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Looking Ahead to the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft for the Bruins: Forward Edition

If you’re a hockey fan, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what’s happening this summer. After years of speculation and planning, the NHL is finally releasing the Kraken. As such, the Seattle expansion draft will be held this summer. It will be to the one held for the Vegas Golden Knights back in 2017. So, that leaves every team with some decisions to make: who do they like enough to protect, and who are they ok with possibly letting go for nothing? Now that we’ve passed the midway point in the season for the Bruins, I decided it was time to take a look at what they might do.

Due to the length of this article, I chose to split it into two parts. In this one, I’ll be discussing the expansion draft rules and which forwards I think should be protected. Then, in the next one (likely to be published on Wednesday), I’ll break down the defensemen and goaltender that I think should be protected.

But First, the Rules

Before I dive into what the Seattle expansion draft might look like for the Bruins, let’s go over the rules for those who don’t know or just need a refresher. If you already know everything you need to know, go ahead and skip this section.

As I said above, it will be identical to the one held for Vegas back in 2017. Each team (except for Vegas, who is exempt because of an agreement made back when they first entered the league) will have to submit a list of players to protect. Now, without further ado, here are all the rules regarding the draft.

Protection and Exemption Rules

Each team’s protected list can either include seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight total skaters, regardless of position, and one goalie. Back in 2017, a lot of teams wound up following the 7-3-1 format because it allows you to protect more players. Expect that to be the case again this summer.

As for who has to be protected and who’s exempt, all players with no-move clauses (NMCs) must be protected unless they agree to waive it. Note that this is only for full-NMCs; teams do not have to protect a player with just a no-trade clause (NTC). Those are the only players that teams are required to protect; the rest is up to them. As for those who are exempt, all first and second-year NHL players, as well as all unsigned draft choices, are exempt from the expansion draft. 

Other Rules Regarding Exposure

There are also a lot of rules for the type of players each team has to leave exposed. They aren’t particularly important though, as no team struggled to meet that requirement in 2017, so don’t give them too much thought. But, since they are rules, I’ll discuss them here. Every team must expose at least two forwards who are under contract for the 2021-22 season and have played in at 27 NHL games this season (meaning 2020-21) or 54 games over the past two years. These numbers were 40 and 70 for the Vegas draft, but since this is a shortened season, the NHL decided to prorate them. 

In addition to the forwards, every team must expose at least one defenseman who meets those same criteria. As for goaltenders, every team must expose at least one who is under contract for the 2021-22 season, or whose contract is expiring and they’ll be an RFA at the end of this season. But, in order for the second criteria to be met, the player must’ve been tendered his qualifying offer by the time each team submits their protected list.

Last but not least, when it comes to players who have potential career-ending injuries, if they have missed the past 60+ games, they do not meet the above requirements. In many cases, particularly if they are on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR, think of someone like Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks), they are even exempt from the draft.

Rules for Seattle

As for the Kraken themselves, they have some rules that they need to follow as well. For starters, and I’m sure this goes without saying, they have to pick one player from every team (again, except for Vegas). But, they also have some rules as to who those players have to be. They have to pick at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. The other four players can be at any position they want. Out of the 30 players Seattle picks, 20 of them must be under contract for the 2020-21 season. Last but not least, the total cap hit value of the players selected must be somewhere between 60% and 100% of the salary cap. Seattle is not allowed to buyout any player they select until after the 2021-22 season.

Just like with Vegas, teams will also have the option to make trades with before the Seattle expansion draft in order to have a say. For example, they can send them a pick or a player with the understanding that in return, the Kraken will pick a certain player in the expansion draft. Several teams chose to do this with Vegas. Many of them backfired in hilarious ways, but that’s another article for another time. I expect we will see teams make deals with Seattle to ensure certain players are picked. However, I’m sure they will be a lot more careful given how many of them turned out to be terrible ideas last time.

Now, On to the Fun Part: Who Will the Bruins Protect?

Now that we have all the boring rules out of the way, it’s time for the fun part. Which forwards will/should the Bruins protect for the Seattle expansion draft?

Locks to Be Protected

It absolutely goes without saying that Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak will be protected. Even if Bergeron and Marchand didn’t have NMCs, they would be protected. There just aren’t any scenarios where they wouldn’t be, so I’m not going to discuss it any further. It’s just happening.

Charlie Coyle will also be protected. He has an NMC so he has to be, but despite his rough season, I don’t really see a scenario in which he wouldn’t be even if he didn’t. He’s played very well for the Bruins in the past, and they clearly love him. He could be their second-line center soon if Krejci doesn’t return. He may even be a candidate for the captaincy after Bergeron (I’m not convinced it’ll be him, but that’s another article for another time).

