Hartnett: Early Look At How 2021 Expansion Draft Could Impact Rangers

Whom Will Blueshirts Leave Unprotected?

Sean Hartnett
August 14, 2019 - 11:46 am
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As the hockey world prepares to welcome Seattle as the NHL’s 32nd team, general managers around the league are already planning ahead in advance of the June 2021 expansion draft.

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Teams typically choose a protection format of seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, though teams also have the option to protect eight skaters and one goaltender.

Last time around in 2017, the Rangers went with the 7-3-1 format and opted to protect Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, Marc Staal, Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist.

The following players were made available for the Vegas Golden Knights to select: Taylor Beck, Chris Brown, Daniel Catenacci, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Michael Grabner, Marek Hrivik, Nicklas Jensen, Carl Klingberg, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel, Adam Clendening, Tommy Hughes, Steven Kampfer, Kevin Klein, Michael Paliotta, Brendan Smith, Chris Summers, Magnus Hellberg, Antti Raanta and Mackenzie Skapski.

Vegas ended up choosing forward Oscar Lindberg after the Swede turned heads with impressive playoff performances for the Blueshirts. The Golden Knights bet on Lindberg’s potential, but the promise he showed on Broadway didn’t translate to the desert. He was eventually packaged in a 2019 trade-deadline swap that saw Vegas land Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators.

Lindberg recorded 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 98 regular-season games for Vegas. He accumulated eight points (five goals, three assists) in 20 games as a Senator. The 27-year-old is currently an unrestricted free agent.

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In losing Lindberg, the Rangers, fortunately, kept hold of energetic right wing Jesper Fast. Known for his strong hockey sense and reliable defensive zone play, Fast has won four consecutive Players’ Player Awards as the Ranger who “best exemplifies what it means to be a team player.”

CapFriendly has already rolled out a 2021 expansion draft tool, which allows anyone to play armchair GM and identify which players to protect. Let’s work under the assumption that the Rangers will again use the 7-3-1 protection format.

FORWARDS

Artemi Panarin and Zibanejad will be automatically protected in 2021 due to their no-movement clause stipulations. That leaves five additional forward protection spots. The big, unanswered question is whether 28-year-old wing Chris Kreider will still be a Blueshirt in 2021.

If Kreider signs a long-term extension to stay with the Rangers, it would complicate the situation and leave a valuable forward exposed. Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Filip Chytil are the most obvious forwards to protect at present, but that could change depending on how several youngsters develop.

Protected list if Kreider is re-signed: Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Buchnevich, Lemieux, Chytil and Brett Howden.

Protected list if Kreider is traded/not re-signed: Panarin, Zibanejad, Buchnevich, Lemieux, Chytil, Howden and Lias Andersson.

It’s possible that Fast is re-signed to a long-term deal beyond 2021. His current contract runs through the 2019-20 season. Would the Rangers expose Fast in hope of keeping their younger, higher-potential players together?

Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov are exempt from the expansion draft. But losing Howden or Andersson is a real possibility, and that’s without factoring in forwards acquired over the next two seasons.

DEFENSEMEN

Jacob Trouba is automatically protected due to his no-movement clause. Protecting Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo is straightforward. This would leave Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren exposed.

Prospects Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov, Joey Keane and Tarmo Reunanen are all draft exempt. Marc Staal’s contract expires following the 2020-21 season.

GOALTENDERS

Since Henrik Lundqvist would be a 2021 summer free agent and highly touted goalie prospect Igor Shesterkin would be exempt, this would leave Alexandar Georgiev as the Rangers’ protected netminder.

Still, the Rangers’ roster could look significantly different when the summer of 2021 arrives, though it seems very possible that the Blueshirts will be forced to lose a young player they like through the expansion process.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey