On Sunday, the protected lists were officially announced for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft which will take place on Wednesday, July 21.
The Hurricanes list looked mostly as expected with one minor surprise choosing to protect both Warren Foegele and Jesper Fast and in the process leave Nino Niederreiter unprotected. On defense, the Hurricanes chose to protect Brady Skjei and leave Jake Bean unprotected as I wrote about in Friday’s first article about the expansion draft. And in goal, the Hurricanes protected Alex Nedeljkovic as expected.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the team’s choices and ponders the likely outcome.
Why not protect Nino Niederreiter?
The one minor surprise makes sense in my book. Yes, Niederreiter slots higher than Warren Foegele and Jesper Fast and was more productive on the score sheet in 2020-21, with the Hurricanes now a cap team, it is not about salary. It is about salary related to role. In that regard, the question is whether Niederreiter is worth $5.25 million or if that money could be better redeployed. On the one hand, his 20 goals in 56 games makes for a solid finisher with a 29-goal pace over 82 games. On the other hand, Niederreiter is a bit one-dimensional and has been inconsistent. Also behind the headline numbers but significant is considering where the Hurricanes are in their development as a team. With three straight playoff berths and a finish near the top of the standings in 2020-21, the team has reached a level of success and now faces the challenge of charting a course to a next level in the playoffs. In terms of skill set, Niederreiter’s skill set as a big body who does his work near the net would figure to be a great fit for playoff success. But in three seasons with the Hurricanes, Niederreiter has been ‘meh’ in the playoffs notching only three goals in 29 games for a meager eight-goal and 20-point pace over 82 games. You will never hear about it in the formal coverage because the team will not talk about it openly, but one can bet that behind closed doors the team’s brain trust has had conversations and debates about which players are part of the equation to build a team that can not just succeed in the regular season but more importantly beat top teams in the playoffs to take next steps toward the ultimate goal. That is not to say that Niederreiter cannot be part of the equation, but one can bet that if he was tearing it up as a scoring power forward in the playoffs the last three years that he would not have been exposed. In addition, Niederreiter is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. As someone who is not part of the core and with Martin Necas next to become a free agent next summer, Niederreiter might have to be let go as part of next summer’s salary cap maneuvering anyway.
Warren Foegele who is a restricted free agent and Jesper Fast both slot lower and produce less than Niederreiter, but assuming Foegele gets only a modest raise, both will have salaries that fit into the bottom half of the forward lines.
This is not to say that the Hurricanes necessarily want to part ways with Niederreiter. More so, it is that in a game where the team cannot keep everyone, losing Niederreiter and gaining $5.25 million in salary cap space is a lesser evil than the alternatives at forward.
Why not protect Jake Bean?
I wrote about this in some detail on Friday, so I will not rehash all of it. The short version is that with Dougie Hamilton’s future questionable, the Hurricanes are currently already down a top 4 defensemen. Exposing Skjei could put the team in a difficult situation needing to add not one but two top 4 defensemen during the off-season which is a tough spot to be in.
As with Niederreiter, by no means do the Hurricanes want to lose Jake Bean, but that possibility is the lesser of two evils.
How does it end?
I said on Friday that I thought whichever defenseman between Skjei and Bean was exposed would be selected. I stand by that assessment and expect that Jake Bean will be headed to Seattle.
The week ahead
The days leading up to Wednesday’s expansion draft will be filled with chatter but no activity as each team’s roster is locked until after the expansion draft.
But even with the quiet, two things of interest jump out for the Hurricanes.
First, are there any players that the Seattle Kraken now have access to that could be of interest to the Hurricanes via trade? With the 30 selections to fill a 20-23-man roster plus depth, the potential is there for Seattle to select and trade a player or two.
Second and maybe more significantly, once the smoke clears on the expansion draft, the window opens for the Hurricanes to re-sign Dougie Hamilton. I said awhile back that it made no sense for the Hurricanes to re-sign Hamilton prior the expansion draft and then have to protect him. The rumblings in the press seem to suggest that Hamilton will hit the open market next week, but then when have the broader NHL media really had a good feel for what the Canes were up to? If instead, the two sides are likely to come to terms, that possibility comes into play after the expansion draft.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on the decision to protect Foegele and Fast instead of Niederreiter and Skjei instead of Bean?
2) Do you think there is a chance that the Kraken who will need to take some bigger contracts to reach the $50-ish million minimum select Niederreiter or are the Hurricanes destined to lose Jake Bean?
3) Is there a chance that the Canes and Dougie Hamilton make all of the rumblings over the past month or so look silly by inking a deal shortly after the expansion draft?
4) For those, tracking the expansion draft more broadly than the Canes which 2-5 players available are most intriguing to you?