David Krejci

Outside of those four, things get a little murkier. David Krejci would definitely be protected, but he will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season. If the Bruins re-sign him, they’d be stupid to until after the Seattle expansion draft. That way, they don’t have to protect him. He will technically still be eligible to be taken. But, the Kraken aren’t going to pick a pending UFA over some of the young guys the Bruins will have available. So, luckily, the Bruins shouldn’t have to worry about protecting Krejci.

Trent Frederic

That leaves the Bruins with the ability to protect three more forwards. The next forward that I feel has to be protected is Trent Frederic. At the beginning of the season, that may not have been a name that comes to mind. But, with the way he has played this season and continues improving, he’s made a rock-solid case to be protected. He was truly born to be a Bruin. His grit and willingness to take whatever it takes to win quickly endeared him to Bruins fans and management. He’s also starting to score, which is obviously a huge bonus. He’s been excellent all year for the Bruins, and letting him go would absolutely be a mistake. I’m sure they realize that too. So, look for him to be one of the seven protected this summer.

Jake DeBrusk

DeBrusk is another one who is deserving of being protected for the Seattle expansion draft. I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion though. His struggles this year have been well-documented. But, after being a healthy scratch a few games ago, he began to look like himself again. He, of course, then landed himself on the NHL’s COVID-19 list because the poor guy just can’t catch a break. But, when he returns, I have a feeling he’ll pick up where he left off.

DeBrusk has heard the trade rumors, and he doesn’t want to leave Boston. The Bruins’ front office doesn’t seem to want him to leave either. He’s proven he can be an effective second-line winger and a 20+ goal scorer in the NHL. One bad year shouldn’t take away from that. As long as he keeps returning to form once he’s off the COVID list, I don’t see any reason why the Bruins shouldn’t (and won’t) protect him this summer.

Craig Smith and Nick Ritchie

That brings us to our final forward spot. This is a tough one. Your initial reaction might be to protect Smith. There’s a solid case for that too. But, he has struggled to produce in a Bruins uniform. He could just be having a bad year, or he could be a bad fit for the Bruins’ systems. It’s really difficult to say right now. That’s something the Bruins need to try and figure out though. If they think he’s just having a bad year, then absolutely hang on to him in hopes he snaps out of it. But, if they don’t think he’s a good fit for their systems, then it wouldn’t be the worst idea to expose him to Seattle and potentially rid themselves of his contract.

Nick Ritchie is another one that is making a case for that spot. Like Frederic, this is probably not a name you expected to see here at the beginning of the season. But, he’s making a decent case for himself. His heavy style of play has been effective for the Bruins this year, and while he doesn’t bring much at 5v5, he’s been excellent on the power-play. He’s also a pending RFA, and likely wouldn’t cost too much to re-sign. So, he will be in consideration for the final protected forward spot.

Anders Bjork and Ondrej Kase

The only other two Bruins that some may feel have a case to be protected are Anders Bjork and Ondrej Kase. However, Kase has only played two games this season before he got knocked out with a concussion, and from the way the Bruins are talking, we may not see him again. That’s a really tough sell when it comes to protecting a guy. It’s also incredibly unlikely Seattle would take him if he’s exposed. So, it just doesn’t make sense to protect him, especially where he’s a pending RFA.

As for Bjork, he’s played great this season. But, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy does not seem to be his biggest fan, and I’m not convinced he’s a threat to be picked. The Bruins will have several other options that are likely more enticing than someone like Bjork. So, I don’t think it’s necessary to protect him either.

So, Who Are the Final Seven?

All in all, it’s extremely easy to pick half of the forwards that the Bruins will protect for the Seattle expansion draft. Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, and Coyle are all locks. I feel confident in saying Frederic will be protected too. Then, as long as DeBrusk keeps up his recent play and isn’t traded, he should get a spot too.

That brings us to the final spot. I think it goes to either Craig Smith or Nick Ritchie. I’m inclined to protect Smith over Ritchie. I just think he has more potential and that Seattle is more likely to pick him. Given the other players the Bruins will have available, I’m not sure either would be picked. But, given his history, Smith seems like the more attractive one to Seattle. So, unless the Bruins feel as though he’s a bad fit for their systems, I think he should get the final spot. That leaves my Bruins protected list as follows: Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Coyle, Frederic, DeBrusk, and Smith. Should any of those players be traded, Ritchie will most likely slide in. 

Be sure to check back soon for the list of defensemen and the goaltender I think the Bruins should protect. In the meantime, let us know who would be on your forward protected list in the comments or over on Twitter (and feel free to yell at me for mine)!

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of Matt Slocum/Associated Press.

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