We’re one game away from the Stanley Cup finals. That means the NHL Expansion draft, held June 21, is right around the corner.
The Detroit Red Wings must submit their protection list by 5 p.m., June 17.
There are two options for General Manager Ken Holland. He can select seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. Or he can select eight skaters and a goalie.
Holland will almost certainly take the first option.
Keeping in mind that certain players, like Dylan Larkin, are exempt from the draft, here’s Detroit’s most likely protection list:
- Henrik Zetterberg – Captain who will retire a Red Wing
- Tomas Tatar – Leading goal scorer
- Gustav Nyquist – Good playmaker on a team that needs playmaking
- Frans Nielsen -- Must be protected due to clause in contract
- Anthony Mantha – Wings won’t expose Mantha, despite Blashill’s misgivings about him
- Justin Abdelkader – He wears the “A.” Even with his contract, hard to see Holland exposing him.
- Riley Sheahan – Most would give this spot to Andreas Athanasiou, with his potential. But Darren Helm is part of the Red Wings family and coach Blashill loves Sheahan, while Andreas Athanasiou has often been in the coach’s dog house. It’s hard to say, with certainty, what Holland will do.
- Danny Dekeyser – He was awful, but he’s part of the fabric of the organization now.
- Mike Green – He’s going to have great trade value next year.
- Xavier Ouellet – It’s hard to imagine Holland exposing Nick Kronwall, but he should understand that it’s a must. In terms of Ouellet vs. Jensen, Ouellet is younger, smarter and better defensively. Jensen is faster.
- Petr Mrazek – Even after Mrazek’s awful season, he’s got potential, he’s cheaper, he’s durable. Howard was surprisingly good when he played last year. But he’s injury prone now, and unreliable.
That’s what Holland will likely do. Here’s what he should do:
- Zetterberg – No brainer.
- Tatar – Obviously.
- Nyquist – Yep.
- Nielsen – No choice.
- Mantha – For sure.
- Athanasiou – Shouldn’t be a question.
- Tomas Nosek – I consider protecting Sheahan in hopes Las Vegas drafts Helm or Abelkader, but Nosek can do what Sheahan can do, pretty much, for near the minimum wage.
- Green – Protect him to trade him.
- Dekeyser – Really considered exposing him because of that dumb contract, but the Wings need a D who can play the PK.
- Ouellet – XO is young and smart. He’ll always have some issues because of his speed and size, but he’s a character player and a smart player, and that can get you far in the NHL.
- Mrazek – He’s the only choice. Howard has no shot at being the goalie of the future. His injuries make it impossible for him to be the goalie of the present, even if you buy into his 2016-17 resurgence. So if you get lucky and move Howard, great. And if Mrazek continues to play awfully, then he’s an RFA after next season.
The real question mark is trades. It’s not hard to imagine the Red Wings packaging a Tatar, Athanasiou and draft pick for a defenseman. The Wings are fairly strong on the Wings and notoriously weak on defense.
Such a move would change the considerations if made before June 17.