After months of speculation, the big day finally arrived yesterday. The NHL released the protected lists for all 30 teams, setting the stage for the Vegas Golden Knights to make their picks and fill out their first roster on Wednesday.
It was the culmination of a long process for the league’s teams, with several having to make tough choices to get their list just right. And it capped off weeks of debate and discussion between fans over which players would make the cut and which would end up being exposed.
Those sorts of debates are always fun. So today, let’s stay in the expansion spirit by coming up with 30 more protected lists. But this time, we’re thinking a little bigger. We’re looking for each team’s all-time protected list, based on every player who’s ever suited up for the team.
Why yes, I did have some time on my hands over the weekend, thanks for asking. As always, we need some arbitrary rules before we get started, so let’s go with these:
• Every team can protect players from its all-time roster based on the rules from this year’s expansion draft, i.e. one goaltender and either seven forwards and three defencemen or eight skaters from any position. As with this year, players with less than two years of pro experience are exempt.
• In the case of players who played for multiple franchises, the team they played the most regular-season games for will get first crack.
• We’re counting a franchise’s entire history, meaning the Avalanche also get the Nordiques, the Hurricanes get the Whalers, etc. The original Jets are paired with the Coyotes while the modern version gets the Thrashers.
• We’re basing this on what a player did with that team, not what they may have accomplished elsewhere. For players who are still active, we’re also looking ahead to what they may do in the future.
• Given the crossover in eras, we don’t care about contracts.
Once we have all 30 protected lists, we’ll… well, we won’t really do anything with them. It’s not like the Golden Knights are looking to draft many guys from the 1940s, and George McPhee probably has his hands full over the next few days. This is mainly an excuse to argue, debate and call me an idiot in the comment section. That seems like as noble a purpose as any, so let’s get started.
The blue line isn’t as easy as you might think, since the two best defencemen in team history – Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger – will both show up on other rosters.
Forwards: Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Steve Ruchin, Andy McDonald, Sammy Pahlson
Defencemen: Oleg Tverdovsky, Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler
Goalie: J.S. Giguere
Toughest omissions: Ruslan Salei is the franchise leader in games played by a defenceman, but doesn’t make the cut here.
Arizona Coyotes (and original Winnipeg Jets)
There was some thought to going with eight skaters here to squeeze in Keith Yandle, but that would have cost us some old-school Jets.
Forwards: Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Shane Doan, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Smail, Laurie Boschman, Paul MacLean
Defencemen: Randy Carlyle, Teppo Numminen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Goalie: Mike Smith
Toughest omissions: Goalie is a tough call, as it will be for most teams. We went with Smith over Bob Essensa and Nikolai Khabibulin, since he’s a Coyote for life. (Checks weekend headlines.) Oh.
As you’d probably expect, the Original Six teams will feature some of the toughest calls on our list. That’s especially true for the Bruins, who have to go with the eight-skater option thanks to a defensive corps that may be the best position group in league history.
Forwards: Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Rick Middleton, Cam Neely
Defencemen: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Eddie Shore, Brad Park
Goalie: Frank Brimsek
Toughest omissions: Using four spots on defencemen costs us forwards like Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly, Ken Hodge and Patrice Bergeron. But the toughest omission might be yet another blueliner, as they miss out on keeping Zdeno Chara.
Apparently, having a thin blue line isn’t limited to the modern-day Sabres. Luckily, they’ve got a decent goalie to cover up any mistakes.
Forwards: Gilbert Perreault, Alexander Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk, Rick Martin, Miroslav Satan, Craig Ramsay, Rene Robert
Defencemen: Phil Housley, Mike Ramsey, Bill Hajt
Goalie: Dominik Hasek
Toughest omissions: Jack Eichel is exempt based on only having two years of pro experience. But based on some of the real-world protected lists around the league yesterday, maybe we should talk ourselves into finding a spot for tough guy Rob Ray.
In theory, this also includes the Atlanta Flames, but nobody from that era makes the cut. To nobody’s surprise, this team will be dominated by players from the team’s late-’80s golden age.
Forwards: Jarome Iginla, Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Kent Nilsson, Lanny McDonald, Johnny Gaudreau
Defencemen: Al MacInnis, Gary Suter, Mark Giordano
Goalie: Mike Vernon
Toughest omissions: Miikka Kiprusoff is the franchise leader in games and wins, but Vernon’s Cup run trumps him. Meanwhile, we found room for Gaudreau but not Sean Monahan, and Joey Mullen also misses the cut.
