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.

About Sam Blazer

Sam is a self proclaimed chess prodigy. He once placed seventh in the state of Ohio in Chess when he was in kindergarten. He will rarely if ever mention though that only eight people were entered in this tournament. Contact him at

3 thoughts on “The 4 most surprising players protected from the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft

  1. Not everyone on the team is there for an offensive role. Matt Martin may not have a huge offensive output (though his numbers this year dropped – it didn’t help that he played with Ben Smith half the season) but the other things he brings are super important. If you listen to any of the players/coaches talk about him, they all speak about his leadership qualities, presence in the locker room and mentorship capabilities. The team is full of young players playing in a league of older players. Without him, teams would make runs at Matthews, Marner, Nylander etc. because there is no fear of retaliation. With him, the younger players know there’s someone looking out for them and other teams know they can’t have their way with the youngsters or anyone else on the team for that matter. Do we really need more offence on the team? No. Using a roster spot to fill with a veteran dude who will protect and mentor = the Leafs brass know what they’re doing.

  2. If you happen to lose Matt Martin in the expansion draft because you don’t think he’s worth protecting, who would you send out next time Jake Dotchin tries to hospitalize a Leaf ??

  3. The Leafs don’t really have any players that needed protection. Many of their forwards were exempt and they even managed to protect Josh Leivo who played only 13 games this past year (and was a healthy scratch for most of the season). The only two forward prospects who aren’t exempt and weren’t protected are Kerby Rychel and Brendan Leipsic, and if I am not mistaken, they are both subject to waivers next season and currently do not have a spot on the team. Matt Martin has been a good mentor and his contract is not burdensome for the team.

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