The NHL Expansion Draft – San Jose Sharks Edition


The NHL Expansion Draft is (likely) coming
While there are no guarantees that NHL expansion will happen, it is extremely likely that the league will grow by another team or two. The expansion process is not easy from the legal and commercial points of view.

However, in as early as a couple of years from now, we may witness a team in Las Vegas, Quebec, Seattle, Hamilton or some place else. Sooner or later, the San Jose Sharksalong with every other team in the league, will have to make some really difficult decisions regarding which players should be protected from the expansion draft, and which ones can go.

If the expansion draft was to happen this summer – who would the Sharks protect, and who would they let go? We answer these questions below.

Protection Options

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During the last NHL Expansion Draft in 2000, teams had a choice of protecting either: one goaltender, five defensemen, and nine forwards, OR two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards.

With quite a few important skaters to protect, coupled with Alex Stalock’s expiring contract – it looks like a no-brainer to go for the first option, protecting one goaltender, five defensemen, and nine forwards. The best starting point would be to get the roster to the bare minimum – 12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goaltenders.

For the protection option that has been chosen, there is no experience requirement for the unprotected goaltender. At least one defenseman left unprotected has to have had appeared in at least 40 games in the 2014–15 season or 70 games in the 2013-14 season and 2014–15 seasons combined. At least two forwards left unprotected have to meet the same requirements.

Selections – Forwards
Protected forwards (9): Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Melker Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Joel Ward, Tommy Wingels, Barclay Goodrow

Unprotected forwards (3): Matthew Nieto, Ben Smith, Mike Brown

Oct 30, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; San Jose Sharks forward Matt Nieto (83) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Sharks 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the three unprotected forwards, it pains me the most to leave Matt Nieto unprotected. Lots of teams will have to make some tough calls when it comes to the expansion draft, and this is certainly one of them.

There is no doubt that if the expansion was done this year and Nieto was available, he would be drafted. He should provide the expansion team with a solid work ethic, and still has lots of room to grow. Both Ben Smith and Mike Brown can help the expansion team with some forechecking on one of the checking lines.

Selections – Defensemen
Protected defensemen (5): Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Paul Martin, Mirco Mueller, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Unprotected defensemen (1): Brenden Dillon

Mar 29, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brenden Dillon has recently signed a cap-friendly, five-year deal at $3,270,000 per year. At 24, he still has room to improve, and the Sharks can keep the hard hitting defenseman for some of his best years. Hypothetically, if the expansion draft was to go ahead this summer, and Dillon was unprotected – there is no doubt he would be drafted. Dillon’s selection is really difficult, but at the same time, it is even harder to make any other defenseman unprotected.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns are absolute locks and have to be protected, as you do not come across players of their caliber very often. Mirco Mueller does not qualify for the unprotected selection, falling one game short of meeting the requirement. Mueller is also one of the promising youngsters, and there is little possibility of giving away a talent with so much potential.

Paul Martin could have been included on the basis of his age, but he is a solid, top-four defenseman who brings quality and order to the Sharks’ defensive corps. Martin simply sits higher than Dillon on the depth chart. Justin Braun is as underrated as ever. He has become a reliable player and has been a consistent plus-minus machine – he has been second best in the plus-minus category among Sharks defensemen in each of the past two seasons.

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Selections – Goaltenders
Protected goaltender: Martin Jones

Unprotected goaltender: Alex Stalock

With the Sharks trading for and signing Martin Jones to a three-year contract, the signals are pretty clear – management and the coaching staff are expecting Jones to be a starter. Stalock looks like an easy pick here. If Stalock was to be selected, the Sharks would bid farewell to a talented backup, who still has time to open up and potentially vie for a starting job on an expansion team.

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