Cleat Geeks

Winged Wheel Watch: Expansion Draft Possibilities

With the Stanley Cup playoffs and the 2016-17 season officially in the rear view mirror we now sit less than a week away from the NHL expansion draft, where the Vegas Golden Knights will officially take shape. The season was riddled with speculation of which players from each team would head west for the 2017-18 season.

The case was no different in Hockeytown. GM Ken Holland confirmed on Wednesday that the Red Wings will take the approach of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, leaving the rest of his eligible players vulnerable.

So who will stay and who will be offered up for the taking? Let’s dive right in.

Exemptions

Not every player on the Red Wings roster is eligible for Vegas’ taking. Rules of the expansion draft state that any player with two or fewer years of experience at the professional level (AHL or NHL) are exempt. Meaning Dylan Larkin is not eligible and will be able to remain on the roster without taking up a protected spot. Also protected are key pieces from the Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, including Tyler Bertuzzi, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Joe Hicketts, among others.

Additionally, all players with no-move clauses are required to be protected, no that it technically falls under “exemptions.” This means that Frans Nielsen will be required to take one of the seven forward spots that the team can protect.

Forwards

Protect: C Henrik Zetterberg, RW Anthony Mantha, C Andreas Athanasiou, LW Tomas Tatar, RW Gustav Nyquist, C Frans Nielsen, LW Tomas Nosek

Zetterberg is coming off of one of the greatest seasons of his career. Couple his eye for setting up goals with his leadership and he’s essential to the start of the rebuilding process. Nielsen has to be protected, so there’s no way around that. Mantha is a future cornerstone of this franchise with the potential to be a 40-goal scorer, something the Wings haven’t seen in a while. Exposing him to the expansion draft is senseless and would be cause for dismissal of the entire front office. Same with Athanasiou, who has the potential to be a perennial 20-goal scorer. Tatar is the only proven scorer the Wings have right now. At 26, he’s still young but has enough experience to serve in a leadership role with the rise of Larkin, AA, and Mantha. Nyquist, while he hasn’t scored goals like many expected, has proven to be a fantastic setup man akin to Henrik Zetterberg, which can serve well down the line as Z continues to wage war with Father Time. And let’s not forget that he has goal-scoring ability, regardless of whether or not it has shown over the last two years. The 24-year old Nosek, though he’s seen extremely limited time at the NHL level, has potential. Though his scoring ability is yet to flourish he plays at both ends of the ice, as evidenced by his +/- numbers over his time in Grand Rapids.

This would mean exposing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, and Luke Glendening, among others. Helm is a no-brainer, with injury issues hampering him and limiting his playing time over the last few seasons. Whether or not Vegas will gamble on him because of that, coupled with his age, is yet to be seen. Glendening is reliable but also expendable. With a contract extension kicking in next season he would be a good candidate to get some salary off of the books.

Photo By: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I like Sheahan, it’s sensible to expose him. But it’s a win-win, whether he stays or goes. If Vegas takes him they acquire a young forward with the potential to be a solid second or third-line scorer and the Wings dump salary. If they don’t the Wings have the potential of dealing with a bounce-back from their 25-year old center. Abdelkader may be the most surprising name here, but he makes sense to be exposed. Granted, a six-year albatross of a contract presents an immediate challenge, as do injury problems that have nagged the Wings’ alternate captain. But he’s a capable player with scoring ability and grit that would serve Vegas well, albeit at a price. The Wings would do well to get his salary off of the books if they can, as they have little cap space as it stands right now.

Defense

Protect: Nick Jensen, Danny DeKeyser, Xavier Ouellet

Ouellet was one of the more reliable defensemen for the Red Wings last season. At only 23 he will be an important presence on the blue line looking ahead. DeKeyser, though pricey, is entering into the prime of his career and has quietly been reliable. Jensen is another solid blue line defensive presence that has offensive capability.

This leaves Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Ryan Sproul exposed. Green is going into the last year of his $6 million a year contract. While he’s the best offensive blue liner the Wings have there’s no reason they keep him beyond his current contract. They could trade him at the deadline in 2018, but what if his production dips and they are unable to fetch any favorable return? Getting the money off of the books would be a huge step forward and would allow for more regular playing time for someone like Robbie Russo of even Joe Hicketts if he develops quickly. Kronwall is a shell of his former self. Once the notorious heavy-hitter on the back end, Kronner is now injury-prone and cannot play as physically as he once did. At 35, his age and injury history will make him a tough, if not impossible, sell, but it’s huge if the Wings get rid of his $4.75 million salary.

Ericsson is a huge body but he never plays up to his size, which has severely limited him. He’s a bigger cap hit and is tied up until the 2019-2020 season. Throw in injury problems that have arisen and you have another tough sell for Vegas, but they have nothing to gain or lose from exposing him. Sproul is a young gun with a cannon slapshot but he’s not the best presence on the blue line among the Wings’ crop of defensive prospects. He’s the odd man out of the bunch. He’s a promising piece for Vegas. The Wings will benefit should Vegas pass on him, but they shouldn’t lose sleep over the potential of losing him, either.

Goaltenders

Protect: Petr Mrazek

Mrazek had an off year in 2016-17, but there’s no reason to panic about it. We’ve seen what he’s capable of doing and it’s incredible. The Wings will bank on the old Mrazek returning, but it’s not a bad situation to be in.

This leaves Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau on the outside. Howard is unlikely to be selected, given his age, salary, and injury history. Howard looked much like his old self during many of his appearance in 2016-17, which could hold value for Vegas if they want to add a veteran netminder to work with a potential younger player. Coreau is tough to leave out. He’s a huge presence in the net at 6’6″ and he’s agile given his size. He looked very good during his time at the NHL level last season and was a key piece to the Griffins’ Calder Cup run. I’d love for the Wings to keep him but there can be only one. And I put my personal trust in Mrazek at this Point. Vegas would do well to take him but it’s still unlikely they take him, given the crop of goaltenders that is expected to be available.

As it was announced earlier today, here is what the Detroit Red Wings did with their players before the NHL Expansion Draft.

DETROIT RED WINGS

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who do you think will be protected from or exposed to the expansion draft? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @milz_chris and follow @cleatgeeks for more hockey and sports news.

 

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