We’re less than five months away from the Seattle Expansion Draft. In late July, the NHL’s 32nd team will be able to scoop up players and begin assembling their first roster. With that in mind, we thought it might be a good time to go back and re-visit our most recent look at what the Kings may be thinking and how they’ve already made a few moves to prepare for that day.
Back in October 2020, we detailed which LA players might be protected and why. Then, near the end of that article, we posed a question to Kraken management – ‘Would you like Quick, Maatta, Luff, Wagner, or MacDermid?’
Four months have passed since that discussion, several players have been added to the organization, nearly 20 NHL games have been played this season, and July will be here before we know it.
Eventually, in the days leading up to the hockey world finding out which players Seattle will be taking, Kings GM Rob Blake will have to make several decisions – starting with opting for a distinct path at the first fork in the road. Do the Kings want to protect (A) seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or (B) eight skaters total – regardless of position – and one goalie?
Currently, we believe Blake & Co. will opt for Plan B.
While Option A sounds like the better choice on the surface, namely because you get to protect more players in total, the trade off there is that they’d be limited to just three defensemen in an effort to protect additional forwards.
Rather than just wait until the week before the Expansion Draft and simply report which Kings players will be protected, we’re opting to have a little fun — and hopefully create some spirited discussion among the fanbase — by posting a Protection List Power Rankings. For the remainder of the regular season, we’ll occasionally rank who deserves to be protected and who that would leave exposed for the Kraken to possibly select. Obviously, the list would be a moving target, and as the season wears on, some guys may play their way on or off the protection list.
A little background context is likely necessary here, just to make sure everybody understands a few key Expansion Draft rules.
Heading into things, the Kings have a lot of to be thankful for – primarily because almost all of their top prospects are actually not eligible to be included in the process.
Exempt Forwards – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Quinton Byfield, Aidan Dudas, Sammy Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Kasper Simontaival, Johan Sodergran, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, and Gabe Vilardi
Exempt Defensemen – Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Sean Durzi, Brock Faber, Helge Grans, Cole Hults, Kim Nousiainen, Markus Phillips, and Jordan Spence
Exempt Goaltenders – Jacob Ingham, Lukas Parik, and Matt Villalta
Only one player from last year’s list of LA Kings Top 15 Prospects is potentially available in the Seattle Expansion Draft – Kale Clague.
So, which other Kings players will either need to be protected or made available to Seattle?
Let’s start in goal. This should be the easiest piece to solve, as LA is expected to protect Cal Petersen. This means Jonathan Quick will be left unprotected.
Moving on to the skaters, here’s a quick review of the players Blake will need to make decisions on:
Forwards (17) – Michael Amadio, Lias Andersson, Andreas Athanasiou, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Mikey Eyssimont, Martin Frk, Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo*, Boko Imama, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Blake Lizotte, Matt Luff, Trevor Moore, Drake Rymsha, and Austin Wagner
Defensemen (10) – Mark Alt, Daniel Brickley, Kale Clague, Drew Doughty, Kurtis MacDermid, Olli Maatta, Jacob Moverare, Matt Roy, Austin Strand, and Sean Walker
Goaltender (1) – Jonathan Quick
One footnote on Iafallo. He’s currently scheduled to be an Unrestricted Free Agent this summer. While the Kings don’t have to protect him, it gets a little dicey if they don’t. For example, expansion rules would allow the Kraken to sign him as a UFA before they select him. Seattle could also select him, even though he’s a UFA, and he would still be free to sign anywhere he wanted. Thus, it’s a little tricky.
Before we move along any further, it’s also worth mentioning, there are several other technical rules to the Expansion Draft. Although we’ll try not to bore you with most of them, there is one section that’s extremely important.
Essentially, each NHL team is going to expose a pool of players — a group of 28 guys for the Kings, as listed above — and within that group there needs be a minimum of four experienced players, defined as follows:
– A team must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman who are (a) under contract for the 2021-22 season and (b) have played in 27 or more NHL games in 2020-21 OR played at least 54 NHL games in 2019-20 and 2020-21 combined
– A team must also expose one goalie who is under contract for the 2021-22 season OR is an RFA going into the 2021-22 season
Two brief notes regarding this section of the Expansion Draft rules:
– Quick meets the criteria for netminders. In fact, he’s the only goaltender in their system who qualifies (after they protect Petersen). Thus — just to play out a hypothetical here — in the event Quick is traded for any reason prior to the Expansion Draft, the Kings would either need to get a goalie back in return or they’d likely have to extend the contract of Troy Grosenick by one year (as he doesn’t currently meet the contract status required for an experienced goalie). Somehow, the Kings would need to come up with a goalie to meet the criteria.
