All posts by Josh Wegman, John Matisz

Kreider and 7 other X-factors leading up to NHL trade deadline

With the trade deadline (Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET) on the horizon, theScore identifies eight X-factors who could influence this key period:

Chris Kreider

In a relatively weak trade deadline class, Chris Kreider is expected to be the best player dealt. There's still a chance the Rangers re-sign the pending UFA winger, but it's clear New York will have no shortage of suitors. As of last week, he was reportedly atop the wish list of eight teams.

If Kreider is indeed traded, it'll be interesting to track the ripple effect. How do the league's main buyers react? Do they double down on their pursuit of an impact player and chase after Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau? Do they exit the marketplace in frustration since the talent pool is so shallow?

What isn't up for debate is Kreider's credentials. He's in the prime of his career and his game is perfectly suited for playoff hockey. The 28-year-old possesses size, speed, physicality, and offensive ability. With 22 goals and 40 points through 54 games, he's on pace for a career year. - Josh Wegman

Marc Bergevin

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Oh, to be in Marc Bergevin's head right now.

The Canadiens GM is a fascinating figure in the buildup to the deadline, as he has a lot to process - from Shea Weber's health status, to Ilya Kovalchuk's emergence, to the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The central question in all of this: What is the club's realistic timeline for a return to the postseason? Heading into Thursday's slate of games, the Habs are seven points back in the East despite playing a conference-high 59 games. MoneyPuck.com estimates they have a 5.3% chance of earning a spot. In other words, the playoffs probably aren't in the cards this spring.

Bergevin then has a decision to make regarding Kovalchuk, who has dazzled in his 17-game stint in Montreal, scoring six goals - including three game-winners - while adding six assists. The executive's options include pursuing a contract extension, trading him before the deadline, or riding out the season and leaving any potential negotiations to the summer. Don't forget defenseman Marco Scandella, another midseason acquisition, is also on an expiring deal and could garner some attention on the rental market.

Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry - quality veterans making fair money - have another year remaining on their respective deals. This means if Bergevin believes the Habs can't rebound to any great extent in 2020-21, he could flip one or both of them for picks and/or prospects. Bringing in a player like Tatar or Petry for two playoff runs would be a boon for any contender. - John Matisz

Off-ice Battle of Alberta

Codie McLachlan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Flames and Oilers' rivalry could extend off the ice leading up to the deadline. Both clubs are jostling for position in the crowded Pacific Division and could be in the hunt for similar players. Whichever team can make a more impactful addition could have a significant leg up down the stretch.

Flames GM Brad Treliving has already paved the way for a move, trading Michael Frolik to the Sabres last month to clear $4.3 million in cap space. All signs point to the Flames adding a top-six forward. Kreider may be too steep for a squad not guaranteed a playoff spot, but someone like Tyler Toffoli could be a nice fit. A depth defenseman could also be useful, with Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic both currently sidelined.

Coincidentally, Edmonton's most pressing need is also a top-six forward - ideally someone who could hang with Connor McDavid when he returns from injury. It'd be nice to add a center ASAP to help while McDavid is out, but Ottawa's Pageau is the only notable pivot available.

All that being said, Oilers GM Ken Holland has limited cap space to work with. He could take on a sizable cap hit if the last year of Sam Gagner's contract is sent the other way, but finding an affordable player, such as the rejuvenated Kovalchuk or Edmonton native Tyler Ennis, could be his best option. - Wegman

Trade-happy GMs

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By now, the hockey world has learned Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and Coyotes GM John Chayka aren't fond of complacency. Both are aggressive in the trading world and have even shown an openness to part ways with recently acquired players (see: Galchenyuk, Alex).

In general, Rutherford is someone to keep an eye on because he's constantly tinkering with his roster. The 70-year-old's work earlier this week - scooping up Jason Zucker in a four-piece trade with the Wild - will likely stand as his signature move of the season, yet the Penguins could upgrade the bottom of their lineup. Adding a third-pairing defenseman and/or bottom-six forward before the deadline would align with the club's all-in approach to 2019-20.

As for Chayka and the Coyotes, they, of course, made a giant splash in December with the Taylor Hall trade. And, if they remain in the hunt for a Western Conference playoff spot as February chugs along, don't be surprised if Chayka gets creative in the pursuit for more offensive punch. It's been seven seasons since Arizona made the postseason, and beyond St. Louis and Colorado, the West is wide-open. The opportunity is there, and it would be a shame if the stingy Coyotes fall short thanks to an inadequate attack. - Matisz

Sabres' defensive logjam

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Something's gotta give on Buffalo's blue line. The Sabres are one of the few teams with a surplus on the back end - specifically on the right side.

Zach Bogosian, a pending UFA, is bound to get flipped if the Sabres are willing to eat a portion of his $5.14-million cap hit; one of Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller, Brandon Montour, and Henri Jokiharju should get traded at some point. Ristolainen is in need of a change of scenery, Miller hasn't quite worked out in Buffalo after being acquired in the summer, Montour's value is likely lower than it was last season after he was dealt from Anaheim for a first-round pick and a prospect, while Jokiharju seems destined to stay. There are several ways in which GM Jason Botterill could play this.

If Botterill is able to pull off a blockbuster involving one of his D-men to bring in some much-needed help up front - ideally a center - it could change the landscape of the entire deadline, since it seems just about every team wants a right-handed blue-liner. - Wegman

Kyle Dubas

Rene Johnston / Toronto Star / Getty

Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas already made a move to acquire a backup goaltender in Jack Campbell and some sandpaper with Kyle Clifford, yet it's hard to imagine the 34-year-old is done.

Now, don't expect Dubas to be in on any major rentals. It also seems unlikely he'd trade another first-round pick after dealing his 2019 first last season for Jake Muzzin. He sent a conditional 2020 first to Carolina this past offseason too (if it's a top-10 pick Carolina will get Toronto's 2021 first-rounder instead) while getting rid of Patrick Marleau's contract.

However, it wouldn't be surprising if Dubas heavily pursues a so-called "pure hockey trade." The Leafs have plenty of forward depth, and someone like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would be easily expendable if the right deal for a defenseman presented itself.

Who that blue-liner could be remains to be seen, though Matt Dumba and Josh Manson are two names consistently thrown around in the rumor mill.

If the Leafs can land a top-pairing D-man and squeak into the playoffs just as Morgan Rielly returns from injury, Toronto's blue line will have transformed from a weakness to a strength, making the club a handful for any potential postseason opponent. - Wegman

Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau

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This X-factor comes with a substantial asterisk.

Joe Thornton, the best player in Sharks history, has a no-movement clause in his contract and thus controls his own destiny. Patrick Marleau, a legend in his own right, would probably have a say in deciding his future, too, even though he doesn't have a NMC.

With those caveats out of the way, consider how Thornton or Marleau would look on a contending team's fourth line and second-unit power play. You get an all-time playmaker making $2 million or an all-time skater making the league minimum. And, despite their age, both Thornton and Marleau carry around an infectious, youthful enthusiasm for the game.

While the chances are slim Thornton and/or Marleau get moved at the deadline, the thought of the 40-year-olds chasing that elusive Stanley Cup sure is tantalizing and worth noting as the deadline nears. - Matisz

NHL Seattle

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NHL GMs have said time and again they will not overthink their strategy for the upcoming expansion draft. Many were duped by the 2017 Vegas draft and refuse to bend over backward as the unnamed Seattle franchise prepares to enter the league in 2021-22 with a competitive squad.

That's what you call learning from the past, which is a smart way to view the situation. However, just because GMs say they're going to keep things simple this time around doesn't mean Seattle GM Ron Francis and his staff aren't lurking around the deadline and beyond. Until the team is officially stocked with players, they will indirectly factor into the discussion.

Take the last two trades, for instance. The Maple Leafs will probably leave goalie Jack Campbell exposed in the expansion draft, while the Penguins will probably protect forward Jason Zucker. Whether it's an intended or unintended consequence, every deal fits into the 2021 expansion puzzle.

Like with the Vegas draft, teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. Among the conditions: Players unwilling to waive their no-movement clauses must be protected, and all first- and second-year players are exempt from the draft. The Golden Knights, for what it's worth, are excused from the entire process. - Matisz

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9 bold predictions for the 2019-20 NHL season

With opening night around the corner, theScore's Josh Wegman and John Matisz serve up some bold predictions for the coming NHL season:

McDavid, Draisaitl finish 1-2 in league scoring, Oilers miss playoffs

This, oddly enough, almost happened last year. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl ranked second and fourth in NHL scoring with 116 and 105 points, respectively, while the Oilers missed the playoffs by a wide margin (11 points).

