Who will the Washington Capitals submit as their protected players on Saturday June 17? Here’s a quick preview.
The Washington Capitals will be one of the NHL teams who loses a very good player in the expansion draft. Such is the curse of having an extremely good team. Luckily, each team can only lose one player, so at least there’s that. Barring the Vegas Golden Knights signing one of the Capitals’ free agents during next week’s negotiation period, Washington will surrender a roster player to them.
Because of their roster structure, the Caps will almost indefinitely adopt the seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender approach. They also have the option of protecting eight total skaters (four defensemen) and one goaltender. However, the Capitals have such a good team, protecting 10 skaters is more important than protecting eight. They could risk it, but they likely won’t.
Here’s a look at who should end up on the protected list, sorted by position.
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Washington will almost indefinitely protect Braden Holtby. Barring a trade, he’s the logical decision. Sure, Philipp Grubauer is cheaper and, albeit in a much smaller sample size, was better. He’s also younger.
However, the Capitals know Holtby is a franchise goaltender. They don’t know if Grubauer is one. Considering how hard it is to find a franchise goalie, it’s best to go with the guy who you know is one. Washington will most likely lose whichever goalie they expose. So start exploring condos in Las Vegas, Grubauer. I hear the casinos are nice there.
This could get interesting. Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen are locks, as they are both first pairing defensemen. The third is a bit more tricky. It’s between John Carlson and Nate Schmidt. Feasibly, either one could be exposed. There’s a good argument for both players to be protected. This is why the Capitals might protect four defensemen. Most likely, Schmidt will be the guy who gets exposed. Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney are the other two roster players who will be exposed.
Despite what all the rumors say, Alex Ovechkin will be protected. This is a no brainer because he’s still the face of the franchise and the Capitals would never risk losing him for nothing. And you’re nuts if you don’t think George McPhee would select The Great Eight, knowing how effectively Ovechkin puts butts in seats.
Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller are each easy protection picks. The small trade the Capitals made with the Minnesota Wild netted them Tyler Graovac. This allows them to be able to protect one of Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle. Before, expansion rules dictated they would have had to expose both. Wilson likely gets the nod over Beagle because he’s younger.
Honestly, the Capitals are either losing Grubauer, Carlson or Schmidt. The writing is on the wall. Hopefully, Washington only loses a backup goalie instead of a top four defenseman.