Yesterday afternoon, the Washington Capitals submitted the 11 players they are going to protect from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft on Wednesday. There are some surprising names exposed to the draft, to be honest. Every team learned a lesson from the Las Vegas expansion draft. It seems like the Caps are bracing themselves and their cap space for what’s coming. Here’s a look at how Washington is preparing.
The Protected 11
There are two routes a team can take when it comes to protecting players. The first is this: seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. The second is for teams that have more defensive depth: four forwards, four defensemen, and a goalie. Your math is not wrong, that only adds up to nine players. The Capitals have depth on the back end, but not strong enough to justify exposing two extra players.
The forwards Washington is protecting are Backstrom, Eller, Kuznetsov, Mantha, Oshie, Sprong, and Wilson.
The defensemen are Carlson, Orlov, and van Riemsdyk.
Ilya Samsonov is their chosen goalie.
This leaves 12 core players available for the Kraken to choose from.
A few of the forwards exposed are Dowd, Hagelin, Hathaway, and Sheary.
The biggest defensemen exposed are Dillon, Jensen, Kempny, Chara, and Schultz.
The top goaltenders are Copley and Vancek.
The obvious name missing from the protected players is Alex Ovechkin. This isn’t because they’re looking to get rid of him. Seattle has an exclusive window to talk to the unrestricted free agents around the NHL. The Capitals don’t seem very concerned about the Kraken’s opportunity to negotiate with Ovi. He has stated previously that he intends on finishing his career in Washington, not to mention the fact that whatever he wants for a salary is pretty much guaranteed there. With the flat cap and the fact that they may want other big names on their roster, the chances that Seattle wants to even try to sign Ovi are slim at best.
I’m not going to pretend to understand all of the ins and outs of the salary cap and expansion choices. What I do understand is that the flat salary cap has influenced how the Capitals’ front office chose players to expose. We’ve seen teams trade players for next to nothing just to get some cap space. The Islanders traded Ladd to the Coyotes for a handful of draft picks; his contract is $5.5mil through 2023. The Islanders also traded Nick Leddy ($5.5mil) for Richard Panik ($2.75mil) with the Red Wings. The Blackhawks gave up Duncan Keith ($5.5mil) and prospect Tim Soderlund for Caleb Jones ($850k) and a draft pick from the Oilers. Everyone just wants more room to be able to pay their top players.
So when it comes to the Caps, it seems to me that despite how well Sheary, Schultz, Dillon, and Vanecek played this year, and despite how solid Dowd, Hagelin, and Hathaway have been over the years, their salaries are expendable. As I said before, Ovi is a free agent this year, as is Samsonov. Washington needs cap room to be able to pay them what they’re worth, especially considering they’ve basically said that they’ll pay Ovi whatever he wants.
There’s also the consideration that the Kraken is the only team eligible to make trades from today (Sunday) through Thursday. This means that Seattle can pick up players from other teams during this period in order to be able to trade them to other teams for better players. I could never be the Seattle GM right now; thinking about the number of trades that could be made this week makes my head spin.
So while I’ll be disappointed to see pretty much any of these players go, I can understand the reasons behind exposing them in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
Rumor has it that the Seattle front office is looking to create a team that makes the most sense, rather than just throw a bunch of players together. This means there are definitely going to be a ton of trades around the draft. But, with the names exposed as of right now, there are a few good choices the Kraken could make when it comes to the Caps.
Brendan Dillon is the first name that comes to mind. Not only is he a solid top-four defenseman, but he would also have good trade value with a good portion of the League.
Vanecek is the second name that comes to mind. With huge names like Price and Holtby also exposed, he may not be the first choice for goaltending, but after the incredible rookie season Vanecek had this year, he’s made himself a valuable asset. He’s proven he can handle the pressures of the NHL, making him a great prospect. That means a high trade value, should anyone be interested.
There are millions of possible outcomes of this draft. That makes it simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking, especially for fans who have no input. Personally, I like the list of protected players, given the circumstances. In the end, only one of the exposed players will be drafted. I doubt any others would be picked up via trade, either. If there were any, it would have to look really good cap-wise.
This week will be interesting, no doubt, Wednesday even more so. To see who is chosen live, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft will be broadcast at 8pm EST on ESPN2 or Sportsnet in Canada.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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