The strange disconnect between superstar power and team success will likely widen if McDavid and Draisaitl can elevate their play individually and as a pair in 2019-20. Playing together more often might do the trick, as last year the duo shared the ice for 805 five-on-five minutes, which accounted for roughly 60% of Draisaitl's total even-strength usage.

A return to the postseason isn't going to be easy for Edmonton. The Central Division looks poised to claim five of eight playoff tickets in the West, leaving the Pacific with three. Calgary, Vegas, and San Jose are a tier above the rest, with Arizona and Vancouver also in the mix for a spot. Where's the room?

Penguins slide to last in the Metro

Gregg Forwerck / Getty Images

Admittedly, this is an extreme outcome for a franchise that's won three of the last 10 Stanley Cups and employs Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

Don't forget, though: The 2019-20 Penguins aren't the Penguins of old, and the Metro Division is a jumbled mess.

Beyond Washington and Carolina - the typical preseason picks for first and second place - Pittsburgh's part of a medley of six quality teams. Each of them has question marks, but solid arguments can be made in favor of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Columbus, New Jersey, and both New York teams contending for the remaining two playoff spots reserved for Metro squads.

When you stop and think about the ages of three of Pittsburgh's four most important players - Crosby and Letang are 32, and Malkin is 33 - and recall that the fourth key piece, goalie Matt Murray, has a checkered health record, tumbling to the basement is imaginable. The Pens are a top-heavy team, and there's no guarantee every star will continue to shine.

Given all of the uncertainty, where does one slot them in Year 1 of the post-Phil Kessel era? The best-case scenario is first, while the worst case is last. And, of course, there's the middle. All three possibilities are realistic within such a wacky division.

Matthews scores 60 goals

A 60-goal season has only been accomplished twice in the last 23 years. Steven Stamkos accomplished the feat in 2011-12, while Alex Ovechkin hit the mark in 2007-08. With scoring on the rise, we're due for another.

Auston Matthews has been the NHL's best five-on-five goalscorer since entering the league in 2016-17. Now that he'll be properly positioned on the right half-wall on Toronto's power play, he could become one of the league's best goalscorers with the man advantage.

Matthews' injuries slowed him down after torrid starts over the past two campaigns. Last season, he was also without running mate William Nylander for much of the year. If Matthews can stay healthy and play alongside a motivated Nylander all year, the 22-year-old could certainly reach 60 goals.

Quinn - not Jack - Hughes wins the Calder

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The 2019-20 rookie class is quite deep, with a group of four - forwards Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, and defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes - leading the charge ahead of opening night.

Quinn, the elder Hughes brother and Vancouver's pride and joy on the back end, is expected to skate on the Canucks' second pair with veteran Chris Tanev. In five NHL games last season, the 19-year-old looked at right at home, picking up three assists while flashing his trademark mobility.

Hughes is a supremely smart playmaker bursting with potential. If coach Travis Green lets him quarterback the top power-play unit, look out. Defensemen rarely win the Calder, but he has a decent chance if Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser line up alongside him to pad the assist total.

Erik Karlsson reaches 90 points

Perennial Norris Trophy contender Erik Karlsson had a year to adjust to his new team and surroundings, and now he's ready to take off. If he can reach 90 points, he'd be the first defenseman to accomplish the feat since Ray Bourque had 91 in 1993-94.

Karlsson's career high in points is 82, so it's not far-fetched to believe he could tally eight more. Scoring is way up since the 2015-16 campaign when he set the bar, and he's now on a team with significantly more firepower up front. After all, he had 45 points in 53 games last season while shooting a career-low 1.8%.

Of course, the key to Karlsson reaching the mark is a clean bill of health.

No NHL goalie starts 60 games

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This has never happened over the course of an 82-game season, but we're predicting load management will sweep goaltender nation.

In 2018-19, eight goalies started at least 60 games, but only one started more than 65:

Goalie Team GS
Devan Dubnyk MIN 66
Carey Price MTL 64
Connor Hellebuyck WPG 62
Martin Jones SJ 62
Sergei Bobrovsky FLA 61
Marc-Andre Fleury VGK 61
Frederik Andersen TOR 60
Jacob Markstrom VAN 60

The Wild may find themselves desperate enough to throw Dubnyk out there 60-plus times again. In other cases, however, whether it be a more capable backup now in place or an incentive to give the starter some rest, teams could, by design, play their starter fewer than 60 games.

Predators' power play goes from worst to first

It's mind-boggling that a roster featuring Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson capitalized on only 12.9% of their power-play opportunities last season. An All-Star cast was essentially useless with the man advantage, owning the worst PP in the NHL.

With Matt Duchene subbing in for Subban, the personnel isn't drastically different this season. Then again, former Sabres assistant coach Dan Lambert has been hired to help Preds bench boss Peter Laviolette reconfigure the sputtering power-play attack. Really, there's only one way to go and it's up.

Is it a stretch to suggest Nashville's PP will climb from 31st to first? Sure. It wouldn't be wild, though, considering the talent the coaching staff has at its disposal and the fresh mind manning the coach's clipboard.

Panthers rise to first in the Atlantic

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The Atlantic Division is arguably tops in hockey. It may not be as deep as the Central, but its top-end teams are among the league's best. The Lightning are the runaway favorites, and the Leafs and Bruins are both talented enough to take the crown. However, the Panthers can't be ruled out.

Florida would certainly need some things to falls its way, but on paper, the Cats have a chance.

The top-six forward group, led by two-way star Aleksander Barkov, can compete with the division's heavyweights. Depth was an issue, but it's been improved with the additions of Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari. Anton Stralman was brought in to stabilize the back end, but the biggest key on D will be former No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad taking a leap in his development. With head coach Joel Quenneville now at the helm, it's possible. Lastly, two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky addresses a major need between the pipes.

No player exceeds 100 penalty minutes

The last time a player led the league in penalty minutes with fewer than 100 was back in 1945-46 when there were only 47 games in a season. Six players recorded 100 PIMs or more last season, but we're predicting none will reach the mark in 2019-20:

Player Team PIMs
Evander Kane SJ 153
Tom Wilson WSH 128
Antoine Roussel VAN 118
Ian Cole COL 115
Brendan Lemieux NYR 108
Zack Kassian EDM 102

This follows the league-wide trend of fighting majors declining each season, but, of course, it'll require some players to be on their best behavior.

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10 important questions entering the 2019-20 NHL season

With the NHL's regular season near, here are 10 questions worth pondering:

When will the final RFA holdouts re-sign?

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And then there were five.

Following months of inactivity and a few weeks of progress, the list of high-profile restricted free agents has dwindled. Winnipeg Jets wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are still unsigned, while Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point, Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, and Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk also remain sidelined.

It takes only one productive phone call to steer a contract negotiation toward a resolution, though. So, theoretically, all five RFA holdouts could be ready for opening night in early October. However, there's a good chance one or two of the situations will still be at an impasse.

Based on reports, Laine seems most likely to follow William Nylander's lead. Last year, Nylander signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs literally minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline, and there's no reason to believe Laine won't entertain a similar wait-and-see strategy, as his camp and the Jets aren't on the same page.

Winnipeg has the most to lose here. Not only do the Jets have multiple RFAs unsigned, but they're also shorthanded in general. Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers are playing elsewhere and Dustin Byfuglien is on a leave of absence. It could be a full-blown crisis soon in Manitoba if these holdouts drag into the season.

Is this the year the Penguins hit a fork in the road?

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The 2018-19 season was not a pretty one for the Pittsburgh Penguins. While a 100-point campaign would appear positive, the Penguins' was filled with distractions - mainly the feud between now-departed Phil Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan - and ended with a surprising first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders.

Time is running out for Pittsburgh's veteran core, and the Penguins need a bounce-back year from Evgeni Malkin to have any shot at making a deep playoff run.

There are other questions to be answered, too. Can Alex Galchenyuk live up to his potential? Is the defense - specifically, the third pairing of Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson - too slow for today's NHL? Will the head-scratching six-year, $21-million deal handed to Brandon Tanev bear fruit?

This team's ceiling is another Stanley Cup, but it's easy to see how things could go sideways.

Who will have a better rookie season: Hughes, Kakko, or Makar?

Michael Martin / Getty Images

Good luck predicting the Calder Trophy race.

Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, and Cale Makar - the marquee names of the incoming rookie class - are all built for the modern game. Hughes is Connor McDavid lite down the middle, Kakko is a goal-scoring force of nature on the wing, and Makar is a rover-type blue-liner with wheels. There's little doubt about their skill sets and potential.

On the surface, Makar has the upper hand in the Calder conversation thanks to a 10-game stint with the Avalanche during the 2018-19 playoffs. But Hughes' preseason highlight reel and Kakko's NHL readiness should give prognosticators pause. Regardless, expect an immediate impact from all three.