Carolina Hurricanes (and Hartford Whalers)
Hold on. I’m not quite in the right mood for this one yet.
OK, there we go. Much better.
Forwards: Ron Francis, Eric Staal, Rod Brind’Amour, Kevin Dineen, Blaine Stoughton, Pat Verbeek, Jeff Skinner
Defencemen: Glen Wesley, Ulf Samuelsson, Justin Faulk
Goalie: Cam Ward
Toughest omissions: Not many fans know this, but the Whalers’ all-time record for points in a season isn’t held by Francis, but rather Mike Rogers, who had 105 in back-to-back seasons. But those were his only two (NHL) years with the team, so he misses our cut.
The Original Six teams are dominated by their franchise’s glory years. In Chicago, that’s right now. Hey, if the NHL says today’s team has three of top 100 players ever, then who am I to disagree?
Forwards: Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Jeremy Roenick, Steve Larmer
Defencemen: Pierre Pilote, Chris Chelios, Duncan Keith
Goalie: Tony Esposito
Toughest omissions: Esposito means Glenn Hall and Ed Belfour will be exposed. Meanwhile, Doug Wilson misses the cut despite having a 265-point lead in franchise scoring among defencemen. That seems wrong, but which multi-time Norris winner do you remove to make room?
Colorado Avalanche (and Quebec Nordiques)
It feels like a franchise with nearly 40 years of history and two Stanley Cups should have an easier time filling three defenceman slots, but here we are. But they do luck out with Roy, after the Canadiens pass on him in what will no doubt be a controversial selection.
Forwards: Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Peter Stastny, Michel Goulet, Milan Hejduk, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon
Defencemen: Adam Foote, Sandis Ozolinsh, John-Michael Liles
Goalie: Patrick Roy
Toughest omissions: It feels like this team should have more Stastnys. But we’re gambling on the long-term outlook of a pair of current (at least for now) Avalanche forwards.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Oh good, this should be fun.
Forwards: Rick Nash… [sighs deeply]… Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, R.J. Umberger, Brandon Saad, David Vyborny
Defencemen: Jack Johnson, Zach Werenski, Fedor Tyutin
Goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky
Toughest omissions: None, really. I’m starting to understand the whole “never won a playoff series” thing.
Dallas Stars (and Minnesota North Stars)
The Stars end up with a pretty nice spread across various eras dating back to the Minnesota days.
Forwards: Mike Modano, Brian Bellows, Neal Broten, Dino Ciccarelli, Jere Lehtonen, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin
Defencemen: Sergei Zubov, Derian Hatcher, Darryl Sydor
Goalie: Ed Belfour
Toughest omissions: Marty Turco is the franchise leader in games and wins, but Belfour being passed over by Chicago means the Stars’ only Cup-winner is the pick. We also passed on Jon Casey, which is a real kick in the groin.
Detroit Red Wings
It’s a relatively easy call in goal and not an especially tough field on defence, but the crowded forward ranks get tricky.
Forwards: Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Ted Lindsay, Brendan Shanahan
Defencemen: Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Kelly, Marcel Pronovost
Goalie: Terry Sawchuk
Toughest omissions: It comes down to Shanahan, Norm Ullman and Henrik Zetterberg for the final forward slot. The other two played more games, but Shanahan’s higher peak and multiple Cups just barely tip the scales.
Spoiler: There could be a few players from the ’80s on this list.
Forwards: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Doug Weight, Ryan Smyth, Taylor Hall
Defencemen: Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Kris Russell
Goalie: Grant Fuhr
Toughest omissions: First of all, I was only kidding on Russell; I just wanted to see if I could make every analytics guy’s head explode in one shot. Let’s slot Charlie Huddy in there instead. Connor McDavid is exempt, but we might need to find a spot for Leon Draisaitl.
Without many top forwards to choose from, the Panthers become our second team to choose the eight-skater option.
Forwards: Olli Jokinen, Scott Mellanby, Stephen Weiss, Aleksander Barkov
Defencemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Robert Svehla, Brian Campbell, Aaron Ekblad
Goalie: Roberto Luongo
Toughest omissions: Luongo makes our list even though he didn’t make the Panthers’ real-world version, narrowly beating out 1996 playoff hero John Vanbiesbrouck.
