Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe took a look at the Canes salary cap math for the next couple seasons. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe also strays from the here and now and takes an early look at potential impacts of the Seattle expansion draft scheduled for the summer of 2021.
I always feel like an important starting point for considering maneuvering for the expansion draft is to recognize that the best thing a team can do is be so good and so deep that they are forced to lose a good player in the expansion draft. First, a team can only lose one player, so if it is deep even losing a good player will be something that they can survive. Second, a team that is good before the expansion draft will not be decimated by losing one player such that they magically shift to to bad solely because of the expansion draft. No doubt, there is some maneuvering to consider approaching the expansion draft, but the best defense is actually just building a team that is so good that it is possible to lose a very good player and be significantly impacted.
Another interesting wild card is the fact that the draftee will be former Canes general manager Ron Francis. One would figure that based on how his time ended in Raleigh that he will not be doing the team any favors.
With that, let’s look at some early Canes considerations for the 2021 NHL expansion draft.
This position could be tricky. Teams are required to expose a goalie who is either under contract or a restricted free agent, and they can only protect one goalie. The upshot is that the team would need to expose either Petr Mrazek or Alex Nedeljkovic. My working assumption is that James Reimer will not be re-signed after his contract expires. That is not a certainty obviously, but it is a good working assumption. In addition, Mrazek is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent that summer, so he would need to be re-signed to be in the mix at all.
That situation could theoretically put the Hurricanes in an interesting position to game the system a bit. Could the Canes wait to re-sign Mrazek after the expansion draft, protect Nedeljkovic and sign another inexpensive, depth goalie solely to expose him to the expansion draft. Such a goalie would not be drafted, so that has a cost to it. And the risk is that by walking Mrazek that close to free agency that he tests the market and ultimately leaves. But that is what happened this summer, and he returned.
If one looks at players currently under contract for the 2021-22 season, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Jake Gardiner would likely be the three players protected. Jake Bean should also be exempt. That would leave Haydn Fleury and whoever is in the third pairing at the time unprotected. But the wild card is Dougie Hamilton. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent that summer, so if he does not re-sign before then, he would be a non-issue. If the Hurricanes do re-sign Hamilton, he would take Gardiner’s slot, and the Hurricanes could lose either Gardiner or Fleury.
As with the goalie position, the potential is there to game the system by reaching an agreement with Hamilton but not re-signing him until after the expansion draft. The result would be being able to keep Hamilton while protecting Slavin Pesce and Gardiner.
The Hurricanes would then be able to protect seven forwards. Right now I would project that to be a core of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Staal. That still leaves three slots plus Martin Necas will be exempt. Players like Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel are not currently under contract for the 2021-22 season but players from this middle six group including Nino Niederreiter and Warren Foegele would also be considered. Unless the Hurricanes add a couple higher-end forwards, this position will not be overly stressed by the expansion draft.
Early wild guess
I think in the end, the team’s depth on the blue line will result in a defenseman being lost. If Fleury can make strides in his development such that he is top 4-ish, he could be a logical expansion team pickup. If Hamilton re-signs, two years of Jake Gardiner could be appealing to add a veteran on a reasonable contract.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you think the Canes are destined to lose a defenseman in the 2021 expansion draft? If so, whom?
2) How would you handle the goalie position in terms of trying to keep Mrazek and Nedeljkovic? Is it possible that the team maneuvers by waiting to sign Mrazek and instead add an expansion draft-qualified goalie to keep Nedeljkovic protected?
3) Recognizing that it is early and subject to change, what other angles do you see on the upcoming 2021 NHL expansion draft?