The NHL has never had a summer like 2017 before. This expansion draft, the first under both the salary cap and a less generous player protection scheme, is sure to create opportunities for Las Vegas that didn’t exist for their expansion predecessors.
It should also result in a lot of trades.
Four hypothetical scenarios follow. These are not rumours, which are based on reporting around the teams in question. Rather, they are speculative deals arrived at through analysis of each team’s situation heading into expansion.
In other words, these are our proposed solutions to the problems faced by some NHL teams. The problems are real and will need to be managed, but how the actual GM of each team proceeds may differ significantly from the courses suggested here.
Keep in mind a trade freeze kicks in on Saturday, June 17 at 3 p.m. ET for all clubs except Vegas. So these deals would need to be completed before then. The trade freeze will be lifted the morning of Thursday, June 22.
Hypothetical No. 1: Ducks trade Sami Vatanen to the Lightning
Anaheim gets: Ondrej Palat, 2017 second-round draft pick
Tampa Bay gets: Sami Vatanen
For both the Ducks and the Lightning, this is a trade driven by expansion draft protected lists.
Tampa Bay has many good forwards — so many that even if it takes a 7-3-1 approach to their protection list they’ll still risk losing someone like Alex Killorn or Vladislav Namestnikov. The defensive situation is much clearer: Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman need to be protected, and after them there are no essential pieces.
Anaheim, in contrast, has a glut of quality players, especially on defence as Kevin Bieksa won’t waive his no-movement clause. An obvious approach is to ship out a defender for a forward. Vatanen is the logical candidate, since his primary selling feature is offence, a skillset somewhat duplicated by Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler.
Palat and Vatanen are the same age, and once Palat signs a new contract (he’s a restricted free agent) their cap hits should be similar as well. This trade sees the Ducks get the left winger they have needed at least as far back as last summer, while Tampa Bay adds a needed right shot to its second defence pair. Because defencemen typically command a premium that wingers don’t, the Bolts also part with one of their two second-round picks.
Hypothetical No. 2: Wild trade Jonas Brodin to the Bruins
Boston gets: Jonas Brodin, 2017 fifth-round draft pick
Minnesota gets: 2017 first-round draft pick, Colin Miller
The Wild are a deep team, and that depth forces the club to protect seven forwards. This leaves only three spots for defencemen, and with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon sure to be protected that leaves one of Mathew Dumba or Jonas Brodin twisting in the wind. Trading one for futures prior to the draft only makes sense, particularly since Minnesota has no first- or second-round pick in this summer’s entry draft.
Boston, on the other hand, has room to protect a defenceman, and a need for a young two-way type to help take on some of the load from Zdeno Chara. Brodin, who turns 24 in July, already has more than 300 games of major-league experience and has been playing tough minutes since he was a rookie. Adding a player of that caliber is worth the investment of a mid-tier first-round pick.
As for the inclusion of Miller, it tops up the trade for the Wild at minimal cost to the Bruins. In Boston, Miller would be an obvious target for Vegas over veterans like Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller, given his age and modest cap hit. In Minnesota, there’s a good chance he would be passed over in favour of one of the team’s exposed forwards. If so, Miller lessens the blow of losing Brodin; if not, he saves the Wild a useful forward.
Hypothetical No. 3: Panthers trade Mark Pysyk to the Maple Leafs
Toronto gets: Mark Pysyk
Florida gets: Connor Carrick, 2018 second-round draft pick, Kerby Rychel
Thanks to Nikita Zaitsev’s immunity, the Leafs only have two defencemen they really need to worry about protecting: Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. That makes this summer an ideal time to go out and get the tough-minutes, right-shot defender the club clearly needs.
Florida has several players who might fit the bill. The Panthers’ depth at forward virtually forces the team to take the 7-3-1 protection route, with Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle (NMC) taking two of the three defencemen slots. That leaves one spot open for a trio of right-shot defencemen: Jason Demers, Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic.
Trading Pysyk for the above package does a few things for Florida.
With Carrick, they add a young replacement righty in case Demers or Petrovic is taken by Vegas (as with Colin Miller, Carrick is much more likely to be claimed in Toronto than he would be in Florida). A quality draft pick is always welcome, and Rychel has a history with new head coach Bob Boughner. The 22-year-old first-round pick from 2013 could yet develop into a highly useful NHL player.
Hypothetical No. 4: Islanders trade Calvin de Haan to the Sabres
Buffalo gets: Calvin de Haan
New York gets: 2017 second- and third-round draft picks
The Sabres have some spare picks to play with this year thanks to the team’s trade deadline work over the past few seasons, and it only makes sense to cash some of those selections in pre-expansion. The most pressing need is another good defenceman, since Buffalo only has two (Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe) who warrant expansion draft protection.
New York, like the other teams on this list, is going to have trouble shielding all of its quality depth pieces. The problem is particularly acute on the back end, where at least six players (de Haan, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Pulock and Thomas Hickey) will presumably be of interest to Vegas. The Isles will lose a good player; the trick here is stacking the deck so that it’s somebody like Hickey rather than a more valuable piece.