FanPost

Sleepless Over Seattle? Don't Be.

Last year there was a ton of uncertainty regarding the Seattle expansion draft. We didn’t know what Colorado’s roster would look like, we didn’t have a full list of who would be exempt, and we didn’t even know which year the expansion draft would be occurring. It didn’t stop us from thinking about it though. This was especially true for guys like Timmins, Makar, Kaut, and even Bowers, where there was some gray area regarding whether they would be exposed or not.

Most of that uncertainty is now gone. We know the expansion draft will occur in June 2021 and not a year earlier, we know that the route of protecting 8 skaters is likely not an option, and we know who on the roster/in the system will be exempt and who won’t.

We’ll get into the nitty gritty shortly, but the bottom line is that this team is very, very well positioned to withstand this thing. They will almost certainly lose a good player, but the list of guys that will remain means the Avs will still have a strong roster when all is said and done.

A Reminder on the Rules Every Team Needs to Satisfy

In order to try and make Seattle competitive from day one, there are rules that make it likely that each player they get will be at least a fringe NHL talent. As a result, it’s not as simple as picking the forwards, defensemen, and goalie you want to protect for each of the 30 teams involved (yes I did say 30 – Vegas doesn’t need to participate). Teams must also keep in mind the requirements below:

  • One goalie must be exposed.
  • Two forwards that played 40 games the prior year (or 70 games in the two prior years combined) must be exposed.
  • One defenseman that played 40 games the prior year (or 70 games in the two prior years combined) must be exposed.
  • Teams can protect either (a) 8 skaters (any position) and 1 goalie, or (b) 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie.
  • All players with a no movement clause (NMC) who do not waive such clause must be protected (this is only Erik Johnson for the Avs).

When I look at my projections for the roster, how the team satisfies all of the exposure requirements actually gets a little bit challenging to predict. I would expect the team to churn the roster so that guys who will potentially play a good size role this season (Wilson, Nichushkin, Bellemare, Nieto, Cole, and maybe even Zadorov) won’t be around when June 2021 rolls around. Thus, the crop of players that potentially satisfy all of the above becomes a little thin and an ill-timed injury could throw a wrench in things. The last thing the team needs is for only Girard, Makar, and Johnson to meet the requirements for defensemen and be forced to expose one of them, so they must be a little careful when it comes to an action like trading Zadorov or cycling through too many players in favor of call ups.

There are probably ways to scramble at the last minute if the team finds themselves in a bad predicament (likely by trade for someone who meets the requirements), but then the team is giving up assets for nothing except satisfying these requirements. The goal in navigating the expansion draft should be to lose as little as possible, and this wouldn’t be ideal. It’s certainly better than having to expose Girard or something catastrophic like that, and the main reason I bring it up is to illustrate that there are probably options if it really came down to it. For now though let’s be optimistic and assume Zadorov and/or Rosen meet such requirements on the back end and Compher, Donskoi, and Kamanev are options up front.

Which Avalanche Hopefuls Won’t Meet the "Professional Experience" Threshold?

First, let’s recall that a player who has fewer than two years of professional experience under an NHL contract will be considered exempt and will not be exposed in the draft. There are some very murky rules based on age and NHL vs AHL games. This was a huge point of contention when guys like Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes made the jump to the NHL in 2019, but it has since been sorted out and we don’t have to worry about that any longer. Note that under any circumstance Makar will be exposed, so there is no use digging through the rules again at this point.

The following guys (and more) will not be exposed due to their lack of professional experience. In other words, no matter what happens, these players will not need to be protected and will not be lost to Seattle. Notice the phrase in bold in the preceding paragraph. It’s not just professional experience but professional experience under an NHL contract that counts toward the exposure threshold. This is important for Kovalenko and Zhuravlyov, who are professional players but do not have an NHL contract.

Player

Position

Newhook

F

Steinburg

F

Beaucage

F

Mutala

F

Burzan

F

Ranta

F

Weiss

F

Saigeon

F

Kovalenko

F

Smirnov

F

Byram

D

Helleson

D

Zhuravlyov

D

Annunen

G

Miner

G

The most important names in this group are Byram and Newhook, but others such as Mutala, Beaucage, Annunen, Helleson, Kovalenko, etc. could end up being important parts of this team as well.

The Goalies

Let’s start here because this is most likely the easiest. Grubauer is protected and Francouz (or whoever is the backup at the time) is not. Or, if Francouz just blows expectations out of the water and looks like the starter, then he’s protected and everyone else isn’t. Pretty simple.

The only wrinkle is that Grubauer is a UFA after the 2020/2021 season. I guess technically they could not sign him or even wait until after the expansion draft to do so, but it probably doesn’t matter. The Avs are losing a player and it’s most likely not a goaltender.

The Defensemen

Here is the list and (in my eyes) the most likely status for each of these guys as of today. I’m assuming Cole, Barberio, and Connauton are all gone. If they’re still part of the team, they won’t be taken anyway so who really cares, right?

Defensemen

Johnson

Protected

Makar

Protected

Girard

Protected

Timmins

Exempt

Cole

Gone

Barberio

Gone

Connauton

Gone

Zadorov

Exposed

Rosen

Exposed

Graves

Exposed

Here is where it could get contentious. As of today, it looks like Zadorov is the odd man out and the one who is exposed. He plays a lot, so he should easily meet the games played requirement outlined above, and he’s not going to be protected over Girard or Makar. Add that Johnson has a no movement clause in his contract and therefore is required to be protected, and you have your list of three (Makar, Girard, and Johnson).

Before we get creative, there is zero chance the team protects 8 skaters in order to keep Zadorov. None. So let’s just take that off the table. Feel free to refute it in the comments, but the top four by then will consist of Makar, Girard, Byram, and Timmins, so they would be sacrificing a good forward to protect a bottom pairing guy. It won’t happen and, in my opinion, it shouldn’t happen.

That said, let’s get creative. Assuming the team doesn’t trade Johnson and wants to keep Zadorov past the expansion draft (there are a couple reasons they may want to do so, which we’ll get into soon), then the way to do it would be to get Johnson to waive his NMC. This way they could protect Makar, Girard, and Zadorov. Why would Johnson be okay with this? Maybe the team does its due diligence and determines Seattle won’t want a 33 year old with two years at $6M remaining on his contract, or maybe it doesn't take a ton of extra compensation to keep Seattle away from Johnson and the team decides it's worth it. If so, they can keep their defense intact, including Zadorov.

Let’s go further down the rabbit hole here. Maybe the team doesn’t actually feel the need to keep Zadorov but sees the period following the expansion draft as good time to get value in a trade. They could do the same as above and then move him to a team that lost one of their defensemen to Seattle. It seems like this could be a good time for teams to get in a bidding war and overpay for an immediate fix. If nothing else, it’s interesting to think about.

All that said, the most likely scenario is that Zadorov is exposed or even traded beforehand. With Byram and Rosen part of the picture, he may not even be around. In that case, let’s just hope Rosen has enough games played to meet the threshold, as he will be the one exposed (unless, of course, they go the route of getting Johnson to waive his NMC).

Long story short, barring a complete failure to properly prepare for the expansion draft, the Avs will come out the other end with Makar, Byram, Girard, Timmins, and Johnson at the very least. That’s an enviable position to be in. However, there are still a number of possibilities here and it will be fun to see how it will all play out.

The Forwards

Again, here is the list and (in my eyes) the most likely status for each of these guys as of today. I’m assuming Calvert, Wilson, Nieto, Bellemare, and Nichushkin are all gone.

Forwards

Rantanen

Protect

MacKinnon

Protect

Landeskog

Protect

Kadri

Protect

Donskoi

Protect

Burakovsky

Protect

Jost

Protect

Bowers

Exempt

Kaut

Exempt

Henry

Exempt

Calvert

Gone

Wilson

Gone

Nieto

Gone

Bellemare

Gone

Nichushkin

Gone

Kamenev

Exposed

Compher

Exposed

O'Connor

Exposed

Shvyryov

Exposed

Barron

Exposed

Greer

Exposed

Dries

Exposed

Lewis

Exposed

The no brainers here are MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog, with Kadri being close behind. I’m optimistic on Jost, so he makes five. Then there is a group of guys consisting mainly of Donskoi, Burakovsky, and Compher with only two spots available. Feel free to throw some others like Kamenev, Shvyryov, and Greer in here if you want to, but all of those guys have a long climb to surpass the value of whichever of the main group of three and are unlikely to be taken when one of Donskoi, Compher, and Burakovsky is available.

I mentioned before that all of the turnover may lead to a little challenge with the exposure requirements. In the end, I don’t think this is a huge deal because at worst both of Donskoi and Compher are exposed. I go back and forth on which one I’d rather lose anyway, so exposing both isn’t the worst outcome in the world. Chances are that if Zadorov is exposed, it’s him going to Seattle anyway.

Bottom Line

No matter how you slice it, absent horrible luck and incompetence, the Avs come out of the expansion draft with something like this:

Landeskog

MacKinnon

Rantanen

Newhook

Kadri

Jost

Burakovsky

Bowers

Compher/Donskoi

Kaut

Kamenev

Mutala/Beaucage/Ranta

Girard

Makar

Byram

Timmins

Rosen

Johnson

Grubauer

Francouz

That’s a good spot to be in, so don’t stress it Avs fans.

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