What has to go right for the Oilers to make playoffs?

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In short, everything.

Starting in the crease, Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith need to push each other. The Edmonton Oilers don't necessarily need one to grab the job and run with it, but the pair should trade hot stretches enough throughout the year so the team doesn't go into a lull for 10 to 15 games.

On the blue line, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson need to regain their 2016-17 form. Klefbom has battled injuries over the last two years and Larsson had to deal with the death of his father. Both blue-liners need to be at their best. Additionally, Darnell Nurse needs to continue to make strides.

Up front, it's basically a given that McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will do their thing, but what about the rest? It's a tall task, but if Edmonton's other three lines can break even in more games than not, the Oilers have a shot at the postseason. That's a giant "if," though.

Whose offseason will prove most worthwhile: Rangers, Panthers, or Devils?

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On aggregate, the Eastern Conference stole the show this summer. Specifically, two teams in the Metropolitan and one in the Atlantic did.

Free agency's biggest catches, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, settled in with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers, respectively. Legendary coach Joel Quenneville signed on to coach Bobrovsky and the upstart Panthers. P.K. Subban landed with the New Jersey Devils in a draft-weekend trade. And Hughes and Kakko were scooped up by the Devils and Rangers, respectively, the day before.

Also of note: The Panthers brought in Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman, the Devils acquired Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev, and the Rangers added Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. Clearly, the three teams have positioned themselves for immediate improvement.

On paper, they're all better. What's not so clear is which of these franchises will benefit from these moves the most over the course of the season.

Do the Blackhawks have a second wind with Kane and Toews?

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The Chicago Blackhawks have missed the playoffs in back-to-back campaigns and haven't won a postseason series since their Stanley Cup triumph in 2015. Last season was a transition year. Quenneville was fired after 15 games and the team took some time adjusting to Jeremy Colliton, going 3-13-1 in the young coach's first 17 contests.

Eventually, things started to click.

The offense worked its way into a groove, the power play became lethal, and the club finished the season on a 27-18-8 run. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and several others had career-best offensive seasons, but goal prevention was still an issue. This was addressed in the offseason, though.

Vezina finalist Robin Lehner was signed in free agency to give the club a potent one-two punch in goal when Corey Crawford is healthy, which wasn't the case for a large chunk of last season. And while they weren't sexy additions, modest upgrades were made to the blue line in the form of Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

If the Blackhawks can tighten up defensively, this team could make some noise again as Kane and Toews continue to play at a high level.

Can Kessel help Coyotes snap playoff drought?

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The Arizona Coyotes' leading scorer last year was - wait for it - Brad Richardson, who had 15 goals. General manager John Chayka had a serious problem on his hands, but the offseason acquisition of Phil Kessel was certainly a step in the right direction.

Will Kessel and his 30-to-40 goals be enough? The Coyotes haven't made the playoffs since 2011-12 and, while a clean bill of health would go a long way, aren't locked into a spot this year, either.

Coach Rick Tocchet's most dangerous forwards include Kessel, Clayton Keller, and Derek Stepan. A solid trio, sure, but not exactly a murderers' row. Goaltending and defense have been the club's strengths over the past few seasons, and those groups will be relied upon once again to lead the charge in 2019-20.

The NHL is in a better spot when all of its teams are competitive. Lengthy playoff droughts - Arizona's is up to seven years - in a standings system that promotes parity are a bad look, and it's a dynamic that stunts the sport's growth in certain areas of North America.

How good can Binnington be?

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He's now a hero in St. Louis, but Jordan Binnington is still a bit of a wild card entering the season. He started last year by putting up historically great numbers before coming back down to earth in the latter stages, despite doing all he needed to do to win a Stanley Cup.

Stat 1st 18 starts Next 12 starts Playoffs
Rec. 15-2-1 9-3-0 16-10
GAA 1.49 2.36 2.46
SV% .942 .912 .914
SO 5 0 1

Which Binnington will the Blues get over the course of a full season? And when he struggles for the first time at the NHL level, how will he respond?

By all indications, Binnington is as cool as a cucumber and will be able to handle any adversity thrown his way. However, he's more likely to settle into the .910-to-.915 save percentage range than he is to become one of the league's elite goaltenders. His ceiling is yet to be determined, though.

Will the Lightning be haunted by early playoff exit?

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Having a historically successful regular season ultimately meant squat. Shockingly, the 2018-19 Lightning (62-16-4) were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

So, what now?

Head coach Jon Cooper is back behind the bench and Kevin Shattenkirk, Luke Schenn, Pat Maroon, and Curtis McElhinney have joined the fold to replace Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, and J.T. Miller. All things considered, Tampa's not significantly worse nor better.

The Lightning could again destroy virtually everything in their path from October to April. Nobody would be surprised if an incredibly deep team led by Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy racks up 120-plus points for the second year in a row.

From Game 1 onwards, though, the postseason will be hanging over the organization's head. Will we look back on last year's sweep to the Columbus Blue Jackets and ultimately chalk it up to a powerhouse having one bad week at the worst possible time, or will we come to realize there's something about the makeup of this roster that's preventing it from finding success in the playoffs?

Will a Canadian team finally win the Cup?

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It's a question that's been asked every season for over 20 years, but we have to bring it up again. Can a team bring the Stanley Cup to Canada?

This year's prospects are quite bleak. The Toronto Maple Leafs provide the best hope, and the Flames aren't too far behind. After that? Canada will be lucky to have a third team even make the playoffs.

The Jets are spiraling downhill, the Oilers likely haven't done enough to build around McDavid, and the Vancouver Canucks are trending in the right direction but may be another year away from making the playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens are good, but probably not good enough in a deep division, and the Ottawa Senators are in the infancy stages of a rebuild.

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NHL trade deadline primer: Strategies for all Western Conference teams

Ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline, we examine where each Western Conference team stands and what strategies they should employ heading into Feb. 25.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are in a precarious position.

A month ago, selling seemed like the obvious path. Now, with the Western Conference jammed up and the Hawks back in the playoff picture on the strength of nine wins in their last 11 games, the plan is far from concrete.

GM Stan Bowman recently stated the decision to buy or to sell hadn't yet been made. The smart strategy might be to hold tight; the Blackhawks shouldn't expect to compete with the West's giants in the postseason - if they make it - but they also don't want to wave the white flag.

A fringe player in, a late round draft pick out. That's the type of deal that aligns with Chicago's place in the current landscape.

Verdict: Hold

Colorado Avalanche

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

There's likely little long-term benefit to the Avalanche acquiring anything of substance as the season winds down. They're desperate for depth at both forward and defense. A few deadline deals won't change that reality.

Plus, according to GM Joe Sakic, the club's biggest trade chips - two 2019 first-round picks, both of which could end up being top-10 selections - are being kept under lock and key.

From a selling perspective, who, aside from Colorado's untouchables, might be of interest to other general managers? Perhaps a contender takes a flyer on a pending unrestricted free agent, like Gabriel Bourque, Patrik Nemeth, or Colin Wilson (currently injured). That's about it, though.

Don't expect fireworks out of Denver.

Verdict: Hold

Dallas Stars

In a contentious, name-calling state at the end of 2018, the Stars organization has recently focused on winning hockey games, and it's worked wonders.

It's mid-February and the dysfunctional Stars are in a position to add, not subtract, as they move to snag a divisional playoff spot. There are some phone calls to be made by general manager Jim Nill; he says he wants a scorer, but the club will likely be taking a vigilant approach to acquiring anything that can help a playoff run.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported Tuesday that the 29-24-5 Stars are in the hunt for Artemi Panarin and Mats Zuccarello. The outcome of the pursuit remains to be seen.

Verdict: Buyer

Minnesota Wild

Mike Stobe / National Hockey League / Getty

Paul Fenton, the Wild's rookie GM, has reportedly been given the "green light" from ownership to "do whatever he sees fit to improve this team either now or for the future heading into the trade deadline."

If Fenton resets for the future, Eric Staal (soon-to-be UFA making $3.5 million) and Charlie Coyle ($3.2M this season and next) may be out the door, with contenders usually looking to add a forward with size at this time of year. Then again, Staal has some say in his fate with a modified no-trade clause.

The definition of an average NHL team, Minnesota could be ripe for a teardown sooner than later. Sometime prior to the deadline wouldn't be a terrible starting point, seeing as the Wild's 23-man roster includes five pending unrestricted free agents.

Verdict: Seller

Nashville Predators

As per tradition, the Predators are set on the back end and in goal, but not up front. Despite ranking 13th in offense, Nashville's forward group feels incomplete, and recent additions - Brian Boyle from New Jersey and Cody McLeod from the Rangers - don't do enough to solve the lack of finishers.

