Several factors have changed since we first previewed the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft back in early 2019. Now, as the Seattle Kraken inch closer to the summer 2021 event — where they will select their initial batch of players — we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to take another look at things from an LA Kings perspective.
For GM Rob Blake, perhaps the most important sub-plot surrounds the myriad of players they don’t need to protect. Those names include forwards Quinton Byfield, Jaret-Anderson Dolan, Aidan Dudas, Sammy Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, and Gabe Vilardi… plus, defensemen Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Sean Durzi, Cole Hults, Kim Nousiainen, and Jordan Spence.
To repeat, all of those prospects are exempt from the Seattle Expansion Draft. That means 14 of the players ranked on the organization’s list of their Top 15 prospects are immediately off the board.
So, what’s next?
As previously announced, the 2021 Expansion Draft will be conducted under the same rules used by the Vegas Golden Knights a few years ago; meaning, NHL clubs will have the option of (A) protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or (B) or eight skaters – regardless of forward or defense – and one goalie.
Last time around, the Kings opted to go with Option B; protecting: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, and Jake Muzzin.
You may recall, the decision to protect Forbort essentially came at the expense of fellow defenseman Brayden McNabb — who was ultimately selected by Vegas.
In 2021, we’re not so sure Blake will go the same direction because choosing Option A would actually give them the ability to protect two additional players (7F/3D versus 8 skaters).
Regardless, let’s start in goal. This is essentially the easiest to solve for LA, where they’re expected to protect Cal Petersen.
From there, these are the lists of players from which Blake will have to chose who the Kings will protect:
[forwards] Michael Amadio, Lias Andersson, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Mikey Eyssimont, Martin Frk, Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Blake Lizotte, Matt Luff, Trevor Moore, Austin Wagner
[defensemen] Kale Clague, Drew Doughty, Kurtis MacDermid, Olli Maatta, Jacob Moverare, Matt Roy, Austin Strand, Sean Walker
There are a couple of technical footnotes to add into the conversation at this point:
1. Doughty has a No Movement Clause; he must be protected. Thus, this automatically limits how the Kings put their protected list together, as one spot is already spoken for.
2. Each NHL team is required to make two forwards, one defensemen, and one goalie available. Jonathan Quick meets the criteria for netminders. For the other skaters, this is where the details are very important. In order to qualify as one of these unprotected players who is “available to be selected” by Seattle, said player has to check two boxes. Basically, he needs to be under contract for the 2021-22 season and either have played 40+ games in the upcoming 2020-21 season or played 70+ games combined over the past two seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21).
Their is value on the deal for LA. They're getting LHD they need but with NHL and playoff experience, plus term (expansion). Allows allows Kings to be patient with their younger D – Anderson, Björnfot, Clague, etc https://t.co/pO0SiasFdc
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) October 4, 2020
On the defensive side of the puck, this is one of the key reasons the Kings liked the idea of acquiring Olli Maatta. The only other blueliners currently part of the organization who meet the games played threshold are Walker and Roy. If they decided to protect those players, they would need to acquire a player (via free agency or a trade) who was under a two-year contract. Thus, signing a free agent on a one-year deal this month, like what they did with Ben Hutton last year, wouldn’t have helped them with the Expansion Draft. Matta does, because he’s under contract for two seasons and has already met the games played number.
Things are a bit trickier among the forwards, although nothing that won’t sort itself out once the season gets underway. Presently, only Iafallo and Kopitar meet the requirements needed for an unprotected player. It’s a moot point, though, as both are expected to be protected. Brown needs to play four more games and he can count toward one of the two forwards they must leave unprotected. Wagner and Lizotte need to play five more games to count, and Carter will meet the requirements after playing 10 more games.
Assuming Brown and Carter will not be protected, things start to come into focus. We also believe the following players will not be protected either: Amadio, Eyssimont, Luff, Moore, Wagner, MacDermid, Moverare, and Strand.
If things hold as expected, then when it comes down to decision time, Blake will most likely be looking at board with the following names:
[forwards] Andersson, Frk, Grundstrom, Iafallo, Kempe, Kopitar, Lizotte
[defensemen] Clague, Roy, Walker
Back to the two options that will be in front of him…
If Blake opts to go with the 8 skaters, regardless of position, the Kings would be protecting Doughty, Clague, Roy, Walker and only four of the forwards listed above.
Conversely, if he instead decides to go with Option A — the seven forwards and three defensemen route — he’d be looking at protecting Doughty, along with only two of Clague, Roy, and Walker. Then, he could also protect all seven of the forwards listed above.
Barring somebody on the Kings list having a breakout season this coming year, and forcing management to re-evaluate their pool of protected players, Seattle will most likely have access to Luff, Wagner, and MacDermid. Unless, of course, if Roy or Walker somehow became available because the Kings only kept three defenseman on their list.
Seattle, would you like Quick, Maatta, Luff, Wagner, or MacDermid?
Or perhaps they’re banking on Blake going with Option A, forcing him to expose one of Clague, Roy, or Walker.
Unless something changes over the course of next season, that sounds like a longshot.
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