– As of last summer, LA was actually a little thin on the defensive side because after Doughty, Roy, and Walker, they didn’t have any other experienced defensemen under contract. It’s one of the many reasons a trade for Maatta worked. He checked all the boxes needed as an experienced defenseman they could expose in the Draft. It’s also why we don’t expect the Kings to put him on waivers or trade him. MacDermid has now played in 55 combined games between this season and last season, giving the Kings two defensemen who meet the experienced player criteria. Some have asked, ‘Why don’t the Kings put MacDermid on waivers (to send him to the AHL), and allow Clague to come up?’ Go back to the plan. This is part of the reason why the Kings plan on rotating Clague/Bjornfot in the NHL this season. They simply don’t have room for both at the same time if everybody’s healthy. If they put MacDermid on waivers to make room and he’s claimed by another team, and then Maatta has a serious injury later in the year, things really get complicated. Barring a major change, expect Maatta and MacDermid to stick around, if for no other reason, than for Expansion Draft reasons.
Now, with all of the lawyer-esque details behind us, let’s get to the fun part – debating who stays!
As stated above, we believe Blake will ultimately prefer to go with Option B, allowing the Kings to protect eight skaters total and one goalie.
If they went with Option A, they could only protect three defensemen (Doughty, Roy, Walker) and that would leave Clague unprotected. For what purpose? To protect which extra forwards? We just don’t see it.
For the Power Rankings, we’ll present the eight skaters we believe will be protected in the Expansion Draft. Who knows, maybe somebody plays well enough over the balance of the season to bump another player out of the top-8 or maybe somebody gets traded to clear room for a player on the bubble. There are a whole host of scenarios that could impact our weekly rankings prior to the Expansion Draft in July. In the end, Seattle will only get to select a single player from each of the NHL teams — sans Vegas, they’re the only team excluded from the entire process — so the Kings only stand to lose one guy from the entire pool of players they leave exposed.
PROTECTION LIST POWER RANKINGS – February 23
Cal Petersen – locked
Drew Doughty – locked, has a No Movement Clause
Matt Roy – a Steady Eddie, as McLellan calls him
Sean Walker – 3 more years at $2.65m AAV, very affordable
Kale Clague – needs to get dirty to stay here, can’t be perimeter player
Anze Kopitar – locked, team captain and face of the franchise
Alex Iafallo – quietly supplies secondary offense, contract status lingering
Adrian Kempe – still just 24 years old, maturing into support player, perhaps has more offense
Lias Andersson – he’s here now, by a thread, will need to show more in coming months
READY, WILLING, AND AVAILABLE
Five bubble players itching to grab protection on the list…
Jonathan Quick – two shutouts in his past three games, former Conn Smythe winner reminding people who he is
Austin Strand – played great in small sample size, he’s a third-pair D, Clague is top-4
* Should he be available, there’s also a great tie-in to Seattle area, played junior hockey there
Matt Luff – it’s hard to move your way up the power rankings sitting idle, needs to play… and soon
Dustin Brown – 10 goals, leads the team, there’s no way they’d protect him… right?
Carl Grundstrom – quietly blossoming into a very effective third-line player, may unseat somebody
Also available in the Expansion Draft:
Forwards – Amadio, Athanasiou, Carter, Eyssimont, Frk, Imama, Lizotte, Moore, Rymsha, Wagner, plus Alt, Brickley, MacDermid, Maata, and Moverare
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Fun to think about, but really not much of a problem for the Kings. The only decisions at this point (barring a Quick trade) would be whether to protect Anderssen or Grundstrom at forward and Strand or Clague on defense. At this point, I’m more inclined toward Grundstrom (until, as you say, Anderssen shows us a bit more). Basically, this would mean that the Kings would most likely lose either Anderssen or Strand/Clague. Anderssen would be a bit of a bummer to lose, as it would mean that the Kings basically threw away a 2nd round pick at the last draft.
I don’t know. If the Kings keep Walker then Clague is kind of superfluous. How many offensive d-men do the Kings need in the lineup and the pipeline?
I would like to keep Grundstrum (aka Sergei)or Moore. They’ve been quietly effective.
I personally think that Kraken will take a forward from LA. I’d say Holtby or whomever Vegas leaves unprotected is more likely to be taken over Quick. Matta is good bait, but I’m not seeing him as a backbone player for an incipient corps. Same goes for Brickley, Strand, and Big Mac. With someone like Vince Dunn available, and analogous players, d doesn’t seem to be the issue to me.
Stacked teams like TOR will cough up top tier talent. The Kings will likely be poached for the bottom six or glue guys. I’m calling it as Frk being the target. Bottom six forward with a proven NHL scoring touch.
I’m probably wrong though. I don’t have access to Francis’ internal thoughts.
Thank you for putting this together. This info is not easy to parse through, so this guide will be indispensable between now and the draft.
Are we so sure Iafallo is sticking around? I’m torn on the idea. As you said, he’s quietly productive. But with so many forwards in the pipeline, do we really want him taking a roster spot? If he is allowed to walk, then Grundy can be protected. If he does re-up with the Kings, I wonder if they will opt to protect their young depth forwards (Grundo and Andersson) and risk losing Kempe, who has improved some but kind of is who he is at this point.
THAT is the best reason I have yet heard for KMac getting playing time. it was a mystery to me how he got so many starts last year and an even deeper enigma how it was happening again this year. i don’t think it’s a coincidence that both last year and this the team has played better when he is in the stands. There is no shame in being a very solid AHL guy. That being said i would lean towards option A.