Numerous scoring threats are believed to be on the trading block, and the Preds are after one of Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Longtime GM David Poile is no stranger to significant deals. Could forwards Kevin Fiala, 22, and Eeli Tolvanen, 19, be part of a package going the other way?

Verdict: Buyer

St. Louis Blues

Bruce Kluckhohn / National Hockey League / Getty

The Blues are a complete mystery at the moment.

Undisputed winners of the offseason, they fell on their faces out of the gate, winning just nine of their first 25 games and firing their coach in the process. Fast forward and St. Louis is a league-best 16-4-1 in 2019. The team is finally on the right side of the playoff line and currently riding a 10-game winning streak.

So, the Blues are buyers, right? Or, at the very least, they'll hold, no? Not so fast.

GM Doug Armstrong traded away Paul Stastny around last year's deadline because he didn't think his squad, which had been sniffing a playoff spot, was a contender. Will the same scenario play out again?

Right now, it appears it's all up in the air.

Verdict: ?

Winnipeg Jets

Do you hear that? It's Mark Stone's music.

Stone heading to the Jets is far from a guarantee, but based on recent rumblings, there's a believable scenario in which the Senators ship the Winnipeg native home if a contract extension in Ottawa can't be reached.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't tipping his hand but it's only a matter of time before he pulls the trigger on a sizeable deal. The 2018-19 edition of his club is stacked, especially on offense, but could use an infusion from the outside.

The haul may be Stone or his teammate - and potential Jets No. 2 center - Matt Duchene. Or, perhaps, another forward with name value.

Winnipeg has a 2019 first-round pick and prospects Nic Petan and Sami Niku to dangle. Buckle up.

Verdict: Buyer

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Matt Zambonin / National Hockey League / Getty

The Ducks are 2-1-0 with GM Bob Murray as head coach, but he likely inserted himself behind the bench to get a closer look at his team moving forward. Anaheim is just five points out of a playoff spot but the underlying numbers suggest this team is lucky to be within striking distance.

A decision will need to be made on the team's lone key pending unrestricted free agent in Jakob Silfverberg. The Ducks would like to re-sign the two-way forward, but without a deal in place, he'll need to be traded. There will be no shortage of suitors for Silfverberg and Anaheim has some up-and-coming forwards who could replace him in the lineup.

Veteran netminder Ryan Miller is also a pending UFA and could generate some interest as insurance for a contender, but he'd have to waive his no-trade clause.

Verdict: Seller

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have dealt with so many injuries they're tough to properly evaluate. Like most teams in the logjam that is the Western Conference, Arizona is still in the playoff hunt, but mortgaging the future for the top rental doesn't seem smart.

With Jordan Weal and Richard Panik as the team's top pending free agents, the Coyotes aren't primed to be deadline sellers either. A deal to help the team's offense beyond this season without giving up a first-rounder would be ideal, though unlikely. A depth forward such as Thomas Vanek, for example, could be added for a late-round pick. Otherwise, don't expect Arizona to make much noise.

Verdict: Hold

Calgary Flames

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

How confident are the Flames going into the playoffs with David Rittich between the pipes? He saved Calgary's season in the early going but has authored an .889 save percentage over his last 13 games. Could general manager Brad Treliving be in the market for someone like Jimmy Howard?

Regardless of whether the Flames decide to trust their goaltending, finding a top-six winger to play alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk should be a priority. Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, Mats Zuccarello, and Gustav Nyquist would all be nice fits.

Verdict: Buyer

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers should be looking toward next season. Believe it or not, Alex Chiasson is Edmonton's only attractive rental chip, and interim GM Keith Gretzky should move him for the best offer possible.

How the Oilers handle Jesse Puljujarvi could be interesting. The organization has a history of giving up on players too early, but it's clear the young forward needs a change of scenery. If the right deal presents itself, then pulling the trigger isn't a bad idea, but Gretzky should by no means simply take the best offer he gets for the young Finn.

Verdict: Seller

Los Angeles Kings

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Kings already dealt one of their best trade chips, sending Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-rounder and two prospects. Carl Hagelin is L.A.'s top pending UFA, but any veteran not named Drew Doughty or Anze Kopitar should be made available ahead of the deadline. That includes Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alec Martinez.

With most veterans signed beyond this year, the Kings don't need to ship off their best trade chips before Feb. 25, as they could get better offers in the summer. Still, there could be deadline movement in Los Angeles.

Verdict: Seller

San Jose Sharks

Doug Wilson did most of his heavy lifting in the offseason, acquiring perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson. Even though Wilson is one of the league's savviest GMs and the Sharks are in win-now mode, it could be a rather quiet deadline in the Bay Area.

San Jose's biggest weakness this season has been in goal, but Martin Jones' impressive playoff resume (.927 save percentage, 2.07 goals-against average in 42 games) provides optimism he can come up big when it matters most.

Even with limited cap space, Wilson should still be able to add one more top-nine forward and perhaps a depth defenseman, but don't expect the Sharks to be players for any of the high-profile names.

Verdict: Buyer

Vancouver Canucks

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

Many predicted the Canucks would be a lottery team, but the emergence of Elias Pettersson has them right in the playoff hunt. Pettersson's rookie year, however, isn't the time to be dealing future assets for rentals.

In fact, Vancouver should be looking in the opposite direction. If defenseman Alexander Edler is willing to waive his no-trade clause, there'd be no shortage of suitors lined up for his services. He's expressed a desire to stay in Vancouver, but he could conceivably join a contender for the stretch run before re-signing with the Canucks on July 1. It'd be a win-win.

Verdict: Seller

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights sit comfortably in a playoff spot but will likely face a daunting first-round playoff matchup against either the Sharks or Flames without home-ice advantage. They shouldn't be looking to deal from their thin, top-heavy prospect pool in exchange for short-term gain.

Vegas does, however, hold a combined seven picks in rounds three through five of the 2019 draft, and could use that capital to add depth to the lineup. A third-line right winger would give the Golden Knights three formidable lines.

Verdict: Buyer

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NHL trade deadline primer: Strategies for all Eastern Conference teams

Ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline, we examine where each Eastern Conference team stands and what strategies they should employ heading into Feb. 25.

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins

A first-round matchup against the Maple Leafs seems inevitable for the Bruins, and though they've had Toronto's number before, the Leafs are much deeper than in years past. Boston's top line scares every opponent but its bottom nine pales in comparison to Toronto's.

The Bruins need to be aggressive in pursuing one of the top available wingers such as Artemi Panarin or potentially Mark Stone. If general manager Don Sweeney strikes out on the big fish, he should acquire a cheaper rental such as Gustav Nyquist, Wayne Simmonds, or Mats Zuccarello. The Bruins need to add a top-six forward, especially with David Pastrnak sidelined.

Verdict: Buyer

Buffalo Sabres

Rob Marczynski / National Hockey League / Getty

November notwithstanding, the Sabres have failed to make the necessary strides to enter this season's playoff conversation and therefore shouldn't be looking to improve through rentals.

But Buffalo also shouldn't be looking to sell. Jeff Skinner is the team's only key pending unrestricted free agent and general manager Jason Botterill should do everything he can to sign the sniper to a long-term extension. Recent reports suggest the front office is trying. Unless there's a player available who can help Buffalo beyond this season, the club should wait until the offseason to address its many needs.

Verdict: Hold

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings already hold eight picks in the first five rounds of the 2019 draft and could add more before the trade deadline. Gustav Nyquist and goaltender Jimmy Howard are Detroit's two biggest pending unrestricted free agents and both could garner a nice return, especially if a market develops for Howard. Thomas Vanek, Niklas Kronwall, and Nick Jensen don't have the same appeal, but they could also generate some interest as soon-to-be free agents.

Detroit is clearly rebuilding and needs to acquire the best future assets possible in exchange for expiring contracts.

Verdict: Seller

Florida Panthers

Patrick McDermott / National Hockey League / Getty

Many expected the Panthers to be a playoff team this season, but they're well out of the postseason mix leading up to the deadline. Florida's core should stay intact through Feb. 25, but the roster features several pending unrestricted free agents including Jamie McGinn, Derick Brassard, and Riley Sheahan. Brassard and Sheahan only recently joined the Panthers following a trade from the Penguins. All three should be moved to acquire cap space and trade assets the team can use to improve this summer.

Verdict: Seller

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are one of the NHL's most surprising teams this year. Preseason prognosticators pegged them as a potential lottery team; instead, they're primed for a playoff appearance.

Still, Montreal shouldn't be looking to deal from its revamped farm system in exchange for rentals. If there's a player with term available, it's worth exploring a trade. But going all-in during a season that should already be considered a success doesn't seem worth it, especially considering the Canadiens could meet Tampa Bay in the first round.

