The trade deadline may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more trades over the courses of the remainder of the league year. The NHL Expansion Draft is right around the corner, with protection lists due on July 17, ahead of the draft on July 21. By that time, all 30 participating teams must be able to submit a protection list that complies with the exposure requirements of the draft. As a reminder, teams may protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. However, they must also expose two forwards and one defenseman signed beyond this season and who have played in 27 NHL games this season or 54 games over the past two seasons, as well as a goaltender under team control beyond this season.
For many teams, this is easier said than done though. Long-term forwards and defensemen with considerable games played who are also deemed expendable are not all that common. With the trade deadline completed, teams are stuck with the group that they have unless they decide to make a trade in the time between their regular season end or postseason elimination and the week of the draft. Some can solve their problems internally, while others may be more hard pressed. Based on their most likely protection scheme, here are the teams with work to do:
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: The Flames may be having a difficult season, but they have a talented top-six who are all signed long-term. Except, that’s where the term forwards end. If Calgary cannot convince Milan Lucic to waive his No-Movement Clause, the team will be missing both of their required forwards for exposure by protecting Looch and the top-six. Even if Lucic does waive, the team will need to make another forward available to Seattle. RFA Dillon Dube meets the games played criteria, but the team is likely to protect the young forward or, if not, will not do anything to make him more attractive to the Kraken. That leaves fellow RFA Dominik Simon and impending UFA’s Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo, and Joakim Nordstrom, as well as Brett Ritchie with six more games played, as other names who could earn extensions due to otherwise meeting the exposure criteria.
Likelihood of a Trade: Medium. With so many affordable, bottom-six role players that the team could hand new one-year deals, the Flames have options. However, if Lucic does not waive and the team feels pressured to re-sign two of those players, they may look for outside help rather than bring back too much of a forward corps that has underachieved this year.
Problem Area: Forward
Internal Solutions: As one of the top scoring team’s in the NHL, the Avalanche will want to keep as much of their forward corps as they can and with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad heading to free agency and not in need of protection, the team can do just that. However, if Colorado does protect their top nine scoring forwards minus Landeskog and Saad, that leaves them with, at best, one forward to expose and zero if they choose to protect both Valeri Nichushkin and J.T. Compher. If the Avs do choose to protect the duo, that should leave RFA Tyson Jost unprotected, who they could extend in order to meet the exposure requirement. However, Jost has arbitration rights and may not rush into a new deal. Other candidates to re-sign would be UFA’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Carl Soderberg, or Matt Calvert. Fortunately, the Avalanche have an even easier internal fix and that is simply playing Logan O’Connor five more times before the end of the season.
Likelihood of a Trade: Low. Between playing O’Connor and exposing one of Nichushkin or Compher, Colorado may not have to make any move at all. If they do, they have options. Who wouldn’t want to re-sign in Colorado right now, even if its only for the purpose of being expansion draft fodder.