On the Road to Expansion: Washington Capitals

The Seattle Kraken will debut in the NHL in the 2021-22 season, and to build on its roster, the 32nd team in the League will take part in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. The Kraken will have to select one player per team, from among those left unprotected. Each team, with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights who are exempt from this process, can protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie, or eight skaters, regardless of their position, and one goalie. Full rules for the expansion draft can be found here.

By July 17, the deadline for teams to submit their protection list, LNH.com will draw up a portrait of the situation of each of the teams in the League in relation to the players they will have to protect and the choices that they will have to do. Today, the Washington Capitals.

ON THE ROAD TOWARDS EXPANSION : Wild | Bruins | Islanders | Predators

Players must be protected : Nicklas Backstrom (TO)

Players to protect without hesitation : Anthony mantha (TO), John carlson (D)

Players who could complete the list : TJ Oshie (TO), Evgeny Kuznetsov (TO), Tom wilson (TO), Lars Eller (TO), Carl Hagelin (TO), Garnet Hathaway (TO), Nic dowd (TO), Conor Sheary (TO), Daniel Sprong (TO), Dmitry Orlov (D), Brenden Dillon (D), Justin schultz (D), Nick jensen (D), Michael Kempny (D), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D), Vitek Vanecek (G), Ilya Samsonov (G)

Having a lot of depth on a hockey team has several advantages. But it’s a double-edged sword when it comes to an Expansion Draft.

Talk to the Washington Capitals. General manager Brian MacLellan has tough decisions to make by July 17, the deadline to hand in his protection list.

Expansion draft or not, the priority file in Washington is undoubtedly the negotiation of the contract of Alex Ovechkin, who could become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. With the star player having already signaled his interest in ending his career with the team that drafted him in 2004, it should come as no surprise if the Russian is not on the Capitals’ protective list. A deal between the two sides after the Expansion Draft could allow MacLellan to protect an additional forward.

Video: WSH @ BOS, # 3: Ovechkin and Mantha unite in AN

The key for Washington with the coming of this expansion draft is to free up space under the salary cap. Several players command significant salaries, and Ovechkin alone will eat away a good part of the payroll next season, it should be remembered. Young goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov could become a compensated free agent and he will ask for a higher salary. Which brings us to the following thought: what will MacLellan do with Evgeny Kuznetsov?

The forward’s production has declined significantly over the past two seasons and his off-ice issues have been a distraction for the Capitals in 2020-21. All this, while he is currently the third highest paid employee of the team. Leaving Kuznetsov at the disposal of the Kraken is a real possibility that would allow the Capitals to free up $ 7.8 million a year if he is the player selected by Seattle. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if MacLellan offered his center to the other GMs through a trade to get his hands on draft picks and / or prospects in return.

A trade involving Kuznetsov would allow Washington to protect supporting forwards like Daniel Sprong or Conor Sheary, who have combined 27 goals this season.

Several questions have also been raised in the case of attacker TJ Oshie, who is from Washington State, where the Kraken will play. Oshie would instantly become the face of the new franchise, but the possibility doesn’t seem to please the main stakeholder. The 34-year-old veteran said on May 25 that he wanted to end his career with the Capitals.

The other major concern for MacLellan is in the net. The GM must make a choice between Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, who have presented similar stats this season (Samsonov 13-4-1; average of 2.69;% ARR. Of, 902 – Vanecek 21-10-4; 2, 69;, 908). Both are very young and have shown they can do the job as the number one goalie on an NHL team, which is sure to spark interest in the Kraken.

Defensively, the Capitals should protect John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, the two most used players on average this season (23:47 and 19:49 per game, respectively). Assuming that the formula is seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie, Washington will have to choose between Justin Schultz, Brenden Dillon, Nick Jensen, Michael Kempny and Trevor van Riemsdyk for the last available spot at the back.

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