Verdict: Hold

Ottawa Senators

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Senators' plan to trade Matt Duchene while they attempt to sign Mark Stone is the right move. Stone is captain material and only 26 years old. Given that he's never relied on speed for success, he should age better than most on a potential eight-year deal.

If Stone and the Sens can't reach an agreement soon, however, the team needs to trade him as well. The same goes for the pending unrestricted free agent flying under the radar in Ottawa: Ryan Dzingel.

Trading Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel would mean even more short-term pain in the nation's capital, but the club can't afford to lose them for nothing come July 1.

Verdict: Seller

Tampa Bay Lightning

Is it even possible for the Lightning to make their team better? One wouldn't think so, given their 44-11-4 record. But the Bolts are in a prime position to acquire one of the top available rentals.

With Brayden Point poised to command a hefty cap hit this summer, the Lightning are going to be in cap trouble. Tampa Bay could alleviate this by including one of its long-term contracts, such as J.T. Miller's, in a trade for a game-breaking talent like Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, or Mark Stone.

This is clearly Tampa Bay's year, and acquiring an elite rental player while shedding a long-term contract in the process would kill two birds with one stone.

Verdict: Buyer

Toronto Maple Leafs

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Maple Leafs already gave up their 2019 first-rounder for Jake Muzzin and reportedly won't part with future firsts or their top two defense prospects for a rental.

Toronto could still stand to improve its blue line, specifically on the right side. But that would likely mean moving out Nikita Zaitsev's contract, which may be tough to do midseason. Adding a depth forward who can provide a physical presence may be the Leafs' most realistic way of improving before the deadline.

Verdict: Buyer

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes a complete wild card. One day they're reportedly selling, the next they're reportedly buying, and the third they're reportedly OK with the status quo.

The most common players in the rumor mill are Micheal Ferland (pending UFA), Dougie Hamilton (seemingly always available, no matter who he plays for), and Brett Pesce (of great interest to the Maple Leafs, potentially).

Even if Carolina doesn't sell big, Ferland appears the most likely trade candidate. The 26-year-old winger has 16 goals and 33 points in 50 games and seems destined to test the open market this coming summer, though nothing is set in stone.

It seems there are more questions than answers for Carolina in the lead-up to deadline day.

Verdict: ?

Columbus Blue Jackets

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Like the Senators in the Atlantic, the Blue Jackets are ground zero for trade activity in the Metro.

With the futures of star forward Artemi Panarin and franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky dominating headlines all season, one might label Columbus a seller and call it a day. But the club could turn around and land another impact forward like Matt Duchene or a second-tier player like Marcus Johansson to soften the potential blow of losing one or both of its stars.

Reports suggest GM Jarmo Kekalainen is motivated to both sell and buy. Panarin and Bobrovsky are forcing his hand, but the Blue Jackets are a good hockey team and their fan base needs postseason success.

Verdict: Seller and Buyer

New Jersey Devils

General manager Ray Shero got the party started earlier this month, flipping Brian Boyle and his expiring contract to Nashville for a 2019 second-round pick.

Next up might be Marcus Johansson, the playmaking forward who's run into injury after injury since being acquired from the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2017. Blue-liner Ben Lovejoy and winger Drew Stafford are also worthy of consideration - albeit from a depth perspective. Both are rentals.

Don't be surprised if the Devils' eight draft selections in 2019 balloon to 10 or more by next week.

Verdict: Seller

New York Islanders

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

The John Tavares-less Islanders are slam-dunk buyers. Who woulda thunk it?

With nearly $10 million in cap space and the division lead, GM Lou Lamoriello has wiggle room galore as he looks to capitalize on the club's tremendous first season under head coach Barry Trotz.

New York could use an upgrade on its center depth behind Mathew Barzal. Perhaps Matt Duchene fits the bill? Or, if the Islanders truly believe in themselves, why not take a run at Artemi Panarin, who's counting the days to free agency and is reportedly drawn to metropolitan cities?

The Isles have their first-round pick for this year and beyond at their disposal. All eyes on Lou.

Verdict: Buyer

New York Rangers

It's been more than a year since the Rangers promised their fans a rebuild. Although there's been some movement - last deadline's Ryan McDonagh trade with Tampa is looking like a win-win for both clubs - assets like Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, and Vladislav Namestnikov remain on the roster.

Zuccarello and Hayes are both pending UFAs and should fetch decent returns, while Kreider and Namestnikov have less predictable futures given the extra year on each of their contracts. Three or four of these players could soon be packing their bags. Blue-liner Adam McQuaid is also on an expiring contract.

Verdict: Seller

Philadelphia Flyers

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Barring the unforeseen, these are the final days of Wayne Simmonds' tenure with the Flyers. Several contenders - including the Jets, Lightning, Bruins, and Predators - are believed to be interested in the winger's services, according to TSN's Frank Seravalli.

Chuck Fletcher's goalie-for-goalie trade (Cam Talbot in, Anthony Stolarz out) got the juices flowing. How deep does he cut ahead of his first deadline as Philadelphia's general manager?

The smart money's on Philly waiting until the offseason to assess the team's core, but you never know. The Flyers are volatile.

Verdict: Seller

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins already completed six in-season trades, reeling in the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Tanner Pearson, and Jared McCann up front, as well as Marcus Pettersson on the back end.

Pittsburgh is playing with fire, alternating between losing skids and winning streaks in 2019, but it's hard to envision GM Jim Rutherford sitting on his hands here. He just doesn't seem to be wired that way, especially since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren't getting any younger.

In terms of player-specific scuttlebutt, Larry Brooks of the New York Post expects Pittsburgh to show interest in Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello.

Verdict: Buyer

Washington Capitals

Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Capitals definitely aren't selling, unless you include their rumored desire to move on from Andre Burakovsky. They lack the cap space to chase a marquee name, but that doesn't mean general manager Brian MacLellan won't attempt to improve around the edges. He's supposedly ready and willing to upgrade his middle-six forward group.

If Washington happens to hold and not make a trade before the deadline, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. Consider them bargain-bin buyers.

Verdict: Buyer

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle mock expansion draft: The full roster

This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021.

Others in the series: Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific |

Let’s get something out of the way off the hop: The Seattle mock expansion draft series has been an exercise dominated by projections.

We don't have all the answers relating to an event that will take place in June 2021. The protected lists and picks we've posted over the past few days and the mock lineup below are educated guesses, not absolute certainties.

Even NHL Seattle senior advisor Dave Tippett - a man who will have his fingerprints all over the actual expansion draft process - is guessing at this point in time, a good 30 months out.

All of that being said, this week we attempted to:

  • Fairly assess not only the trajectory of the 30 NHL clubs faced with filing protected lists in 2021 but also their salary cap situation in the short, medium, and long term

  • Make rational decisions on pending free agents for 2019 and 2020, factoring in each player’s relationship with his current club and perceived motivation to hit the open market

  • Avoid any hypothetical trade or buyout scenarios

The end result? A 30-man roster for the Seattle Whatevers. Enjoy.

Depth chart

Forwards

LW C RW
Kevin Fiala Tyler Johnson TJ Oshie
Ryan Dzingel Vladislav Namestnikov Jakob Silfverberg
Miles Wood Denis Malgin Tyler Toffoli
Nikolay Goldobin Ivan Barbashev Connor Brown
Jason Dickinson Antti Suomela Dominik Kahun
Vladislav Kamenev Jujhar Khaira

Defensemen

LD RD
TJ Brodie Josh Manson
Sami Niku Chris Tanev
Jake Bean Jared Spurgeon
Matt Grzelcyk Philippe Myers
Victor Mete Vili Saarijarvi

Goalies

G
Jonathan Quick
Casey DeSmith
Adin Hill

Roster takeaways

A few thoughts on the projected depth chart:

  • Plenty of modern blue-liners at Seattle's disposal. A top six of TJ Brodie, Josh Manson, Sami Niku, Chris Tanev, Jake Bean, and Jared Spurgeon looks silly-good on paper, especially when you consider the development period between now and the start of the 2021-22 season.
  • Right wing is another strength. Barring major drop-offs in production, TJ Oshie, Jakob Silfverberg, and Tyler Toffoli could form a legitimate one-two-three punch. And Connor Brown, who will be 27, slides in nicely in the four-spot.
  • As for weaknesses, the center position lacks both a star and depth, and goaltending is very much up in the air. None of the six pivots seem fit for first-line duty, while Jonathan Quick's age may deem him largely irrelevant. Also of note: Casey DeSmith and Adin Hill are still vastly unproven at this point, so nothing is a sure thing.
  • Overall, as with most expansion rosters, this group lacks offensive catalysts. Who is grabbing the bull by the horns up front? Who is the go-to playmaker? A guy like Kevin Fiala, for instance, is probably more of a complementary piece than a line driver. Seattle, like Vegas last year, would be scoring by committee in the early going of its inaugural season.

