Although the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Cup just three days ago, fans around the league are already looking ahead to the NHL Expansion Draft and worrying about which player they will lose.
We have one week until the Golden Knights team will be revealed, and until then, there will be non-stop talk amongst Senators fans. Some teams won’t lose a significant piece, while others will have to bite the bullet or give away assets in order to keep certain players. Ottawa is somewhere in the middle, as the worst-case scenario isn’t horrendous, but they could lose someone useful.
With the news that Dion Phaneuf will not be waiving his NMC, that certainly complicates things for Pierre Dorion, as well as people like me who are trying to speculate on what they will do.
Nobody knows what the Senators will do; not even the team. But let’s go through the plethora of options that they have heading into the Draft.
First of all, the locks to be protected are as follows:
Forwards: Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard
Defense: Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf
Goalie: Craig Anderson
That leaves three forwards and one defenseman to be protected. There are dozens of permutations that the team could have, so I’ll break it up between forwards and defense.
1. Protect Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, and Ryan Dzingel along with the locks.
This seems like the most plausible scenario, as Pageau had a monster playoffs, Smith signed a long-term deal a few months ago, and Dzingel put up a surprising 32 points. This would leave Clarke MacArthur, Alex Burrows, Bobby Ryan exposed.
2. Protect two of Pageau, Smith, and Dzingel, as well as Clarke MacArthur and the locks.
In this scenario, Dzingel would most likely be exposed. In MacArthur’s prime and without any health concerns, it would be a no-brainer to protect him over Dzingel. However, with his injury history, I don’t see any reason why Vegas would gamble on him.
They’d much rather have a cheaper, younger, and healthier Dzingel, so it’s smarter to just leave Clarke exposed. There’s a slim chance that Smith or Pageau would be exposed in this scenario, but it seems very unlikely.
3. Protect two of Pageau, Smith, and Dzingel, as well as Bobby Ryan and the locks.
I cannot see this happening, but it is an option. Perhaps Dorion liked what he saw from Ryan in the playoffs and is scared that Vegas will take away a valuable player. However, if Ryan was actually drafted, I think most fans would rejoice simply because of his bad contract coming off the books. But Vegas isn’t going to touch his contract, so option three would be pointless.
As with scenario two, Dzingel would most likely be the odd man out.
1. Protect Methot
Considering he has been Erik Karlsson’s defense partner ever since he came to Ottawa, I’m sure they desperately want to keep him. If this is all they do though, then Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, and Chris Wideman will all be exposed.
If that is the case, Ceci will probably be the one to go for nothing. While it wouldn’t be good to lose a young player that has trade value for nothing, his actual on-ice value has been minimal. Still, this wouldn’t be a totally ideal scenario.
2. Protect Ceci
As badly as they want to protect Methot, they must feel the same way about Ceci. He’s much younger at 23 years old, and the organization has been his biggest fan for years. I wouldn’t like it if they protected him and did nothing else, but it’s a possibility.
3. Protect Wideman or Claesson
If I were the GM, this is what I would do. Claesson can already replace Methot’s production at a cheaper price while also being younger, and Wideman was the team’s second best defenseman if we’re taking the entire year into consideration.
This is a very unlikely scenario, unless they trade Ceci for something and are willing to expose Methot. It’s gone under the radar that Ottawa actually developed these two players into serviceable second/third pairing defensemen, and it’d be a shame to see them go for nothing.
4. Trade asset so Vegas doesn’t take Methot/Ceci
In this instance, Dorion would be trying to keep the top-four intact by protecting one of Methot/Ceci, and then trading a draft pick to Vegas so they stay away from the other player.
I think this is a likely outcome, as Dorion won’t want to lose any part of his top-four defense. However, that would mean Wideman or Claesson would probably be gone, which isn’t good news either.
5. Trade Methot or Ceci...or even Phaneuf
Ottawa may just realize that Methot or Ceci will be gone, so they might as well trade one of them to get some value back. They would have almost no leverage if this were to happen, as there aren’t many teams that would have room to add another defenseman before the draft.
Bob McKenzie had an interesting tidbit yesterday by saying that Phaneuf is also a potential candidate to be traded. However, I’m not sure what team would want to take on his contract at this stage.
The other option for OTT would be to trade Phaneuf before submitting protected/exposed lists for expansion draft.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 13, 2017
I don’t think Dorion wants to do this option because it would mean losing one of Methot/Ceci in a trade, as well as one of Claesson/Wideman in the draft.
6. Protect 8 skaters
The last option is thinking outside the box. Teams don’t have to protect seven forwards and three defensemen; they can do eight total skaters instead. If this were the case, Methot and Ceci would be protected, but Pageau, Smith, and Dzingel would all be available in the draft.
This is technically an option, but I can’t envision a scenario where they leave Pageau available just to keep a “meh” top-four defense group together.
There are clearly a lot of different routes the Senators can take. The funny thing is, I haven’t even covered 100% of the options, as there are still a few more less likely scenarios. However, the nine I have given seem like the most obvious ones.
It’s anyone’s guess how Dorion will handle this, but I have a feeling that he will make a move to ensure that Vegas doesn’t get who they want. It’s shaping up to be an extremely interesting week not just for the Senators, but for every team around the league.
Who would you most prefer the Senators to lose in the expansion draft?
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