With the abbreviated lull following the Stanley Cup playoffs and preceding the true start of the oddly-timed off-season nearing its end, first up on the schedule is the expansion draft to build the Seattle Kraken roster.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at it from the Hurricanes standpoint.
The starting point is that Martin Necas and the team’s non-NHL prospects are exempt. Past that the team can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or instead eight skaters total and a goalie. The team is also required to make a minimum number of players available at each position.
Let’s look at it by position.
The Hurricanes can protect one goalie and must also make one available. Alex Nedeljkovic, whether re-signed or not by that time, will be the protected goalie. And newly-acquired Dylan Wells was seemingly acquired very specifically to meet the requirement of exposing one goalie either under contract or a restricted free agent. The other option would have been qualifying Jeremy Helvig who figures not to be qualified now. Whether it is Petr Mrazek or someone else, the Hurricanes will add their second NHL goalie after the smoke clears from the expansion draft.
The obvious names on the protected list will include Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov and Vincent Trocheck. Martin Necas does not need to be protected nor does Brock McGinn or Jordan Martinook since both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Note also that the need to protect those five forwards eliminates the possibility of instead going with eight skaters to protect another defenseman. So that leaves two remaining slots with Nino Niederreiter, Jesper Fast, Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie and Steven Lorentz as options who were regulars at the NHL level last season. Best guess is that the Hurricanes will choose to protect Niederreiter and Foegele which would make Jesper Fast as an interesting veteran leadership option for Seattle. If instead, the team protects Fast and leaves Foegele exposed, he could be an interesting opton for Seattle to add a young but NHL-experienced third line forward to their mix.
Most interesting is the situation on defense. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce will certainly be protected, and as I said awhile back, it makes more sense to wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign Dougie Hamilton (if that happens). So Hamilton does that need to be protected. That leaves Brady Skjei, Jake Bean and Jake Gardiner as options. With his ongoing back issues and the fact that the Canes actually floated him across the waiver wire last year, Gardiner will not be protected. That leaves an interesting choice between Brady Skjei and Jake Bean. Unless the team knows, hush-hush, that it will in fact re-sign Dougie Hamilton after the expansion draft, I expect that the team will choose to protect Brady Skjei making Jake Bean available the most likely Hurricane to be selected.
So why Skjei over Bean? Put simply, he hedges the risk of building out the top 4 on the blue line. If the probability is reasonably high or worse that Hamilton departs, the Hurricanes really only have two top 4 defenseman in Slavin and Pesce. With his injury woes and struggles trying to play in that slot, Gardiner would be a really ‘iffy’ player to pencil into the top 4. And so far Bean also looks like a third pairing defenseman with offensive upside. Skjei has had some ups and downs with the Hurricanes and is maybe not the solid/steady #4 that is ideal but he is capable of playing in the top 4. In addition, the Canes brain trust must have been pretty high on him to give up a first-round draft pick to acquire him, so that group figures to rate him a bit higher than I do. But most simply, keeping Skjei helps the team avoid a potentially daunting task of adding two top 4 defensemen in a single off-season. With the options on the free agent market fairly sparse, I figure Canes management will opt to keep a decent option for one of the two top 4 slots rather than gambling that they can fill both from outside. If instead, the Hurricanes expect to re-sign Hamilton, then the team might instead leave Skjei exposed (and instead protect Bean) being willing to cut salary. As for Bean, I think the fan base values him a bit higher than management and the coaching staff. He may still have some upside, but as of right now Bean slots as a third pairing defenseman who has enough lapses that he will not necessarily become more than that. The offensive/power play potential offers upside, but after scoring seven points in 12 games to start the 2020-21 season, he finished with only five points in the next 30 games including only one point in the final 20 games. I think the Hurricanes would like to keep Bean for his potential growth and upside, but I think avoiding the challenge of adding two top 4 defensemen will trump that.
How does it end?
I think the Hurricanes will lose whichever of Jake Bean or Brady Skjei is exposed. Bean represents a young defenseman who immediately slots in the third pairing at a modest salary and brings potential upside. Skjei would offer a capable even if not spectacular top 4 defenseman who could fill a slot or be trade bait.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who do you think the team will protect/leave exposed at forward? And do you agree with those choices?
2) Who do you think the team will protect/leave exposed on defense? And do you agree with those choices?
3) Who do you think the Hurricanes will lose in the expansion draft?