5 Teams with the Most to Lose in NHL Expansion Draft

After much consideration and a whole lot of stress, all 30 NHL teams have now revealed their list of protected players ahead of the NHL Expansion Draft. On Wednesday (June 21st), the NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, will select one player from each team’s exposed list, thereby crafting their roster for their inaugural season. The NHL will present Vegas’ selections on Wednesday night during the NHL Awards (8:00 PM ET).

All first-born children know how the other 30 teams in the league feel right now. All of a sudden a new sibling has come along and they’re expected to share their toys?

Some teams, like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, were able to hide their most valuable playthings, only exposing a couple stuffed animals they forgot they even had. And when it comes to teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes, their parents were apparently waiting for more siblings to come along before buying high-end toys, anyways. They won’t mind sharing their ball-in-a-cup.

However, if you’re one of the five teams listed below, your Star Wars Lego is about to have some pieces missing. Unless, of course, you can convince this newborn to stay away in return for sole possession of the next toy your parents buy.

While that would be my strategy, not every team is so covetous, it seems. The Florida Panthers were so kind and selfless that they offered the newest member of the NHL family one of its newest, shiniest toys (Jonathan Marchessault). I guess they’re happy playing with a Nick Bjugstad action figure instead.

As you might have guessed by now, I was a first born. And while sharing is great and all, my memories of the situation had me getting screwed, just like these five teams.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Notable exposed players (NEPs): Brock Nelson (C), Calvin de Haan (D), Josh Bailey (RW), Ryan Strome (RW)

By Lisa Gansky (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The New York Islanders were the only team to protect five defensemen — Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, and Ryan Pulock — which was a curious move given the valuable assets they left exposed. The two most concerning exposures for GM Garth Snow are 25-year-old center Brock Nelson, who finished fifth on the team in scoring, and 26-year-old defenseman Calvin de Haan. Both players have improved every year in the league and have the potential to be stars.

On top of those two attractive options, Vegas could also choose the Islanders’ second-leading scorer, Josh Bailey, or former fifth-overall pick Ryan Strome.

Parting ways with any of these four players would be a difficult pill to swallow for the Islanders, who are desperate to provide John Tavares with reason to re-sign when his contract expires after this season.

However, Snow has chosen not to swallow that chalky pill, instead opting to send New York’s first-round draft pick (15th-overall) along with Mikhail Grabovski to the Golden Knights so that they’ll select Nikolay Kulemin. While ridding the contracts of Grabovski and Kulemin may be seen as a win, sending away that 15th-overall selection really hurts.

Odds to lose an NEP to Vegas: 99/1
Odds to lose 2017 first-round pick to Vegas: 1/99

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Notable exposed players (NEPs): Sami Vatanen (D), Josh Manson (D)

Thanks to Kevin Bieksa’s no-movement clause, the Ducks were forced to expose two young, talented defensemen. Vatanen is an excellent skater and great puck-mover, while Manson is a big, mean, physical defender who has plenty of potential to develop offensively. They’re both under 26 years old, as well, making them all the more tantalizing.

Both players were major contributors for Anaheim in 2016, and losing either would leave a huge hole on the backend. Protecting both players will come at a hefty price, likely a first-round pick and a prospect. It has been rumored that the Ducks and Golden Knights have worked out a deal, but details have not been released.

Odds to lose an NEP to Vegas: 7/1
Odds to lose 2017 first-round pick to Vegas: 1/7

MINNESOTA WILD

Notable exposed players (NEPs): Matt Dumba (D), Marco Scandella (D), Eric Staal (C)

By Chan-Fan (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Just like the Islanders, the Wild were forced to expose major pieces from their playoff team. Though Eric Staal, who was second on the Wild in scoring, may be the biggest name, he’s also 32 years old, well past his prime, and the least likely to be taken by Vegas.

Instead, Vegas GM George McPhee will likely eye one of Minnesota’s second-pair blue-liners. Scandella, a solid stay-at-home defenseman, is just 27 and carries a $4 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season. Dumba is even younger (22) and has already displayed his gifted offensive arsenal. He may only be under contract for one more season, but his status as a restricted free agent in 2018-19 makes him a very attractive option for Vegas.

Unfortunately, the Wild don’t even have a first or second-round pick in the 2017 draft to protect these exposed players with. They may offer some 2018 picks, but the price will likely be similar to what the Islanders are going to pay.

Odds to lose an NEP to Vegas: 2/3
Odds to lose 2018 picks to Vegas: 3/2

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Notable exposed players (NEPs): Josh Anderson (RW), Joonas Korpisalo (G), Jack Johnson (D)

Losing veteran defenseman Jack Johnson wouldn’t be ideal for the Blue Jackets, but it also wouldn’t be devastating to the franchise. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen is very high on budding prospects Josh Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo, who were also exposed in the expansion draft. Columbus clearly feels strongly about keeping these players around, and have reportedly reached a deal with Vegas to send their first-round pick (24th overall) and a prospect to the Golden Knights in exchange for the Knights selecting either Matt Calvert or William Karlsson from the exposed list.

It’s a steep price, but at least Columbus managed to steer Vegas away from top prospects Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois in the deal.

Odds to lose an NEP to Vegas: 99/1
Odds to lose 2017 first-round pick to Vegas: 1/99

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Notable exposed players (NEPs): James Neal (LW), Pontus Aberg (RW), Colton Sissons (C)

The Predators had little time to dwell on their Stanley Cup finals loss to the Penguins, as they now have a new problem on their hands: possibly losing James Neal. When healthy, the 29-year-old has proven he can put the puck in the net, averaging nearly 31 goals per 82 games. But Neal’s game isn’t limited to just offense; he’s always been a solid presence in the defensive zone.

Neal may only be under contract for one more season, but he’s the perfect piece for Vegas to select and then flip to a contender for more future assets. Rumors are swirling that the two sides are working on a deal, but have yet to agree on terms. One thing is certain: Nashville GM David Poile is going to be a very busy man for the next 12 hours. Already possessing an offensively challenged group, losing Neal would significantly harm the Predators’ chances of getting back to the Cup.

At this point, the Predators would gladly surrender any of the other players on their exposed list to protect Neal.

Odds to lose an NEP to Vegas: 1/3
Odds to lose 2017 first-round pick to Vegas: 5/4

Perry

Perry is a regular contributor to MTS and a die-hard Broncos fan. Yes, he does remember the five Super Bowl losses, but likely remembers all your teams shortcomings, too. Consider yourself warned. Though his love for the Broncos may seem unconditional, Mr. Port never mixes his emotions with gambling.