Red Wings’ Protected List Could Be Meaningless

Like the other 29 NHL teams, the Detroit Red Wings will need to submit their protected list for the Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft by 5:00 p.m. ET this Saturday. The next day, Vegas will publicize those lists.

While we can speculate which players the Red Wings will opt to protect and leave available to be selected by the Golden Knights, no one—other than Detroit’s management group—will really know until the deadline. But once we are presented with the “official” protected list, fans will need to take it in with a grain of salt.

Why? The list itself may not mean anything.

Officially Protected vs. Unofficially Protected

In all likelihood, Detroit will protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie – those 11 players would be officially protected by the Red Wings. Others may be “unofficially” protected to prevent Vegas from choosing them.

Niklas Kronwall, for example, isn’t likely to be part of the initial group of players who are safe from selection. However, if Vegas makes it known that they intend to choose the veteran defenseman, the Red Wings could offer them an incentive—a draft pick, prospect, player, or some combination—not to do so. This scenario essentially protects him from becoming a Golden Knight without requiring an official protected list space.

Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings.
Niklas Kronwall (Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

If Vegas’ management team is smart, they’ll exploit this sort of loyalty throughout the NHL and make side deals with all teams not to pick certain players in exchange for some sort of compensation. You know Detroit would pay the bail to keep the long-time Red Wing around.

Player Already Chosen?

Once Detroit’s protected list is released to the public, social media will surely blow up. It won’t be too hard to find commentary like, “I can’t believe those idiots didn’t protect (Insert player name).” and “They protected (Insert gritty player name) over (Insert skill player name)???” on Twitter within minutes of the official list’s reveal.

What if the list didn’t matter?

Despite which players are on or off the list, Detroit and Vegas could have already agreed to whom the Golden Knights will select with the Red Wings sending compensation to do so. Perhaps Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet are excluded from the official protected list, but Detroit already agreed to a good deal for Vegas to take Luke Glendening off their hands.

The protected list could simply be there as a formality. In addition, the selection and negotiated deal could have been unofficially made weeks ago.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Xavier Ouellet.
Xavier Ouellet (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Final Thoughts

This observation also comes with an ask of Red Wings fans: wait until Detroit’s official statement to grab the torches and pitchforks. Wait until Vegas makes its pick and Ken Holland comments on the selection. We don’t know (yet) what’s going on behind the scenes; so save the energy and angry tweets for later.

Once Vegas makes its pick, then voice your opinion. If a good player was chosen, then, by all means, let the world know that you think the Red Wings made a mistake. Likewise, if a not-so-great player was selected, I’m sure Holland and team would appreciate the compliments. Just wait for the details to come out first.