There’s so much talk surrounding expansion that our writers couldn’t keep it in anymore! Yesterday kicked off our expansion roundtable with Round One. Chris Babiarz, Brock Seguin, and Ryan Hana submitted their Red Wings protected lists. For Round Two today, we hear from Brad Krysko, Adam Laskaris, and yours truly. Let us know who you’d protect and leave exposed in the comments below!
Protected Players (7-3-1):
Forwards – Zetterberg, Nielsen, Nyquist, Tatar, Mantha, Athanasiou, Sheahan
Defensemen – Green, Ouellet, Jensen
Goalie – Mrazek
There are 5 forwards worth protecting (Z, Gus, Tatar, AA, Mantha), 1 they have to protect (Nielsen) and then a seventh slot to whoever the hell is cheap, in this case Sheahan. You protect Sheahan because he costs you next to nothing and has the potential to turn into a solid 10+ goal scorer again because the bar is that low for this team right now.
For defence you have the obvious choice in Mike Green, he’s been the Wings’ best defenseman since he got here and he’ll get a hefty return at the deadline. Jensen was arguably the Wings’ best defenseman down the stretch and in many games it wasn’t that close. He recently signed a very reasonable and cheap two year extension so he’s valuable to this team in just about every way imaginable at the moment. Finally I also protect Xavier Ouellet, much like Jensen there were games where he was the Wings top performer on the back end and he’s still young and cheap. I highly doubt he or Jensen project to be top 2 guys but they’re going to be cheap and effective in the bottom four roles. This obviously means I left Dekeyser exposed which will have some people feeling some kind of way. Let me start by saying that I like Dekeyser, I want him on the Wings next year. Is he going to be worth his contract? Not likely. Will he be as bad as he was this season? Also not likely. If this is correct he should still be a serviceable top-4 defenseman and the Wings still desperately need that. Here’s why i leave him exposed, you’re playing the odds. Vegas is not likely looking to get locked into bad long term cap hits for the sake of reaching their cap minimum at the draft. They’ll look to acquire a mixture of youth and veterans on high dollar, short term contracts. Given the high volume of good defenseman that will be available it doesn’t make any sense for Vegas to lock themselves into Dekeyser’s contract. Worst case scenario here is that Vegas does select Dekeyser and the Red Wings lose a valuable piece of their back end but they also free themselves of a burdensome cap hit for many years. In the cap era, flexibility matter. The same thing can be said for Abdelkader and Helm, even if you DO want them to remain on the team, you expose them. They make no sense in what Vegas should be trying to do. You’re simply playing the odds.
For goalies I protected Mrazek. If I need to explain this, there’s nothing I can do for you.
Predicted player taken: Jimmy Howard.
As I already explained, Vegas’ should be looking to add youth for the sake of their future and they should look to add solid veterans on high dollar, short term contracts. Jimmy Howard fits that, his 5.3 million dollar cap hit goes a long way to reaching their minimum and they only have to deal with it for a couple seasons while they groom a younger goalie for their long term plans. Jimmy would be a good mentor for the brief time he’d likely be there.
Protected players (8-1):
Forwards – Nielsen, Nyquist, Tatar, Mantha, Athanasiou
Defenceman – Green, Jensen, Ouellet
For a lot of teams, the expansion draft is a “oh my gosh I hope we made the right choice and don’t lose a guy”. For the Red Wings, the expansion draft really should be a window of opportunity to speed up your rebuild.
I shouldn’t have to explain why I’d protect Green, Nyquist, Tatar, Mantha, Mrazek and AA. Though none of them are elite, all of them are pretty good and not on bad deals.
Jensen and Ouellet are good enough defencemen prospects, and they’re more sensbible to protect rather than the anchor deals of Ericsson, DDK and Kronwall. If Vegas wants one of those three, go right ahead.
Zetterberg though, that’s the one you’re looking for an explanation for. As a GM of another team, would you trade for Henrik Zetterberg, right now? And more importantly, what would you trade for him?
Zetterberg will not in all likelihood be part of another Red Wings competitive team. He will also likely not hit the point totals he put up this season again and still has his deal until 2021. The Wings need to retool, and realistically, losing Z could help accelerate the rebuild. It wouldn’t look great to lose your star player for nothing, but it could look a lot better in 2-3 years seeing an aging Zetterberg struggle to 40 points in the Vegas bottom six.
There’s always a few guys you can grab at the trade deadline who have past their prime, but the Wings would only be able to deal Zetterberg if they could somehow chop his remaining contract term in half.
Going 8-1 instead of 7-3-1 is another hot take, but it allows the Red Wings to only protect players on team-friendly deals and give Vegas the choice of basically a number of bad contracts to take on.
Predicted player taken: Zetterberg
I think Vegas could be one of few teams that would afford to fit Zetterberg into their next few years, and if they get lucky/good enough to make the playoffs in their first few seasons, he’d be a sensible add.
don’t @ me.
Protect players (7-3-1):
Forwards – Nielsen, Zetterberg, Mantha, Athanasiou, Nyquist, Tatar, Abdelkader
Defense – Green, DeKeyser, Ouellet
Goalie – Mrazek
I tried to take a realistic approach to my list here (i.e. What would Ken Holland really do?). Five forwards are no brainers that any GM would protexct (Z, Mantha, AA, Nyquist, Tatar) and one is a forced protection (Nielsen because of his NMC). That seventh spot is the real intriguing one. While Sheahan would the smart move to protect because of his low cap hit and short contract, I truly believe Holland will use that seventh spot to protect Abdelkader. After just extending him to a new contract (I can’t go into the specifics of it without feeling ill), the team gave Abby the ‘A’ on his jersey. They obviously think very highly of him and see value in what he brings to the table. Don’t get me wrong, I love Abby, but his contract is so unbelievably bad that it’s going to be an anchor on the cap for the next six years. So while Holland should be exposing Abdelkader, who Vegas probably wouldn’t take anyways, he’ll likely protect him leaving Sheahan and Darren Helm exposed.
As for defense, Mike Green and Danny DeKeyser are no brainers to me. Green will likely be flipped at the deadline, but you don’t want to lose him for nothing in expansion. DeKeyser also has a really bad contract, but he was just extended last season and he gets big minutes. He’s a Michigan boy and they like what he brings to the table. He’s actually not bad for a bottom-4 role, but he’ll never be the top-2 defenseman that the team wants him to be. As for the last spot, I went Ouellet over Jensen because he’s younger and has a higher ceiling. I really liked what I saw from Jensen this year, but I think this is as good as it’s going to get. There’s a good chance that, if left exposed, either of these guys is taken. But with the forwards exposed in this scenario, I think they are safe to leave Jensen unprotected.
Predicted player taken: Sheahan.
If Riley Sheahan is left exposed, which I think he will be, then the Golden Knights will take him. He’s a young(ish) two-way depth centre coming off an abnormally bad year. It’s low risk as he’s only got one year left on his contract with a $2.075M cap hit and could potentially be high reward if he returns to his former 20-30 point self. This would be a damn shame for the Red Wings if the situation plays out this away. We know that last year teams were calling the Wings at the deadline about Sheahan so losing him for nothing would hurt.
This expansion draft could be a really good opportunity for the Red Wings to speed up their rebuild by forcing Vegas to take one of the really bad contracts off their books. The reality of the situation, however, is that the Wings are a deeply loyal team with a short-term vision, which is the approach I took with my protected list. Ask me sometime what I’d really do – it’s far away from the thinking of Ken Holland.