Seattle mock expansion draft series:
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle mock expansion draft: Pacific Division’s protection lists, picks

This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Pacific Division.

Others in the series: Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Full Seattle Roster

Before diving into our Pacific Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:

  • Teams must submit a protected-players list of either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • All players with no-movement clauses must be protected

  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked

  • Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt

And some notes about our process:

  • We assumed most 2019 and '20 restricted free agents will re-sign with their current club
  • We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave

  • We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021

  • In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause

Anaheim Ducks

Pos. Protected players
F Ryan Getzlaf
F Ryan Kesler
F Adam Henrique
F Rickard Rakell
F Ondrej Kase
F Nick Ritchie
F Sam Steel
D Hampus Lindholm
D Cam Fowler
D Brandon Montour
G John Gibson

Pick: Josh Manson (D)
Other considerations: Pontus Aberg (F), Max Comtois (F), Corey Perry (F, UFA 2021)

The Ducks could find themselves in a pickle if they don't move a defenseman before the expansion draft. They could protect Lindholm, Fowler, Montour, and Manson, but that would limit themselves to protecting four forwards and they'd almost certainly lose either Kase or Steel. Needing offense, we project the Ducks would bite the bullet and go with seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. This will expose Manson, handing Seattle a tough, shutdown rearguard.

Calgary Flames

Derek Leung / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Johnny Gaudreau
F Sean Monahan
F Matthew Tkachuk
F Elias Lindholm
F Sam Bennett
F Mikael Backlund
F Dillon Dube
D Noah Hanifin
D Rasmus Andersson
D Juuso Valimaki
G David Rittich

Pick: TJ Brodie (D)
Other considerations: Mark Giordano (D), James Neal (F), Oliver Kylington (D), Mark Jankowski (F)

Could Neal be taken in consecutive expansion drafts? It's a possibility, but we don't think it will happen, considering the availability of both Brodie and Giordano. Even though we believe Calgary will re-sign Brodie - and let Travis Hamonic walk - in 2020, he's the pick here. At 31, he'll be seven years younger than Giordano for Seattle's first season.

Edmonton Oilers

Pos. Protected players
F Connor McDavid
F Leon Draisaitl
F Milan Lucic
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
F Kailer Yamamoto
F Jesse Puljujarvi
F Tyler Benson
D Oscar Klefbom
D Darnell Nurse
D Adam Larsson
G Thomas Greiss*

Pick: Jujhar Khaira (F)
Other considerations: Matt Benning (D), Ty Rattie (F), Valentin Zykov (F), Mikko Koskinen (G)

The Oilers don't have the cap flexibility to make significant free-agent additions over the next few years, but we do have them signing Greiss to replace Cam Talbot in goal. With little to choose from, it seems plausible Seattle would pluck Khaira, a versatile forward with size, strength, and underrated skill.

Los Angeles Kings

Adam Pantozzi / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Anze Kopitar
F Jeff Carter
F Adrian Kempe
F Alex Iafallo
F Craig Smith*
F Sheldon Rempal
F Matt Luff
D Drew Doughty
D Travis Hamonic*
D Cale Klague
G Cal Petersen

Pick: Jonathan Quick (G)
Other considerations: Dustin Brown (F), Nikita Scherbak (F), Derek Forbort (D), Sean Walker (D)

We're projecting the Kings will sign Smith and Hamonic in free agency to replace Tyler Toffoli and Jake Muzzin. In a youth movement, we expect the Kings will leave franchise legends Brown and Quick exposed. Although Walker - a puck-moving defenseman who's posted gaudy numbers in the AHL - is enticing, we think Seattle will start its existence with Quick, a former Conn Smythe winner, between the pipes.

San Jose Sharks

Pos. Protected players
F Logan Couture
F Evander Kane
F Joe Pavelski
F Tomas Hertl
F Timo Meier
F Joonas Donskoi
F Kevin Labanc
D Brent Burns
D Erik Karlsson
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic
G Martin Jones

Pick: Antti Suomela (F)
Other considerations: Marcus Sorensen (F), Joakim Ryan (D)

We don't believe the Sharks' roster will look a whole lot different three years from now, with a number of pending free agents signing up for more time in the Bay Area - most notably Karlsson and Pavelski. Although this leaves Seattle with few enticing options, Suomela would provide the first-year club with some much-needed depth down the middle.

Vancouver Canucks

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Elias Pettersson
F Bo Horvat
F Brock Boeser
F Wayne Simmonds*
F Jake Virtanen
F Jonathan Dahlen
F Adam Gaudette
D Justin Faulk*
D Olli Juolevi
D Quinn Hughes
G Thatcher Demko

Pick: Nikolay Goldobin (F)
Other considerations: Sven Baertschi (F), Ben Hutton (D), Troy Stecher (D)

As the Canucks shift from a rebuilding team to a contending squad, we envision them signing Simmonds this summer and Faulk in 2020. Seattle would likely take a long look at Hutton, who's having a strong season, but ultimately wind up selecting Goldobin, who's oozing with potential.

Seattle mock expansion draft series:
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle mock expansion draft: Central Division’s protection lists, picks

This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Central Division.

Others in the series: Atlantic | Metropolitan | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Before diving into our Central Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:

  • Teams must submit a protected-players list of either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • All players with no-movement clauses must be protected

  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked

  • Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt

And some notes about our process:

  • We assumed most 2019 and '20 restricted free agents will re-sign with their current club
  • We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave

  • We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021

  • In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause

Arizona Coyotes

Pos. Protected players
F Jordan Eberle*
F Alex Galchenyuk
F Clayton Keller
F Christian Dvorak
F Nick Schmaltz
F Christian Fischer
F Vinnie Hinostroza
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
D Jakob Chychrun
D Kyle Copobianco
G Antti Raanta

Pick: Adin Hill (G)
Other considerations: Lawson Crouse (F), Derek Stepan (F, UFA 2021), Michael Grabner (F, UFA 2021), Jason Demers (D, UFA 2021), Alex Goligoski (D, UFA 2021)

We envision the goal-starved Coyotes - who will move to the Central Division upon Seattle's arrival - landing a consistent offensive producer in free agency, such as Eberle. Crouse, a hulking power forward and former No. 11 overall pick, could be a tempting expansion pick, but we have Seattle selecting its potential goalie of the future in Hill. Arizona could leave Ranta unprotected if he continues to be hampered by injuries, but it's still too early to say.

Chicago Blackhawks

Bill Smith / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Patrick Kane
F Jonathan Toews
F Alex DeBrincat
F Brendan Perlini
F Dylan Strome
F Brandon Saad
F Dylan Sikura
D Duncan Keith
D Brent Seabrook
D Henri Jokiharju
G Colin Delia

Pick: Dominik Kahun (F)
Other considerations: Michael Frolik* (F), Alexandre Fortin (F), John Hayden (F), Gustav Forsling (D), Anton Forsberg (G), Corey Crawford (G)

There are a variety of choices here for Seattle, including Frolik, the versatile two-way winger who we believe returns to the Blackhawks in free agency. Seattle could add a goalie - such as a re-signed Crawford - but the smart bet is on it picking Kahun, the 23-year-old shifty forward who was arguably the best player on Germany's silver medal-winning squad at the 2018 Olympics.

Colorado Avalanche

Pos. Protected players
F Nathan MacKinnon
F Gabriel Landeskog
F Mikko Rantanen
F Tyson Jost
F Alex Kerfoot
F J.T. Compher 
F Chris Kreider*
D Erik Johnson
D Tyson Barrie
D Samuel Girard
G Philipp Grubauer

Pick: Vladislav Kamenev (F)
Other considerations: Jason Spezza* (F) Nikita Zadorov (D), Conor Timmins (D), Cam Talbot* (G)

With plenty of cap space and a lack of scoring depth, we see the Avalanche filling this need by signing Spezza in 2019 and Kreider in 2020. We also project they will add Talbot after Semyon Varlamov departs in 2019. Under these circumstances, Seattle could consider Timmins, though there's a ton uncertainty swirling around the 2017 second-rounder, as he's missed this entire season with a head injury and has yet to play a professional game. Instead, we see Seattle taking Kamenev, a lesser-known key piece in the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris three-way trade.

