players who fill out the bottom of a lineup (along with other assorted AHL randoms). However Wednesday goes, the team’s long-term outlook is unlikely to be significantly altered.
What are your thoughts on the Devils’ expansion draft protection list? Would you have played it any differently? How to you expect Seattle’s selection to play out based on this list? Sound off with your thoughts below in the comments and thanks for reading.