The Seattle Expansion Draft is looming and every team will be affected (except Vegas) including the Washington Capitals. On Saturday July 17, protected lists are due from every team’s general manager. I haven’t seen Brian MacLellan’s protected list, nobody has. So in this piece we’ll determine who we think he will protect.
Teams can do two options, use the 7-3-1 (forwards-defensemen-goaltender) or 8-1 (protect eight skaters and one goalie). The Caps will likely go with the 7-3-1 format in their protected list.
Without further ado, here’s how I see the protected list looking like for the Caps:
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The seven forwards
Nicklas Backstrom: The Caps have to protect him as the contract that he signed in January 2020 had a no movement clause. Even if the contract didn’t have it, the Caps would still likely protect him.
Conor Sheary: Sheary is a young stud who averaged 1.11 goals per 60 minutes of action. The Caps thought so highly of Sheary that they gave him a two year contract extension in April worth $3 million.
T.J. Oshie: Even though T.J. Oshie has ties to the Seattle area, the Caps would be foolish leaving him exposed. Oshie is the heart and soul of the Caps and so far in his limited offseason interviews, he has expressed no desire to join the Kraken even if he would happen to be their first team captain.
Tom Wilson: Every other team has a disdain for Tom Wilson but if he was available anybody would take him in a heartbeat including the Kraken. That’s all the more reason to protect him. Like Oshie, he’s ours.
Lars Eller: Despite a down season for Eller where he had to deal with injuries, he’s still one of the best third line centers in the NHL. If they were to move Evgeny Kuznetsov over the offseason, there could be an opening for Eller on the second line.
Daniel Sprong: Sprong became a fan favorite last season and could step into a bigger role next season depending on what the Kraken take and what the Caps do this offseason.
Anthony Mantha: Although Mantha cooled off after scoring in four straight games, the Caps gave up a lot for him and wouldn’t want to lose him to Seattle for nothing.
You may notice Alex Ovechkin isn’t on the protected list. Why? He’s an unrestricted free agent that still has a desire to come back to the Caps if the two sides negotiate the right deal. Leaving Ovechkin exposed allows the Caps to protect an extra forward. It’s a similar strategy they employed with T.J. Oshie in the Vegas Expansion Draft before announcing his contract extension.
The three defensemen
John Carlson: Carlson battled a knee injury during the homestretch of the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs. Despite this, he still ranked fifth among defensemen in points with 44 which included 10 goals and 34 assists.
Dmitry Orlov: Orlov had a bounce back season and is another lock to protect on defense. He finished with a team best plus/minus of +16 and recorded 18 points from March 20 to the end of the season which was tied with Carlson’s total in that stretch.
Brenden Dillon: Dillon gets a lot of heat on Caps Twitter and we don’t understand why. I could’ve picked anybody for this third spot including Justin Schultz but after further review I ultimately decided on protecting Dilly Dilly. Why? Dillon’s physicality is top notch and it’s one of the big reasons why they re-signed him last offseason.
The one goaltender
Ilya Samsonov: Samsonov struggled last season but his talent is still there and he has yet to reach his ceiling. I ultimately decided to take him over Vitek Vanecek but it was a tough decision as their numbers were similar and there was no clear cut starter prior to the playoffs. Samsonov is also a restricted free agent but I could see the Caps giving him one more chance to prove himself.
That is who I’ve got on my protected list. In case you missed it, our contributor Greg Bowman predicted that the Kraken will take Justin Schultz in the expansion draft. I agree and I hope he’s right. Last thing you want is the Kraken to take someone with too small a cap hit, which would limit the wiggle room the Caps have this offseason.