Cal – Lock
D- 3 guys DD, Walker, Roy. i don’t want to lose Clague but has he shown enough to merit exposing two more players to protect him?
Forwards – Dustin Brown, Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Blake Lizotte, Trevor Moore
Some tough calls. But Bjornfot has looked every bit as solid as Clague and when it’s a difference of two players being protected, i’ll protect the extra guys.
Should we protect bottom 6 level players? Maybe not. But Sergei, Blake, and Trevor have all shown effort over all 200 feet, good on the PK, good at even, they seem to be motivating the rest of the team to pick up their game. The Kings talk about character in the room, these guys have it on the ice.
There was a time where i didn’t see the value in Brown when Sutter was cutting his PP time and moving him around the lines. But during the dark days of the Willy D era when Brown was out it was clear how he held the team accountable. When he got healthy there was a clear uptick in the overall effort of the team. He wears a letter for a reason.
AI has lots of doubters but he strikes me as a Justin Williams light. He might not have the scoring touch/timing of Stick, but he does all the little things that contribute to driving play. There’s a reason Kopi and Brown want to play with him.
Sorry but there is no way Blake should expose a potentially valuable defenseman like Clague to protect some fourth line forwards who won’t even be good enough to make the team within a year or two.
As far as Brown goes, I am as thrilled as anyone to see him have this late career renaissance. But protecting a 37 year-old winger with one year on his contract is insane. Even if Seattle really wanted him on their roster for some reason, I would assume Francis would recognize that Brown has earned enough respect in his career to reach out and see if the career King would have any interest in spending his (potentially) last season as a mentor on an expansion team.
Lots can change between now and the draft, but I would guess Lizotte, Wagner or maybe Strand are the leading candidates to get selected. That assumes Iafallo is not re-signed and Grundstrom is protected. If Iafallo comes back, you can probably bank on the Kings losing Kempe, Grundo or Andersson.
Will be interesting. At this point Anderson has not shown he merits protecting. I would protect AA, Grundstrom, Moore ahead of him. Honestly right now probably even Strand. Brownie flourishing in his current role is also hard not to consider.
AA is a UFA at the end of the year, so the Kings would have to re-sign him before they protect him.
Actually, he is still an RFA after this season.
Brown also appears to have a modified no trade clause. Wouldn’t he have to agree to go to Seattle to be exposed?
John Hoven says
No. Only NMC. Doughty is the only Kings player who has one.
Unfortunately I feel it will be Carl Grundström or Kale Clague or if they’re smart and watching him I think Quckie would be the biggest steal.
Michael welch says
LA can protect eight skaters total and one goalie. I suggest: Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Cal Petersen, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, Kale Clague, and Drew Doughty
Shawn Brown says
Question, after reviewing all players games played and looking at players like Drake Rymsha, who played a total of 24 games in the ECHL and 11 games for the reign last season (35 total GP), and has yet to play pro hockey this year, how is he qualified to be exposed? That is the only part of the rules I am having difficulty with as he has not played 54 pro grames in 2021-22 and 2019-20, and has not played 27 pro grames in 2020-21. Please explain how players like Drake are capable of being exposed if they do not meet the rules as set forward in your article? Also, capfriendly’s expansion draft shows he has 27 games remaining before he can qualify for exposure. My calculations show that he has 19 games remaining (per hockey DB on 3/4/2021). Moverare is in the same boat, 2 games played of pro expereince, would need 25 more to qualify, he is not getting any time in any league, Brickely needs 32 games, Strand needs 5. If that is all true, I would bench Strand the rest of the season. I may be missing something that you intentionally left out (taxi-squad related possibly?) I would love to know though.
John Hoven says
It’s actually explained in the article, yet don’t sweat it – several people miss this finer point.
“Essentially, each NHL team is going to expose a pool of players — a group of 28 guys for the Kings, as listed above — and within that group there needs be a minimum of four experienced players”
Basically, the deal is this… All of the players listed in the article as exempt or must-be-protected are 100% correct. The “qualified” part you’re asking about isn’t what you’re thinking. The players — i.e. Rymsha, Morerare, etc. — must be protected or exposed because of when they turned pro.
The games played requirement is totally separate. What this means is that within a team’s entire pool of players they’re exposing to Seattle, there must be a minimum of at least two forwards and one defenseman who are “experienced players” (as defined in the article to include being under contract for the 2021-22 season and having played a minimum number of NHL games). This is where the players you mentioned don’t qualify.
Thus, if the Kings had an entire pool of Rymshas and Moverares, they’d be in trouble because they wouldn’t have the minimum number of “experienced” players to expose. In the case of the Kings, their current “experienced” defensemen to expose would be Maatta and MacDermind.
Again, if this is throwing you, skip it and move on. The larger point is that only the players listed in the article as exempt are in fact exempt. Every other player in the Kings organization currently under contract will need to either be exposed or protected.
Hope this helps.