Los Angeles Kings
The forwards make for a crowded field, even without Gretzky.
Forwards: Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, Dave Taylor, Anze Kopitar, Bernie Nicholls, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown
Defencemen: Rob Blake, Drew Doughty, Steve Duchesne
Goalie: Jonathan Quick
Toughest omissions: I nearly squeezed in Marty McSorley over Duchesne, since the drop-off after Blake and Doughty is a big one. Some fans might take Butch Goring over Brown or Carter.
As the NHL’s youngest team apart from the Knights, the pickings are a bit slim here. That’s especially true given our rules mean they don’t have access to Ryan Suter or Zach Parise.
Forwards: Mikko Koivu, Marian Gaborik, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle
Defencemen: Nick Schultz, Jared Spurgeon, Brent Burns
Goalie: Devan Dubnyk
Toughest omissions: Wait, Burns? Yep. He’s played just a few more games for the Wild than the Sharks, so even though he didn’t break out as a true star until he left, a lack of other options means the Wild use a spot on him. Tough break for San Jose.
No franchise has been more stacked with talent over the years, meaning this will be the toughest team on the list.
Forwards: Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Bernie Geoffrion, Yvan Cournoyer, Elmer Lach, Howie Morenz
Defencemen: Larry Robinson, Doug Harvey, Guy Lapointe
Goalie: Ken Dryden
Toughest omissions: There are plenty, from Jacques Lemaire to Bob Gainey to Steve Shutt to Henri Richard up front and Serge Savard, Jacques Laperriere and Tom Johnson on the blue line. But the toughest pick in this entire post is Montreal’s goaltending slot, which pits Dryden against Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Bill Durnan, George Vezina and Carey Price. In the end, we went with Dryden, who produced what may stand as the best numbers ever relative to his era while earning six Cups and five first-team all-star honours. But I expect that plenty of Habs fans might disagree.
Given the Predators’ historic lack of top-tier forwards, we’re going to borrow a page from the real-world Islanders here and go with a 3-5-1 list. (Also, uh, Caps fans might want to skip over the last two names on the forwards list.)
Forwards: David Legwand, Filip Forsberg, Martin Erat
Defencemen: Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Kimmo Timonen, P.K. Subban
Goalie: Pekka Rinne
Toughest omissions: You could honestly make a case for going with just two forwards and adding yet another blueliner, like Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm.
New Jersey Devils
Not surprisingly, the 1990s Cup winners dominate here.
Forwards: Patrik Elias, Kirk Muller, Scott Gomez, John MacLean, Zach Parise, Bobby Holik, Claude Lemieux
Defencemen: Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko
Goalie: Martin Brodeur
Toughest omissions: Nothing too glaring, although Stephane Richer just misses the forward cut and Bryan Rafalski has a case on defence.
New York Islanders
It’s just about all Al Arbour era all the time for a franchise that hasn’t had much to cheer about since.
Forwards: Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, John Tavares, Pat LaFontaine, Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom, Brent Sutter
Defencemen: Denis Potvin, Stefan Persson, Tomas Jonsson
Goalie: Billy Smith
Toughest omissions: Given the franchise’s run of success, there’s surprisingly little to choose from in net and on the blue line. But up front, we miss out on Bob Bourne, Pat Flatley and John Tonelli.
New York Rangers
With Mark Messier already on Edmonton’s list, the Rangers don’t have as much to choose from up front as you might expect from an Original Six team.
Forwards: Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Andy Bathgate, Bill Cook, Frank Boucher, Adam Graves, Walt Tkaczuk
Defencemen: Brian Leetch, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby
Goalie: Henrik Lundqvist
Toughest omissions: A couple of current Rangers in Ryan McDonagh and Derek Steppan could make a case, and some fans might take Mike Richter and his Cup ring in the goalie spot.
A few of these guys didn’t end their time in Ottawa on the best of terms, but still deserve a spot. The Senators do benefit from a pair of players, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa, who fall to them after being passed over by other teams. (It also helps that we were able to get Dion Phaneuf to waive his NMC this time.)
Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Marian Hossa, Alexei Yashin, Dany Heatley, Radek Bonk, Mike Fisher
Defencemen: Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden
Goalie: Craig Anderson
Toughest omissions: Longtime Sens like Chris Phillips and Chris Neil just miss the cut. Anderson just edges out Patrick Lalime, whose (largely unfair) reputation for playoff failure weighs against him.
The forwards and defence are both tough picks, although for different reasons.
Forwards: Bobby Clarke, Eric Lindros, Bill Barber, John LeClair, Claude Giroux, Brian Propp, Rick Tocchet
Defencemen: Mark Howe, Eric Desjardins, Joe Watson
Goalie: Bernie Parent
Toughest omissions: Man, I wanted to find a spot for Dave Schultz here. Rick MacLeish, Tim Kerr and Mark Recchi are also late cuts, as is Ron Hextall. Maybe one of them could shift over to defence?
They struggle a bit to fill their blue-line spots, but the talent up front is scary. And because we’re looking at each player’s entire body of work and not just what the future holds, this time Marc-Andre Fleury earns the goaltending spot.
Forwards: Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Evgeni Malkin, Rick Kehoe, Kevin Stevens, Jean Pronovost
Defencemen: Kris Letang, Larry Murphy, Darius Kasparaitis
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury
Toughest omissions: Fleury over Tom Barrasso is a tough call.
San Jose Sharks
Man, any Sharks fans who skipped the Wild section and jumped straight here are in for a surprise.
Forwards: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Jeff Friesen
Defencemen: Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mike Rathje
Goalie: Evgeni Nabokov
Toughest omissions: Losing out on Brent Burns to the Wild by 27 games really stings.
St. Louis Blues
This will be an interesting one, since no team has had more cameos from Hall of Famers who made their names somewhere else. A Blues list of guys who played a season or less in St. Louis might be more impressive than this one.
Forwards: Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brian Sutter, Adam Oates, David Backes, Pavol Demitra
Defencemen: Chris Pronger, Alex Pietrangelo, Barclay Plager
Goalie: Mike Liut
Toughest omissions: Liut edges out Curtis Joseph based on his near-MVP season in 1980–81.
Tampa Bay Lightning
This one basically ends up being a mashup of today’s team and the 2004 Cup winner.
Forwards: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Nikita Kucherov, Brad Richards, Tyler Johnson, Brian Bradley
Defencemen: Victor Hedman, Roman Hamrlik, Pavel Kubina
Goalie: Ben Bishop
Toughest omissions: We could bump Bradley for Ondrej Palat, but we need to pay our respects to the expansion years.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Our last Original Six team won’t have to protect their current core of rookies for another year or two, which is good news since there are plenty of forwards vying for spots.
Forwards: Darryl Sittler, Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Mats Sundin, George Armstrong, Ted Kennedy, Syl Apps
Defencemen: Borje Salming, Tim Horton, King Clancy
Goalie: Johnny Bower
Toughest omissions: You could swap in Turk Broda for Bower. We also missed out on Hap Day, Lanny McDonald, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. Those last two hurt, because that 1993 team was the best.
There’s lots of star power up front, but things get thin on the back end.
Forwards: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Markus Naslund, Stan Smyl, Ryan Kesler
Defencemen: Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, Harold Snepsts
Goalie: Kirk McLean
Toughest omissions: Canucks fans are no doubt furious that the Oilers grabbed Mark Messier before Vancouver could.
Hey, at least we don’t have to try to weigh the value of a bunch of Cup rings.
Forwards: Alexander Ovechkin, Petr Bondra, Dale Hunter, Mike Gartner, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ridley, Michal Pivonka
Defencemen: Rod Langway, Kevin Hatcher, Sergei Gonchar
Goalie: Olaf Kolzig
Toughest omissions: We’re probably only a year or two away from Braden Holtby pushing Kolzig aside; maybe we’re there already. They also had first crack at Larry Murphy, but he just misses the cut, as does Mike Green.
Winnipeg Jets (and Atlanta Thrashers)
The Thrashers offer more help here than you might expect. But yikes on that goaltending.
Forwards: Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Marc Savard
Defencemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Trouba
Goalie: Ondrej Pavelec
Toughest omissions: Probably Dale Hawerchuk, who feels like he should be here instead of the Arizona entry, but rules are rules.