While the Detroit Red Wings have some time to finalize their plan, it’s never too early to prepare for the 2021 Seattle expansion draft. We really aren’t that far away from having a 32nd team in the NHL, especially if we’re getting closer to learning their nickname:
Then again, Seattle hasn’t officially announced their team name yet.
But if they’re going to be called the Seattle Kraken, then the Red Wings are a logical choice to be an early rival of the franchise. There can only be one octopus in the NHL, and he’s in Hockeytown.
One Red Wing will be on the other side of the rivalry in 2021. With the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights, all NHL teams will lose a player to Seattle in the expansion draft. But which Red Wings player will be selected?
Red Wings’ Protected List for the Seattle Expansion Draft
Let’s jump right into it. Here are the seven forwards, three defensemen, and goalie that the Red Wings will protect based on today’s roster.
Forwards: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Michael Rasmussen, Robby Fabbri, Evgeny Svechnikov.
Defensemen: Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom.
Goalie: Jonathan Bernier.
Up front, the first four would fall into the “duh” category. You could argue Rasmussen is in that group as well. But the other two forwards on Detroit’s protected list – it’s anyone’s guess where things stand with them a year from now. Likewise, today’s ideal protected list is different from last year’s version.
As of now, there’s a strong chance Athanasiou is dealt prior to the expansion draft. And Fabbri’s goal-scoring abilities make him a logical choice to protect.
But what about Svechnikov? If the 2019-20 season has been about reacclimating to the professional game, the 2020-21 season will be about proving he belongs in the NHL. The former first-round pick will need to solidify a spot on what’s likely to be another underwhelming, goal-starved Red Wings team. If that doesn’t happen, then Yzerman won’t lose sleep over choosing another player to protect.
On defense, Hronek and Cholowski are locks to protect. And Lindstrom is the best choice for the third blueliner. But as we know, Yzerman likes to shake things up. It would not be surprising to see Detroit’s general manager add a defenseman worthy of protection prior to the expansion draft.
And in net, Bernier is a placeholder until the Red Wings sign or acquire a goalie to partner with him next season.
Red Wings Exempt from the Expansion Draft
According to CapFriendly, six key prospects are exempt from the expansion draft. Forwards Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, and Chase Pearson, defensemen Jared McIsaac and Moritz Seider, and goaltender Filip Larsson will not require protection.
In addition, Detroit’s prospects playing overseas, junior hockey, and at the collegiate level are also exempt.
Red Wings Available to Seattle
With the 11 players above on Detroit’s protected list and six more exempt, Seattle has a few decent options to choose from. The Red Wings aren’t as exposed as other teams, though. Just another benefit of a rebuild, right?
By rule, the Red Wings must leave four players with certain games-played and contract criteria unprotected. That includes two forwards, a defenseman, and a goalie (in italics below).
Forwards: Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Adam Erne, Taro Hirose, Ryan Kuffner, Brendan Perlini, Christoffer Ehn, Dominic Turgeon, Givani Smith.
Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Patrik Nemeth, Madison Bowey, Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath, Joe Hicketts, Kyle Wood.
Goalies: Calvin Pickard, Kaden Fulcher.
Note: Players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) in 2020 were excluded from this list.
Of the players left unprotected, there are a few who stand out as potential selections. For the forwards, it’s Hirose and Smith. On defense, Bowey could be an attractive option.
And while the Red Wings could offer Seattle compensation to take Nielsen or Abdelkader off their hands, there really isn’t a pressing need to do so. Detroit shouldn’t waste assets to rid themselves of an expensive contract at their current stage in the rebuild.
Seattle’s Red Wings Selection
If Seattle had to choose a player from the Red Wings today, Smith would be the best option. His physicality and developing offensive game could make him an abrasive player for the NHL’s 32nd franchise.
This wouldn’t be a major loss for the Red Wings, but a tough pill to swallow. Surely, they would prefer to keep Smith’s sandpaper playing style on the roster. However, there really isn’t another player worth exposing to keep Smith off Seattle’s radar. Nor should they offer up draft picks to choose someone else.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.