Carolina Hurricanes: Predicting the Seattle Expansion Draft

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21: A general view during the 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21: A general view during the 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Yesterday was a momentous day as the NHL formally announced Seattle as the 32nd team in the National Hockey League. General Managers across the league will now be looking ahead to the Expansion Draft at the end of the 2020/21 season – but how will the Expansion Draft go for the Carolina Hurricanes?

It feels like some time ago that the Vegas Golden Knights selected Connor Brickley from the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2017 Expansion Draft. The Canes protected Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Phil di Giuseppe, Victor Rask, Brock McGinn, Justin Faulk, Trevor Carrick, Ryan Murphy and Scott Darling; they exposed the likes of Jay McClement, Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom and Cam Ward but paid a 5th round draft pick to ensure that Brickley was selected. Considering the mistakes other GMs made, the Canes came out of the Expansion Draft in good condition.

This next Expansion Draft is going to prove much tougher for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Expansion Draft rules

All of the chatter around the Seattle expansion was that the Expansion Draft rules would remain exactly the same as for the Golden Knights, which the NHL confirmed alongside yesterday’s announcement. That means that the Canes will be allowed to protect either 7F-3D-1G, or 8 skaters at any position plus one goalie. Last time, the Canes went down the 7-3-1 route – but we may have to look at protecting 8 skaters, so as not to lose any of our valuable defensemen.

The other consideration around the Expansion Draft is contract clauses. Some teams were hamstrung by the number of NMCs their players possessed but the Carolina Hurricanes currently have just one player, Jordan Staal, in possession of a NMC. This means that Don Waddell will be able to select from a full roster, as Staal was already going to be a lock for protection despite him approaching his 33rd birthday by the time the Expansion Draft comes round.

Who do we protect?

Seeing as we already know the rules of the 2021 Expansion Draft, we know that we have to expose at least two contracted forwards and one contracted defenseman with at least 40GP in the 2020/21 season, or 70GP combined over the coming two seasons. This won’t be an issue. However, the Canes will also need to expose a goalie who is either under contract for 2021/22, or a qualified RFA. There are very few options on the table right now, and a lot will depend on the continued development of Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth.

Players with two years or less of NHL experience will be exempt from selection, meaning that we can already be assured that the likes of Stelios Mattheos and Adam Fox will be exempt from the Expansion Draft in addition to any draft picks made by the Carolina Hurricanes over the next two years.

I shall also assume that players such as Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Micheal Ferland and Justin Faulk are all re-signed to contract extensions, as the Canes currently only have three forwards signed for the 2020/21 season (Staal, Victor Rask and Andrei Svechnikov) and four defensemen. Given the timing of Faulk’s current contract expiration, you have to assume that he’s going to request a NMC as part of any extension, and so we now have two players automatically protected from exposure.

The selection

Based on today’s Carolina Hurricanes, this is my estimate of who Don Waddell will protect at the 2021 Expansion Draft:

Forwards: Jordan Staal (NMC), Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Micheal Ferland, Lucas Wallmark

Defensemen: Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk (with his anticipated NMC)

Goalie: Alex Nedeljkovic (assuming that he does indeed become the Canes’ starter)

Going down the 8-1 route would allow the Canes to protect Pesce, but would force them to expose Ferland, Wallmark AND Necas, just to keep Pesce. That doesn’t seem to be a sensible move.

Who does that leave unprotected?

Going with that 7-3-1 scenario, the following players are potentially going to be left unprotected:

Forwards: Victor Rask, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, Phil di Giuseppe, Warren Foegele, Clark Bishop, Nicolas Roy, Janne Kuokannen, Julien Gauthier

Defensemen: Brett Pesce, Calvin de Haan, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown

Goalies: Scott Darling (UFA), Callum Booth

What does this mean?

The quality of players exposed by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2021 Expansion Draft will be significantly better than those exposed in the 2017 Expansion Draft. All of the defensemen listed above will be NHL-caliber defensemen by 2021; players like Kuokannen and Gauthier could bump the likes of Wallmark and Ferland from the protected list, but there’s still some decent young players available. We are going to lose a good player this time round.

This assumes that the Canes keep Scott Darling until 2021 – which is a long shot, as his numbers in Charlotte have so far been excellent and it would be very hard to envisage the Canes keeping Darling in the AHL for another two and a half years. To expose Darling in the Expansion Draft would also necessitate him signing an extension, which is doubtful if we’ve kept him in the minors for that time. Even if we managed all of that, Seattle aren’t selecting Darling over some of that other talent.

So who will Seattle pick?

If Don Waddell doesn’t start making his long-term plans now to ensure that the Canes don’t expose so many quality players, we may be Seattle’s favorite team in the 2021 Expansion Draft.

I believe that, based on the current line-up and estimations of player development, the Seattle TBCs would select Brett Pesce in the Expansion Draft. He’d be 26, on a great contract, and immediately become a top-pairing D for the league’s newest team. He only ends up exposed due to Justin Faulk’s anticipated NMC, else Faulk is the one exposed and claimed by Seattle.

If the team wishes to avoid losing Pesce, it’s going to cost draft picks and/or prospects. We could easily see a scenario akin to the Florida Panthers, where the Canes hand over a player like Jake Bean plus a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft so that Seattle selects, say, Phil di Giuseppe.

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That’s not good, is it?

It’s really not. The 2021 Expansion Draft shows just why the Carolina Hurricanes cannot continue to keep hold of so many quality young defensemen. GM Don Waddell needs to make a trade over the next year or so, moving one of those defensemen for some quality scoring help. That would allow the Canes to expose one of Wallmark of Rask, either of whom are more expendable than Brett Pesce and who aren’t worth losing futures for to ensure Pesce isn’t selected.

The easy solution is to bite the bullet on trading Justin Faulk, so that his contract extension becomes someone else’s nightmare prior to the Expansion Draft. We could snag a very good top six forward in exchange for Faulk, and avoid the worst-case scenario above.

As you can see, the upcoming Expansion Draft promises to be a potential disaster for the Carolina Hurricanes. Plans need to be made now to avoid either losing a player of Pesce’s caliber, or picks/prospects to buy added protection for exposed players. We have a much better roster than we did in 2017, and without some careful planning, we’re going to be one of the biggest losers come Expansion Draft time. It’s time to pull the trigger on that D-for-F trade Don.

One more thing

We’d like to welcome Seattle and their fans to the NHL – it’s a magnificent city with a raucous fanbase, and road trips are going to become a lot more fun for travelling fans around the league. So, welcome, and good luck!

Next. Prospects show the future is bright. dark

Question for CC readers:

Of those projected unprotected players, who would you most hate to lose?