Panthers 2021 Expansion Draft Projections

With the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft coming up on July 21 and protected lists due on July 17, NHL teams are on the clock to decide who is worthy of being protected.

The Florida Panthers, who are coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history, will be under the microscope, especially after making a deal with the Kraken to share their AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers, for the 2021-22 season.

Will the Panthers be able to make any deals to protect extra players? Will general manager Bill Zito be able to convince Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause? Who will the Panthers protect? All of those questions will be answered soon.

Exempt Panthers

By the good fortune of having young talent, the Panthers will be able to keep some members of their core without having to use a protected slot. Those prospects and young guns include:

  • Nikita Gusev
  • Grigori Denisenko
  • Aleksi Heponiemi
  • Eetu Luostarinen
  • Serron Noel
  • Cole Schwindt
  • Owen Tippett
  • Henry Bowlby
  • Logan Hustko
  • Anton Lundell
  • Maxim Mamin
  • Chase Priskie
  • Matt Kiersted
  • Max Gildon
  • John Ludvig
  • Vladislav Kolyachonok
  • Jake Massie
  • Alec Rauhauser
  • Emil Djuse
  • Spencer Knight
  • Ryan Bednard

All players selected in the 2020 NHL Draft are also exempt from the Seattle Expansion Draft.

Protected Panthers

With the Panthers having a lot of depth on offense that needs to be protected, they’ll likely protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender as opposed to the eight skaters, one goaltender model. Here are the 11 Panthers who could be on the protected list on July 17.

  • F Jonathan Huberdeau (NMC)
  • F Aleksander Barkov
  • F Patric Hornqvist
  • F Sam Bennett
  • F Frank Vatrano
  • F Noel Acciari
  • F Carter Verhaeghe
  • D Keith Yandle (NMC)
  • D MacKenzie Weegar
  • D Aaron Ekblad
  • G Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)

*All players with a no-movement clause must waive their NMC in order to be left unprotected. Otherwise, teams are required to use a spot on their protected list for them.

While my decisions on defense and in net have basically been made for me with Bobrovsky and Yandle both on NMCs and Ekblad and Weegar being no-brainer picks to be protected, the last forward spot was a bit more of a debate. Though I considered Mason Marchment and Anthony Duclair for the final protected spot, Acciari has earned the right to be protected.

Noel Acciari Florida Panthers
Noel Acciari, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Acciari fits into the Panthers’ plans more than anyone left unprotected. On a cheap $1.6 million contract, he gives the Panthers more flexibility than Duclair, who is a pending restricted free agent, does. Acciari also provides more both offensively and defensively than Marchment does.

While also being dependable on the penalty kill, Acciari has scored the fourth-most goals by a current Panther since joining the team in 2019-20 with 24. Twenty of those goals came in 2019-20, where he broke out as one of the team’s most underrated depth pieces. With him on such a team-friendly deal, it would be a no-brainer for Zito to protect him.

Trades?

With the Panthers leaving a player as Gustav Forsling exposed due to Yandle’s NMC, it is likely Florida could try to either get Yandle to waive his NMC or attach a first-round pick to try to get the Kraken to select a big contract like Anton Stralman.

Related: Panthers Need to Find a Way to Protect Gustav Forsling

While there are no signs pointing to Yandle waiving his NMC, the most logical scenario could be the Panthers dangling their 23rd overall pick to Seattle to attempt to protect more players on their roster.

Either way, all options are on the table for Zito heading into the expansion draft, and the roster could potentially look different heading into July 17.

And the Kraken Select…

Based on each player’s track record, I have determined that if there were no outside trades made to protect any other players, the Seattle Kraken would select Anthony Duclair.

Anthony Duclair Florida Panthers
Anthony Duclair, Florida Panthers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over the past two seasons, Duclair quietly ranks tied for 91st in the league in goals, sharing a total of 33 with names like Evgeni Malkin and Filip Forsberg. His total of 23 goals in 2019-20 had him tied with Huberdeau, among others, for 48th in the NHL.

While Duclair has fallen out of favor in Florida, being played on the fourth line with Ryan Lomberg and Acciari to close out the season, the Kraken are potentially getting a quality forward who can score 20 goals a season. They’d just need him to sign with them as an RFA during the offseason, but he’d be a nice offensive addition for their first roster.


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