The Washington Capitals will have some tough decisions to make this offseason, most notably signing Alex Ovechkin to a new contract. In addition, the Caps have to figure out who they want to protect against the Seattle Kraken on July 28’s Expansion Draft.
Based on the Capitals recent transactions and Expansion Draft rules, Justin Schultz is the most likely to be headed to the Pacific Northwest.
First of all, let’s refresh ourselves on the Expansion Draft rules. Each of the 30 teams (Vegas excluded) will have the opportunity to protect either: seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender; or, eight skaters and one goaltender.
Teams must protect players who have a no-move clause in their contract. Furthermore, teams can only expose players who played at least 27 games last season, or 54 combined over the past two years. Players who made their professional North American debut this past season are not eligible.
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Assuming the Capitals will choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, their protected list will look something like this:
- Nicklas Backstrom – C
- T.J. Oshie – C/W
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – C
- Tom Wilson – RW
- Anthony Mantha – RW
- Conor Sheary – LW
- Daniel Sprong – RW
- John Carlson – D
- Dmitry Orlov – D
- Brenden Dillon – D
- Ilya Samsonov – G
Ovechkin is not included on the list as he is a pending unrestricted free agent. If that is the list the Capitals choose to go with, Justin Schultz would be the most tantalizing selection for the NHL’s newest franchise.
Brenden Dillon makes the protected list because Washington just signed him to a new contract before the 2021 season. Schultz has just one year left on his deal at $4 million. The defenseman finished seventh on the team scoring this past season with three goals and 24 assists in 46 games. Schultz also has two Stanley Cups under his belt as a member of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back championship team. At 31-years old, Schultz would be a solid blueline addition to Seattle, providing experience and offensive prowess.
While Washington was the team that signed Schultz in 2020, the team simply doesn’t have enough room for a player with Schultz’s abilities. With mobile blueliners like Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson, along with the shutdown capabilities of Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen, Schultz is the odd man out in the Caps D core. Additionally, Michal Kempny will return to the team next season after missing 2021 with a torn Achilles.
Exposing Schultz would alleviate $4 million of cap pressure on the Caps which would allow them to bring back Ovechkin along with another defenceman at a cheaper price.