The Seattle Expansion Draft will take place next summer and it will be the second such event since 2017. The Vancouver Canucks have important decisions to make regarding which players they will protect going into the draft. In the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Canucks lost Luca Sbisa to the Vegas Golden Knights. In 2021, they will have a few tough calls to make regarding the players they will choose to protect.
Protected Players in 2017 Expansion Draft
In the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Canucks protected Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Brandon Sutter as their seven forwards. Among the seven forwards, Horvat, Eriksson, and Sutter remain with the main roster while Baertschi has been playing with the AHL’s Utica Comets this season. The Sedin twins have retired and Granlund signed with the Edmonton Oilers this past offseason and is playing with their AHL team now.
They protected three defensemen in Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson and Christopher Tanev and Jacob Markstrom was the single goalie the protected. Of those four, Gudbranson is the only player who is no longer on the Canucks roster.
The Golden Knights selected Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft. The defenceman was originally acquired by Vancouver in the trade for Ryan Kesler in 2014. He signed a three-year deal, worth $10.8 million after the 2014-15 season with the team. He played one season with Vegas and had 14 points in 30 games.
Sbisa played one season before moving on in free agency. The Winnipeg Jets claimed Sbisa off of waivers from the Anaheim Ducks and he has played in 44 games for them this season.
Expansion Draft Rules
The rules for expansion draft remain the same as in 2017. Teams will have the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) and one goaltender.
The Canucks will most likely protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goaltender. Players with no-movement clauses who decide not to waive their clause must be protected as well, and players who are in their first and second NHL seasons and unsigned players will be protected.
The Canucks will likely re-sign Tanev and Markstrom this offseason, which will lead to them having to make tough decisions before the expansion draft. They are only allowed to protect one goaltender from the draft and Thatcher Demko being just 24 years old creates a dilemma for them. Markstrom will turn 31 after next season and will likely be the goaltender the team exposes.
Demko’s potential to take over the reins as the starter could come after the expansion draft. He’s been the team starter since Markstrom went down with an injury late in February. Next season will be a proving point for the young goalie as he will have to show that he can be a future starter for the team.
Defensemen to Protect
On defense, the Canucks will not have to protect Quinn Hughes as he will be finishing his second pro season in the NHL. Tyler Myers’ no-move clause ends this season and will become a modified no-trade list, therefore they will not be forced to protect him. They are likely to protect Tanev, as long as he re-signs with them this offseason, Olli Juolevi, and Brogan Rafferty.
Juolevi, the 2016 sixth-overall pick for the Canucks has yet to play in the NHL but offers tons of promise for the team moving forward as he attempts to stay healthy. Rafferty has shown potential in the AHL of being a member of the main roster for seasons to come.
Related: Top 10 NHL Backup Goaltenders
Edler’s two-year contract will expire before the draft and he will be turning 36 before the expansion draft next year. Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield are other options for the team if they can pass up Juolevi and Rafferty in productions and their play.
Forwards to Protect
As for the forwards, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Horvat are locks to be protected by the Canucks. This leaves three more spots for the forwards and a lot of that depends on who the Canucks decide to bring back. Tyler Toffoli will be an unrestricted free agent, while Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette are restricted free agents this offseason. Toffoli is the least likely of the three players to be brought back but his performance since being acquired may make him a priority this offseason. Virtanen has shown improvement this season and Gaudette has been valuable on the third line for the team.
The Canucks will have to decide if they want to protect Kole Lind as well since he will be only 23 years old and has progressed over his two seasons in the AHL. If the Canucks can re-sign Toffoli, Virtanen, and Gaudette, they will be protected along with Pettersson, Miller, Boeser, and Horvat. It will only change if Lind has a surprise season, in 2020-21 and lands a spot on the main roster during the season.
Who Will the Canucks Lose
I believe the Canucks will protect Pettersson, Miller, Boeser, Horvat, Virtanen, Toffoli, Gaudette, Tanev, Juolevi, Rafferty, and Demko in the 2021 Expansion Draft. This means Markstrom, Edler, Myers, Troy Stetcher, Tanner Pearson, Loui Eriksson, and Lind will be available for Seattle to pick. The best-case scenario for the Canucks is Seattle selects Eriksson, who will be heading into the last season of his contract, but that is unlikely. Myers is a similar situation as his six-year, $30 million will not age well for the team. Lind is an option if the Seattle team is looking to take youth in the draft.
Unless Demko has a terrible season in 2020-21, Markstrom will be the player Seattle selects as he is the best player available. He has been the team MVP this season but will be turning 31 and protecting him over Demko will be tough to justify since he is only 24. Markstrom will be a great addition to a Seattle team that is looking to be a contender once they enter the league.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.