Dallas Stars

David Becker / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Tyler Seguin
F Jamie Benn
F Alexander Radulov
F Matt Duchene*
F Radek Faksa
F Denis Gurianov
F Devin Shore
D John Klingberg
D Miro Heiskanen
D Esa Lindell
G Ben Bishop

Pick: Jason Dickinson (F)
Other considerations: Valeri Nichushkin (F), Mattias Janmark (F), Julius Honka (D)

We project the Stars to land Duchene - 2019's biggest free agent - for a variety of reasons. They have both the cap space and need for a second-line center, have a win-now mentality, and are able to offer warm weather and Texas' low state-tax rate. In turn, Seattle selects the hard-working Dickson instead of underachievers Nichushkin and Honka.

Minnesota Wild

Pos. Protected players
F Zach Parise
F Mikael Granlund
F Jason Zucker
F Nino Niederreiter
F Joel Eriksson Ek
F Jordan Greenway
F Luke Kunin
D Ryan Suter
D Matt Dumba
D Jonas Brodin
G Kaapo Kahkonen

Pick: Jared Spurgeon (D)
Other considerations: Eric Staal (F), Nick Seeler (D), Devan Dubnyk (G, UFA 2021)

The Wild went to great lengths to keep their top four defensemen intact during the 2017 expansion draft, but it cost them Alex Tuch and Erik Haula - two valuable pieces for the Vegas Golden Knights. This time around, we see them learning their lesson. Still, Seattle scoops up Spurgeon, an effective two-way blue-liner who could potentially serve as a nice trade chip. Staal and Dubnyk will be too old for Seattle's liking.

Nashville Predators

Frederick Breedon / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F FIlip Forsberg
F Ryan Johansen
F Viktor Arvidsson
F Eeli Tolvanen
D P.K. Subban
D Roman Josi
D Ryan Ellis
D Mattias Ekholm
G Juuse Saros

Pick: Kevin Fiala (F)
Other considerations: Kyle Turris (F), Calle Jarnkrok (F), Ryan Hartman (F), Pekka Rinne (G, UFA 2021)

Despite the lack of centers available, we think Seattle passes on Turris, who will be 32 in 2021-22, instead choosing Fiala, a promising winger who will be just 25 years old for Seattle's inaugural season. The Predators could go with the more popular 7-3-1 format, but then they'd almost certainly lose one of their elite defensemen. Subban, Ellis, and Ekholm are all locked up, and we envision Josi re-signing in 2020.

St. Louis Blues

Pos. Protected players
F Vladimir Tarasenko
F Ryan O'Reilly
F Brayden Schenn
F Jaden Schwartz
F Robert Thomas
F Jordan Kyrou
F Robby Fabbri
D Alex Pietrangelo
D Colton Parayko
D Vince Dunn
G Jake Allen

Pick: Ivan Barbashev (F)
Other considerations: Zach Sanford (F), David Perron (F), Joel Edmundson (D)

We predict new contracts for Schenn (2020 UFA), Schwartz (2021), and Allen (2021), which leads to the next question: could Perron be the first player ever to be plucked by two different expansion teams - and from the same team? We don't think so, as Seattle will look to fill a need by selecting Barbashev, a young two-way center who hasn't quite yet hit his stride.

Winnipeg Jets

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Mark Scheifele
F Blake Wheeler
F Patrik Laine
F Nikolaj Ehlers
F Bryan Little
F Kyle Connor
F Jack Roslovic
D Dustin Byfuglien
D Jacob Trouba
D Josh Morrissey
G Connor Hellebuyck

Pick: Sami Niku (D)
Other considerations: Logan Stanley (D), Nic Petan (F)

We project the Jets will remain contenders three years from now, but they will need the heart and soul of their team, Byfuglien, to make a run at the cup. This leaves two promising blue-liners - Niku and Stanley - exposed. Stanley, a 6-foot-7 former first-rounder, is far less proven than Niku, who was named AHL defenseman of the year last season.

Seattle mock expansion draft series:
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle mock expansion draft: Central Division’s protection lists, picks

This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Central Division.

Others in the series: Atlantic | Metropolitan | Pacific (Friday) | Full Seattle Roster (Friday)

Before diving into our Central Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:

  • Teams must submit a protected-players list of either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • All players with no-movement clauses must be protected

  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked

  • Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt

And some notes about our process:

  • We assumed most 2019 and '20 restricted free agents will re-sign with their current club
  • We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave

  • We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021

  • In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause

Arizona Coyotes

Pos. Protected players
F Jordan Eberle*
F Alex Galchenyuk
F Clayton Keller
F Christian Dvorak
F Nick Schmaltz
F Christian Fischer
F Vinnie Hinostroza
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
D Jakob Chychrun
D Kyle Copobianco
G Antti Raanta

Pick: Adin Hill (G)
Other considerations: Lawson Crouse (F), Derek Stepan (F, UFA 2021), Michael Grabner (F, UFA 2021), Jason Demers (D, UFA 2021), Alex Goligoski (D, UFA 2021)

We envision the goal-starved Coyotes - who will move to the Central Division upon Seattle's arrival - landing a consistent offensive producer in free agency, such as Eberle. Crouse, a hulking power forward and former No. 11 overall pick, could be a tempting expansion pick, but we have Seattle selecting its potential goalie of the future in Hill. Arizona could leave Ranta unprotected if he continues to be hampered by injuries, but it's still too early to say.

Chicago Blackhawks

Bill Smith / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Patrick Kane
F Jonathan Toews
F Alex DeBrincat
F Brendan Perlini
F Dylan Strome
F Brandon Saad
F Dylan Sikura
D Duncan Keith
D Brent Seabrook
D Henri Jokiharju
G Colin Delia

Pick: Dominik Kahun (F)
Other considerations: Michael Frolik* (F), Alexandre Fortin (F), John Hayden (F), Gustav Forsling (D), Anton Forsberg (G), Corey Crawford (G)

There are a variety of choices here for Seattle, including Frolik, the versatile two-way winger who we believe returns to the Blackhawks in free agency. Seattle could add a goalie - such as a re-signed Crawford - but the smart bet is on it picking Kahun, the 23-year-old shifty forward who was arguably the best player on Germany's silver medal-winning squad at the 2018 Olympics.

Colorado Avalanche

Pos. Protected players
F Nathan MacKinnon
F Gabriel Landeskog
F Mikko Rantanen
F Tyson Jost
F Alex Kerfoot
F J.T. Compher 
F Chris Kreider*
D Erik Johnson
D Tyson Barrie
D Samuel Girard
G Philipp Grubauer

Pick: Vladislav Kamenev (F)
Other considerations: Jason Spezza* (F) Nikita Zadorov (D), Conor Timmins (D), Cam Talbot* (G)

With plenty of cap space and a lack of scoring depth, we see the Avalanche filling this need by signing Spezza in 2019 and Kreider in 2020. We also project they will add Talbot after Semyon Varlamov departs in 2019. Under these circumstances, Seattle could consider Timmins, though there's a ton uncertainty swirling around the 2017 second-rounder, as he's missed this entire season with a head injury and has yet to play a professional game. Instead, we see Seattle taking Kamenev, a lesser-known key piece in the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris three-way trade.

Dallas Stars

David Becker / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Tyler Seguin
F Jamie Benn
F Alexander Radulov
F Matt Duchene*
F Radek Faksa
F Denis Gurianov
F Devin Shore
D John Klingberg
D Miro Heiskanen
D Esa Lindell
G Ben Bishop

Pick: Jason Dickinson (F)
Other considerations: Valeri Nichushkin (F), Mattias Janmark (F), Julius Honka (D)

We project the Stars to land Duchene - 2019's biggest free agent - for a variety of reasons. They have both the cap space and need for a second-line center, have a win-now mentality, and are able to offer warm weather and Texas' low state-tax rate. In turn, Seattle selects the hard-working Dickson instead of underachievers Nichushkin and Honka.

Minnesota Wild

Pos. Protected players
F Zach Parise
F Mikael Granlund
F Jason Zucker
F Nino Niederreiter
F Joel Eriksson Ek
F Jordan Greenway
F Luke Kunin
D Ryan Suter
D Matt Dumba
D Jonas Brodin
G Kaapo Kahkonen

Pick: Jared Spurgeon (D)
Other considerations: Eric Staal (F), Nick Seeler (D), Devan Dubnyk (G, UFA 2021)

The Wild went to great lengths to keep their top four defensemen intact during the 2017 expansion draft, but it cost them Alex Tuch and Erik Haula - two valuable pieces for the Vegas Golden Knights. This time around, we see them learning their lesson. Still, Seattle scoops up Spurgeon, an effective two-way blue-liner who could potentially serve as a nice trade chip. Staal and Dubnyk will be too old for Seattle's liking.

