The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft is rapidly approaching and each team has already named which players they want to protect from the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights are also reportedly working with teams on side deals. The general public won’t know the nature of those deals until Wednesday, so until then all players who were protected and exposed will be taken at face value.
Still, a few protected players make you wonder …
Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings
For a franchise that missed the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades, the Red Wings appear to have no plans of rebuilding and instead want to try and do so on the fly. Somehow, one of their first steps was leaving Petr Mrazek exposed and protecting Jimmy Howard. Howard is significantly older and more expensive. Howard has also reached his potential, which is a below-average starter, and Mrazek has the potential to be a great goaltender.
It is a true head-scratcher and to make matters worse, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland reportedly doesn’t have any side deals planned to save the team from this mess. Fans and pundits alike believe Holland has worn out his welcome and this move isn’t going to do him any favors.
Matt Martin – Toronto Maple Leafs
As recently as the mid-2000’s, teams needed an enforcer on their squad to deter other teams from going after their stars. Most general managers have wised up and realized those days are long gone, but apparently not the Maple Leafs. They are a team that is supposedly at the analytics forefront but nonetheless employ a “goon” with very little offensive upside. You’ll hear tales of protection and it is a load of crap in today’s game. They spent too much money acquiring him and had a way to possibly get rid of him. Now they’re (likely) stuck with him for the course of his contract.
The future is bright for the Maple Leafs, however. They’ll likely be trying to sign their younger players to contracts soon. They better hope that Martin and anything related doesn’t hamper their cap in the short and long-term.
Adam Pelech – New York Islanders
Out of all the players on this list, this might be the player who will leave fans asking “why?” the most. Pelech isn’t a bad player by any stretch, but having only scored 10 points in 44 games, he isn’t tearing the roof down. They left players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey exposed in the process. They also protected five defensemen, the most out of any team.
When you get the opportunity to protect a bunch of defensemen that were below league average, you’ve gotta do it, right? General manager Garth Snow is perpetually on the hot seat. He had better hope a side deal is worked out to allow the Golden Knights to select one of their worse players, otherwise his seat is going to be boiling.
Brayden Coburn – Tampa Bay Lightning
General manager Steve Yzerman is a pro at getting out of salary cap jams and has gained a reputation as one of the best because of it. He has a bevy of young defensemen that he could have protected if he would’ve liked and instead protected the aging Coburn.
Coburn has a steep cap hit and has seen his game fall off. Now, instead the Lightning have left Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin exposed. It may not matter now that they have Mikhail Sergachev who joined the organization via trade. Coburn was likely to never be selected, but it still has left many dumbfounded.