With most of the dust "settled" from a rather stagnant free-agent market and transaction wire, let's take a look at Boston's options when it comes to bracing itself for the Seattle Kraken's upcoming expansion draft in June 2021. We will be running these projections throughout this offseason and the upcoming 2021 campaign, as a lot can change over the course of a year through additional roster transactions and much more.
In case you need a refresher on some of the key rules and guidelines in place for the Kraken as they look to capitalize on an NHL landscape dominated by a flat cap ceiling in 2020 and beyond:
Seattle will select one player from each team — except for the Golden Knights — for a total of 30 (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies). The team must choose a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2021-22 regular season and those with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap. Seattle also cannot buy out players that it selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.
- The teams forced to participate in the Expansion Draft will have two options when it comes to protecting players:
- Protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie
- Protect eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie
- All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected by their teams and will be counted toward their team’s applicable protection limits.
- All first- and second-year professional players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward protection limits.)
- All NHL teams must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the draft:
- One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
- Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
- One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team’s protected list.
With Torey Krug inking a long-term contract with St. Louis on Oct. 9, Don Sweeney's strategy when it comes to keeping Boston's top assets away from the clutches of (Seattle GM) Ron Francis and Co. does become a bit clearer. However, even if Boston opts for a 7-3-1 strategy (protecting its core defensive trio of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk), there still stands a good chance that Boston will need to relinquish at least one impact player to the NHL's 32nd franchise.
"We understand we're losing a good player," Sweeney said back in September. "Any team that puts up the money to enter this league I think they are expected to have good players available to them and that’s exactly what the league has done with the rules. So we expect to lose a good hockey player at some point in time. We'd like to be in a position to evaluate where our players are in terms of next year and some of our younger players are part of that process."
So, if Boston does go with the 7-3-1 route, who will be protected?
Patrice Bergeron — Bergeron, who has a no-movement clause for each of the final two years of his contract, will be protected by Boston in the upcoming draft. Of course, even if he didn't have a NMC ... yeah, this is a no-brainer. Bergeron isn't going anywhere.
Brad Marchand — Like Bergeron, Marchand will also be protected thanks to the NMC he has in place. And like Bergeron, this one would also be an absolute no-brainer for the B's regardless of any clauses or stipulations in a contract. Already arguably the top left wing in the league, Marchand's bargain value ($6.125 million AAV) in this fiscal climate is highway robbery for Boston.
Charlie Coyle — The last Bruins forward with a NMC, Coyle's value should continue to rise in his second full season with Boston, especially with the Weymouth product expected to earn regular minutes next to more dependable scorers such as Craig Smith or Ondrej Kase. If David Krejci is no longer on the Bruins come 2021-22, Coyle stands as the heir apparent for the 2C role behind Bergeron and Co.
David Pastrnak — Pastrnak has a NMC, but it actually doesn't kick in until the start of the 2021-22 season. As if that would impact Boston's decision here. No. 88 isn't going to the Pacific Northwest.