With the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights quickly approaching, it’s time for an update of who the Sens should protect. The last time Ross wrote about this, the list of protected Senators looked like the this:
Since then, plenty has changed for the organization. Mika Zibanejad was traded for Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel has emerged as a top-six forward, we’ve learned that Bobby Ryan doesn’t have a no-movement clause, and so much more.
Now that all these changes have occurred, how do the Sens look heading into the final months of the regular season? Who should Dorion and company protect, and who are some potential names to get claimed?
Let’s begin with the obvious picks. Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard are all main pieces moving forward. Assuming the Sens go for the route where they protect seven forward and three defensemen (which is most likely), that opens up three spots at the offensive position.
Ryan Dzingel has made a fantastic case to be protected with his speed and agility, although he hasn’t been a consensus pick. I personally think the Sens should and will protect him, especially with how he’s been playing on the top line alongside Kyle Turris.
Another name that jumps out is Bobby Ryan, who despite playing top-six minutes, makes plenty of sense to be left exposed (and the fans seem to agree). His diminishing production combined with his enormous cap hit would be a huge burden lifted for Ottawa if Vegas decided to select him, opening up space to re-sign Stone and Turris in the 2018 off-season. He could be an intriguing choice for the Knights too, as he’s still only one year removed from a 50 point season and has a sliver of star power left in him. Keep in mind that Vegas does not need to be salary cap compliant by the end of the expansion draft, and will more likely reach the cap floor via free agency.
I should also point out that even though Clarke MacArthur was a popular choice to be protected at the start of the season, his uncertain future pushes him to the outside of the list. I highly doubt he’ll be selected for the same reasons, unless Vegas is willing to take a risk on a potential top six forward should he return from injury.
This leaves us with three remaining forwards who should be considered for protection: Zack Smith, Curtis Lazar and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The odd one out seems to be Curtis Lazar, whose scoring rates and possession numbers have both been abysmal. The Sens still seem to be holding out hope for the smiling youngster, although he hasn’t come even close to the two others to deserve consideration.
Protected forwards: Hoffman, Brassard, Stone, Turris, Smith, Pageau, Dzingel
As simple as this sounds, there’s one rule that needs to be addressed. Each team must expose at least TWO forwards who are signed into the 2017-18 season, AND have met a minimum games played requirement (at least 40 GP in 2016-17 or at least 70 in the last two seasons combined). The Sens have six players who meet this requirement, and all but one are currently on our protected list. This means that in addition to leaving Bobby Ryan exposed (who has met the requirement), the Sens must also expose one of Hoffman, Brassard, Stone, Turris or Smith. Pierre Dorion obviously won’t want to expose any of them, and there are a couple options to avoid this from happening. The most simple solution is if one of Neil, Kelly, Lazar or Pyatt are re-signed before the expansion draft. These are players who have met the games played requirement, but need to be re-signed into the following season. This isn’t ideal if the Sens are planning on overhauling the bottom six in the offseason, although protecting our best forwards should take priority. This could also be avoided through a trade or waiver claim, which is far less likely, but still a possibility.
This is where things get a bit more subjective. Dion Phaneuf has a no-movement clause, forcing us to protect him (unless he opts to waive it). Erik Karlsson is also a lock, which leaves us with one remaining spot for one of Marc Methot, Cody Ceci or Chris Wideman. Chris Wideman’s dominant possession numbers have convinced me that he’s our third best defenseman, although a case could be made for the others.
Marc Methot (local kid) has been playing first pairing minutes alongside Erik Karlsson. If Methot gets claimed, that leaves a gaping hole on the first pairing for next season, a hole that Thomas Chabot may not yet be ready to fill. Cody Ceci (also local kid) has hit a bump in the road statistically, although he’s the youngest of the three options at only 23 years of age. He could very well bounce back next season, and the Sens may be hesitant to risk giving that up. Not to mention he’s also been playing almost 10 more minutes per game than Chris Wideman, so management’s view on the situation could differ completely from my own.
Then there’s the possibility that Phaneuf waives his NMC, which would allow us to protect one more of the aforementioned Ceci, Methot and Wideman. I wouldn’t bet on him waiving, although it would be worth asking.
Protected defensemen: Dion Phaneuf (NMC), Erik Karlsson, Chris Wideman
At this point, there’s no question that Craig Anderson is the Sens’ number one goalie. Even with Mike Condon playing a whackload of starts, his expiring contract makes it all the less likely he gets protected. With every team allowed to protect only one goalie, the Sens shouldn’t be concerned with Hammond or Driedger being claimed.
Protected goalie: Craig Anderson
Who could be headed to Vegas?
Now that the protection slots have been sorted out, who would be left that Las Vegas would most likely select? All signs point to our defensive corps, where Methot, Wideman, Ceci, or even Claesson could be a solid addition to an expansion team roster. Who they’d choose depends a lot on which route George McPhee chooses, which is unclear at this point. Owner Bill Foley has been quoted many times saying that they’ll try to be competitive in year one, although the logical route if they’re trying to win the Cup in six years would be to build from scratch and choose younger players.
The first direction would make Methot and Wideman the most enticing options, and would also open up the possibility of them selecting Bobby Ryan. Option number two, on the other hand, would more likely draw Vegas towards taking a chance on either Ceci or Lazar.
Personally, my bet would be on Methot being selected, as he’d be able to log heavy minutes for the Golden Knights in their inaugural season. It wouldn’t be all that bad for Ottawa either, as it would open up an extra $4.9 million in salary. Plus with Chabot and Englund approaching quickly in the rear view mirror, now may be the time to free up a roster spot on the left side.
What do you think? Who should Pierre Dorion protect? Much more could change from now until June 21st, so let’s hope for the best!