By Michael Walters
This week the announcement of the NHL’s newest team was revealed to be the Vegas Golden Knights. After much speculation that the word “Knights” would be part of the name, it was finally confirmed. With the new team comes along the expansion draft as well. Many general managers have had to make decisions with their roster and for some, more decisions will still need to be made. This is the case for the Anaheim Ducks and GM Bob Murray, who will have to choose between options to protect players.
NHL clubs have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:
a) Seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender
b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
All players who have currently effective and continuing No-Movement Clauses(NMC) at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected. The Ducks have four players with NMCs, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, and Kevin Bieksa. In the case of Bieksa, Murray has stated Bieksa will likely waive his NMC. This will help the Ducks with the upcoming expansion draft, but there will still be decisions for Murray to make.
Option A Seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender
If Murray wants to go with this option, then in terms of forwards the picture is pretty clear. Getzlaf, Kesler, and Perry would all automatically be protected because of their NMCs. The other forwards that would likely be protected would include Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano. The remaining forwards that would be exposed are Jared Boll, Antoine Vermette, and Chris Wagner per capfriendly.com. The Ducks would likely choose between Vermette or Wagner. Vermette is an aging veteran, but can still contribute and is one of the best face-off players in the league. Wagner is a young upcoming player, who can deliver solid checks and would have several seasons left to play.
The problem for Murray would come on the defensive side of Option A. He would only be able to protect three defensemen. He would likely have to choose between Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Sami Vatanen. With Lindholm and Vatanen being the two most recently signed, it would seem the decision could come down to Fowler and Manson. Again not an easy decision for Murray to make. Fowler is a homegrown product and has been playing well this season. Manson is another young player, who has been solid on the blue line for Anaheim. Losing either one in the draft would be unfortunate for Anaheim.
Option B Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
This option would alleviate any headaches on the defensive side of the team. Murray would be able to protect Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, and Vatanen. The issue with this choice, however, shifts the difficult decision to the offense. As previously stated, Getzlaf, Kesler, and Perry would all be protected, which would only give Murray one more player to protect. Murray would have to probably decide between Cogliano, Silfverberg, and Rakell. This would be an extremely difficult decision to make because no matter who he protects, he would expose two solid forwards.
In addition to the expansion draft, Murray has to figure out how to address the cap situation. Currently, Nate Thompson and Simon Despres are both on long-term injury reserve. Thompson is slated to come back in a few months. Despres’ status is up in the air, but his contract will have to be dealt with in one way or another.
One way for Murray to be able to address both the expansion draft and cap issues is to make a trade. If Murray trades a defenseman, then he can create cap space room while allowing himself to also use Option A of the expansion draft. The defensemen that could be traded to create cap space include Fowler, Lindholm, and Vatanen. Fowler’s contract is $4 million, Lindholm is just over $5.2 million, and Vatanen’s is $4.87 million. Trading anyone of these players will help because Murray would be able to protect the other two and Manson. Then Murray would be able to protect seven forwards preventing Cogliano, Rakell, and Silfverberg from being exposed.
Right now Murray has time on his side for the next few months, but eventually he will need to make a move. Hopefully he can make a trade to keep Anaheim under the salary cap, while not having to expose key players in the expansion draft next summer.
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November 23, 2016