With one week until the NHL finally holds the Expansion Draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights, teams are scrambling to fit together their protection lists that are due this weekend.
By Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, all 30 NHL teams must submit a list of either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie or 8 skaters (forwards/defensemen) and 1 goalie to the NHL. The protection lists will then be given out to the public and every team, including the new team in Vegas, on Sunday, June 18th.
Vegas will then take a few days to make its selections, and submit it’s choices on Tuesday, June 20th by 5 p.m. ET. The Expansion Draft results will then be unveiled during the show and alongside with the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on the evening of Wednesday, June 21st.
Which direction will the Colorado Avalanche go when making their protection list? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
With today’s news of Francois Beauchemin’s contract being bought out, the question now goes to whether the Avs use this extra protection status on another defenseman or decide to only protect three defensemen and go with a couple more forwards. As stated above, the Expansion Draft protection rules state that each team can protect 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goaltender; or 8 total skaters and 1 goaltender (this would be the choice if a team wants to keep more than 7 forwards or more than 3 defensemen).
In the Avs’ case, they will definitely be using three spots on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov on the blueline, and forward spots on Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog. After that, the picture is a bit cloudy at the moment.
They could decide to protect 27-year old defenseman Mark Barberio who fit in with the Avs defensive group nicely after being picked up on waivers midway through last season; or they could decide to protect young forwards Mikhail Grigorenko, Matt Nieto and Sven Andrighetto; and at the same time protect one more forwards to get to the number of seven forwards. With Barberio protected, that would mean they would be deciding on the 8 skaters and a goaltender option, meaning they only have room for one more forward protected after 29, 9 and 92 — and that decision would be hard. Among the forwards to decide upon are Grigorenko, Nieto, Andrighetto, Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau and Carl Soderberg. There are other names, but they aren’t likely to be considered.
It seems likely that the decisions will come down to these younger players rather than deciding to protect veteran guys like Comeau and Soderberg. I think the Avs would be glad to let Soderberg and his $4.75M salary go to Vegas should they choose to select him next week.
The interesting thing now will be which goaltender the Avs decide to protect. Reports have had for months that the Avs will use the protection on veteran Semyon Varlamov; but the growth of Calvin Pickard’s game at still such a young age could be very tempting for the new team in Vegas. It would be devestating fot the Avs to lose Pickard for nothing.
One thing they don’t have to worry about is that most of their young core going forward — Rantanen, Compher, Jost, etc. — is exempt from the Expansion Draft, so there’s no need to use protection spots on them.
For the record, if I had to make the decision, I would go with the following protections:
7 F — MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Colborne, Nieto, Grigorenko, Andrighetto
3 D — Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov
1 G — Calvin Pickard (I’m still sort of undecided here. It does sound like Avs want to protect Varlamov though)
I would feel safe having Barberio left unprotected because of the potential of Vegas needing veteran leadership and higher cap hits, therefore Soderberg or Comeau could come into play; or former Capitals GM George McPhee could be interested in Varlamov.