For the Minnesota Wild, the expansion draft offers a bit of a dilemma as they have to leave some good players available when the expansion draft begins for the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, on Sunday morning.
Every NHL team has to submit a protected list of either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie or any 8 players regardless of position & 1 goaltender.* The Minnesota Wild are likely choosing the former of protecting 7 Fs, 3 D-men and 1 G. This allows them to protect more forwards but only 3 defensemen. This is where the dilemma begins.
*To see all the expansion key times, dates and rules, click HERE
Any player with no-movement clauses must be protected unless they agreed to waive that right by Friday at 4:00 pm CST. That means the Wild have to protect Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter taking up 3 forward spots and 1 defenseman spot. Jason Pominville would be an obvious choice to leave unprotected so they could protect another forward but, as of Friday night, we had not heard yet if Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had asked Mr. Pominville if he would waive his no-move clause. We may not find out until the lists are released to the teams on Sunday morning at 9:00 am CST.
They can only protect 4 more forwards from the above list excluding Martin Hanzal and Ryan White as they are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents as of July 1st.* There are no-brainers like Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter who are all just 24-25 years old. Of the rest, the players you’d think the Wild would want to protect are Erik Staal and Jason Zucker. *Players with 2 or fewer years of NHL/AHL experience are exempt so they don’t have to protect Joel Eriksson-Ek.
So they either have to expose rising star Jason Zucker or their #1 center Eric Staal. Jason Zucker had a career year last season scoring 22 goals while dishing 25 assists in 79 games. He also took a big step defensively, leading the league in plus/minus (in a tie with teammate Ryan Suter) with a +34. So, he’s now a responsible player who Bruce Boudreau can count on in all situations.
Eric Staal could easily be the comeback player of the year as he helped the Minnesota Wild solidify the center position while scoring 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists.) He regained his love for the game in the State of Hockey after winning the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in his 2nd NHL season in 2006 then making the playoffs in only 1 of the next 10 seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers near the trade deadline in 2016.
So, do the Wild protect the up-and-coming sniper who is a threat with his speed any time he’s on the ice in Jason Zucker or the steely veteran who was a big reason why they were the 2nd-best team in the Western Conference last season? It’s a tough decision. It sounds like they are leaning toward protecting Jason Zucker.
It all may be a moot point since the Wild can only protect 3 of their defenseman and, one would think, the Vegas Golden Knights would want to build from the net out and be able to defend well right out of the gate.
They have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon is a no-brainer so they’re left with the impossible decision of which one defenseman to protect from Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and Matt Dumba. That’s 2 up-and-coming young defensemen in Brodin & Dumba and Marco Scandella, who was their best defenseman in the playoffs and plays with some physicality, has great skating ability to be a shutdown defenseman and has a rocket for a shot. He is 27 but that’s not old for a defenseman by any means.
Jonas Brodin is the hot name in trade rumors but the Wild have had teams call about the availability of Matt Dumba & Marco Scandella as well. If the Wild were only choosing for right now, Marco Scandella might very well be the guy but they have to look at the future and they have two players that could fit very well together as a 2nd defensive pair. Jonas Brodin is better defensively and Matt Dumba is better offensively. They are opposite-handed shots with Brodin shooting left & Dumba shooting right.
A lot of fans are frustrated with Dumba as he makes some bad decisions defensively. That being said, he’s just 22 and can certainly get better in that area and he put up 34 points (11 goals & 23 assists) with 6 goals (and 6 assists) coming on the power play. Jonas Brodin probably should have more points over the last 3 seasons, especially since he jumped from 2 goals in his rookie season to 8 in his 2nd season. Some of that can be from the Wild struggling to score goals for most of their existence and from the coaches taking him off the power play in favor of Jared Spurgeon, Scandella, and even Dumba.
The good news is no matter who they lose from their defense, they should be able to fill that spot with a current player and/or a prospect who looks ready to take the next step to a full-time role on the big club. If they lose Jonas Brodin, they have Gustav Olofsson, who patterns his game after his fellow Swede and got a chance to show what he can do for the Wild last season, impressing his coach along the way. If they lose Matt Dumba, Mike Reilly might very well be able to step in as an offensive defenseman who’s finding his defensive game after 2 seasons going back and forth between the AHL to the NHL. If they lose Marco Scandella, Christian Folin could step in as he plays physical and is a good defensive defenseman. They also have Nick Seeler, who Chuck Fletcher said was the “most improved player” in the organization last year. They still have Carson Soucy, who just turned pro after 4 years playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, too.
Chuck Fletcher is listening to any and all offers he’s getting for his players and had a lot of interest in recently traded F Jonathan Drouin. He was supposedly their #1 target:
The Minnesota Wild were one of the teams that were in on Jonathan Drouin. He was their #1 target.
— JB (@JB_HockeyTalk) June 16, 2017
Unfortunately, Fletch was handcuffed since he really couldn’t deal one of his 3 defensemen to get Drouin and then still risk losing another one of those 3 defensemen and also find a way to protect Jonathan Drouin.* Now, we wait to see if the Wild make a move to try to solve their Expansion Clutter.
*Remember when Tampa Bay was supposedly asking for Matt Dumba to get Jonathan Drouin when he wanted to be traded last season? They might have the same problem trying to figure out who to protect right now, though, not to mention how to fit Drouin in with their other current restricted free agents.
All teams have to submit their protected lists by 4:00 pm CST on Saturday afternoon. There will be a trade, waiver and signing freeze beginning at 2:00 pm CST on Saturday as well. This will leave Vegas as the only team allowed to make trades, place players on waivers, or sign players to contracts.
Starting on Sunday at 9:00 am CST, every team’s protected list will be approved and distributed to teams and the NHL Players’ Association (& supposedly made public, too.) At the same time of 9:00 am CST, an exclusive window for free agent negotiation will begin for the Knights.