NHL Expansion Draft: Chicago Blackhawks Protection Strategy

As part of Puck Prose”s daily series, the Chicago Blackhawks have to face the upcoming obstacle of the NHL Expansion Draft. How do the Blackhawks prepare, who do they protect, and who do they lose?

The Chicago Blackhawks, like all NHL teams, face the summer obstacle of the NHL Expansion Draft for the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, most of the Chicago Blackhawks key players have no movement clauses. So most of the work is done for me.

But outside of those contracts, who else do the Blackhawks save? Who remains exempt from this expansion draft, and who do the Blackhawks lose?

Blackhawks Forwards

NHL expansion draft

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (second from left) celebrates after he scored a goal (Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, and Marian Hossa all have no movement clauses. Again, Stan Bowman has a problem. He passes those out like he’s Oprah giving away cars. Except, in this case, fans are wishing he didn’t. Nobody ever wished Oprah didn’t give away cars.

Four of Chicago’s protection slots are gone. The Blackhawks could ask one of these players to waive their NMC, but that’s unlikely to happen. Besides, Marian Hossa had his best season in two years. He scored his most goals since 2014.

Anisimov is the best second line center the Blackhawks have had under Quenneville. Toews and Kane will likely retire Chicago Blackhawks. These guys should not be going anywhere.

Who else is protected? Well, one obvious one is Ryan Hartman. Yes, he struggled in the playoffs, but it was his first taste of them, and he was really good in the regular season for his rookie year. He may be in the Calder dark horse conversation.

Another one is restricted free agent Richard Panik, who played really well with Jonathan Toews and was one of very few Blackhawks able to make his way to the Nashville net in the playoffs. For that reason, Dennis Rasmussen is likely the third protected of the players left. Rasmussen is likely the Blackhawks fourth line center next year as well.

A lot of the dependable Blackhawks forwards are exempt, which is why the Blackhawks are able to use protection slots on two restricted free agents and a rookie.

Chicago Defensemen And Goaltender

Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson have no movement clauses. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with two of those players having NMCs. Brent Seabrook’s contract is too large and has an NMC. Not great.

NHL expansion draft

Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) looks on (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Seabrook will likely not be traded. No matter how badly the Blackhawks need that cap space. There’s nobody else the Blackhawks would need to protect… oh wait. Yes, there is. Trevor Van Riemsdyk played out of his mind in the playoffs this year. He was one of the Blackhawks three best defensemen, and there’s no doubt that the Blackhawks would like to protect the 25-year-old.

Corey Crawford also has a no movement clause, but that’s actually expected and fine. Crawford has won two Cups with the Blackhawks and tried his damned hardest to win another one this year. Just nobody else did. After the Blackhawks traded Scott Darling, there’s no competition to Crawford being protected.

There’s not much the Blackhawks can do in terms of defensemen and goaltender. Roll with the guys on NMCs and pray/trade away prospects so that TVR doesn’t get selected.

Exempt Players and Vegas’s Selection

The exempt players’ list for the Blackhawks is a long one. There are several notable names, including John Hayden, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Artemi Panarin, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, and Alex DeBrincat.

NHL Expansion Draft

Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) skates with the puck. Kruger will be available in the NHL Expansion Draft. (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

That means that many of the Blackhawks’ key rookies were never in jeopardy and that Kane’s wing partner Panarin is also safe. That’s good news for the Blackhawks, who need as many cheap young players as they can get. The Hawks also hold onto Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling, who will be key in next year’s blue line.

Vegas is going to take one of Marcus Kruger or Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Their options are limited – on contracts, the Blackhawks have those two plus goaltender Jeff Glass and forward Jordin Tootoo. The Hawks also leave available restricted free agents like Tomas Jurco, Michael Latta, and Ville Pokka.

The key answer for Vegas to answer: do they want to milk Chicago for prospects like Pokka and picks, or do they want to take the best option available. If the former, they will allow Chicago to bribe them into taking Marcus Kruger and alleviate a little bit of the cap headache for the Blackhawks. If the latter, they will take Trevor Van Riemsdyk in the NHL Expansion Draft, effectively screwing the Blackhawks out of a blue line.

Hey, no one said the Vegas Golden Knights had to play nicely.

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Source: Fox Sports

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