Nashville Predators

Frederick Breedon / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F FIlip Forsberg
F Ryan Johansen
F Viktor Arvidsson
F Eeli Tolvanen
D P.K. Subban
D Roman Josi
D Ryan Ellis
D Mattias Ekholm
G Juuse Saros

Pick: Kevin Fiala (F)
Other considerations: Kyle Turris (F), Calle Jarnkrok (F), Ryan Hartman (F), Pekka Rinne (G, UFA 2021)

Despite the lack of centers available, we think Seattle passes on Turris, who will be 32 in 2021-22, instead choosing Fiala, a promising winger who will be just 25 years old for Seattle's inaugural season. The Predators could go with the more popular 7-3-1 format, but then they'd almost certainly lose one of their elite defensemen. Subban, Ellis, and Ekholm are all locked up, and we envision Josi re-signing in 2020.

St. Louis Blues

Pos. Protected players
F Vladimir Tarasenko
F Ryan O'Reilly
F Brayden Schenn
F Jaden Schwartz
F Robert Thomas
F Jordan Kyrou
F Robby Fabbri
D Alex Pietrangelo
D Colton Parayko
D Vince Dunn
G Jake Allen

Pick: Ivan Barbashev (F)
Other considerations: Zach Sanford (F), David Perron (F), Joel Edmundson (D)

We predict new contracts for Schenn (2020 UFA), Schwartz (2021), and Allen (2021), which leads to the next question: could Perron be the first player ever to be plucked by two different expansion teams - and from the same team? We don't think so, as Seattle will look to fill a need by selecting Barbashev, a young two-way center who hasn't quite yet hit his stride.

Winnipeg Jets

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Mark Scheifele
F Blake Wheeler
F Patrik Laine
F Nikolaj Ehlers
F Bryan Little
F Kyle Connor
F Jack Roslovic
D Dustin Byfuglien
D Jacob Trouba
D Josh Morrissey
G Connor Hellebuyck

Pick: Sami Niku (D)
Other considerations: Logan Stanley (D), Nic Petan (F)

We project the Jets will remain contenders three years from now, but they will need the heart and soul of their team, Byfuglien, to make a run at the cup. This leaves two promising blue-liners - Niku and Stanley - exposed. Stanley, a 6-foot-7 former first-rounder, is far less proven than Niku, who was named AHL defenseman of the year last season.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle mock expansion draft: Metro Division’s protection lists, picks

This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Metropolitan Division.

Others in the series: Atlantic | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Before diving into our Metropolitan Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:

  • Teams must submit a protected-players list of either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • All players with no-movement clauses must be protected

  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked

  • Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt

And some notes about our process:

  • We assumed most 2019 and '20 restricted free agents will re-sign with their current club
  • We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave

  • We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021

  • In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause

Carolina Hurricanes

Pos. Protected players
F Jordan Staal
F Teuvo Teravainen
F Sebastian Aho
F Andrei Svechnikov
F Mike Hoffman*
F Martin Necas
F Nicolas Roy
D Dougie Hamilton
D Jaccob Slavin
D Brett Pesce
G Braden Holtby*

Pick: Jake Bean (D)
Other considerations: Micheal Ferland (F), Calvin de Haan (D), Alex Nedeljkovic (G), Callum Booth (G), Janne Kuokkanen (F)

We project the Hurricanes to sign Holtby and Hoffman, who would both land on the protected list. And while it would be tough to watch 2016 first-rounder Bean get plucked for nothing, the club has a surplus of defensemen. Carolina could also potentially lose one of its young goalies - Nedeljkovic or Booth - since the other could be the heir apparent to Holtby, but we predict Seattle opting for Bean due to his upside. Meanwhile, Necas would be exempt if he suits up for fewer than three more NHL games this season, but we expect the talented forward to play an important role down the stretch.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Kirk Irwin / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Cam Atkinson
F Pierre-Luc Dubois
F Alexander Wennberg
F Josh Anderson
D Seth Jones
D Zach Werenski
D Ryan Murray
D Markus Nutivaara
G Sergei Bobrovsky

Pick: Jakob Silfverberg* (F)
Other considerations: Boone Jenner (F), Gabriel Carlsson (D), Joonas Korpisalo (G), David Savard (D, UFA 2021)

The Blue Jackets could have a difficult decision to make in 2021. Do they go with the 7-3-1 format and risk losing a promising blue-liner in Murray or Nutivaara? Or do they protect eight total skaters and risk losing Silfverberg, who we project lands in Columbus after the team loses Artemi Panarin in free agency? We believe the Jackets would prioritize the young top-four defenseman, leaving Seattle with a reliable two-way winger in Silfverberg.

New Jersey Devils

Pos. Protected players
F Taylor Hall
F Kyle Palmieri
F Nico Hischier
F Jesper Bratt
F Blake Coleman
F Michael McLeod
F Joey Anderson
D Sami Vatanen
D Damon Severson
D Will Butcher
G Mackenzie Blackwood

Pick: Miles Wood (F)
Other considerations: Pavel Zacha (F), Brett Seney (F), John Quenneville (F), Cory Schneider (G), Keith Kinkaid (G), Mats Zuccarello* (F), Derick Brassard* (F)

We see the Devils landing some veteran forwards in free agency - namely Brassard and Zuccarello - to improve their forward depth and replace the likes of Marcus Johansson and Brian Boyle. However, those new pieces wouldn't be worth protecting come June 2021, as they'll already have a ton of mileage on their bodies. Seattle could go with a goalie here, but we're thinking the expansion franchise selects Wood - a speedy north-south winger who already has a 19-goal season under his belt.

New York Islanders

Andy Marlin / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Mathew Barzal
F Anders Lee
F Brock Nelson
F Josh Bailey
F Anthony Beauvillier
F Josh Ho-Sang
F Kieffer Bellows
D Ryan Pulock
D Johnny Boychuk
D Scott Mayfield
G Robin Lehner

Pick: Tyler Toffoli* (F)
Other considerations: Michael Dal Colle (F), Nick Leddy (D)

We're projecting the Islanders to land Toffoli as a free agent in 2020 after watching Jordan Eberle jet in 2019. However, Toffoli's track record as a consistent 20-goal scorer likely won't save him from expansion, and he could provide Seattle with a legitimate top-nine forward. It's also possible the Isles' relationship with Ho-Sang goes south over the next 30 months, but for now, the 2014 first-rounder has too much potential to leave off the protected list.

New York Rangers

Pos. Protected players
F Artemi Panarin*
F Mika Zibanejad
F Pavel Buchnevich
F Brett Howden
F Filip Chytil
F Lias Andersson
F Tim Gettinger
D Brady Skjei
D Neal Pionk
D Tony DeAngelo
G Alexandar Georgiev

Pick: Vladislav Namestnikov (F)
Other considerations: Jimmy Vesey (F), Ryan Strome (F), Marc Staal (D, UFA 2021), Kevin Shattenkirk (D, UFA 2021), Henrik Lundqvist (G, UFA 2021)

Already our choice to snag Panarin in free agency this summer, the Rangers appear to benefit most from Seattle's start date moving from 2020 to 2021. The switch allows New York to avoid having to protect Staal, Shattenkirk, and Lundqvist whose contracts all include a no-movement clause and run out in '20-21. (We also predict Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider will find new teams in free agency.) The Rangers could then use three protection spots for youngsters Chytil, Andersson and Howden, leaving Seattle with its pick of a few established forwards. We predict Namestnikov due to his ability to play both center and wing.

Philadelphia Flyers

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Claude Giroux
F Jakub Voracek
F Sean Couturier
F Nolan Patrick
F Travis Konecny
F Oskar Lindblom
F German Rubstov
D Shayne Gostisbehere
D Ivan Provorov
D Travis Sanheim
G Carter Hart

Pick: Philippe Myers (D)
Other considerations: James van Riemsdyk (F), Semyon Varlamov* (G)

Seattle could scoop up a known commodity in Van Riemsdyk, but we don't see the contract he signed this past summer ($35 million over five years) aging well. Instead, it makes more sense for the expansion team to swing for the fences on Myers, a mobile 6-foot-5, 21-year-old blue-liner who somehow went undrafted. We project Philly will sign Varlamov in 2019 - bridging the gap until Hart is ready - and the decision on which goalie to protect should be much easier by 2021.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Pos. Protected players
F Sidney Crosby
F Evgeni Malkin
F Phil Kessel
F Jake Guentzel
F Patric Hornqvist
F Dominik Simon
F Zach Aston-Reese
D Kris Letang
D Brian Dumoulin
D Olli Maatta
G Matt Murray

Pick: Casey DeSmith (G)
Other considerations: Bryan Rust (F), Marcus Pettersson (D), Tanner Pearson (F, UFA 2021), Jamie Oleksiak (D, UFA 2021)

The toughest decision for the Penguins could come in goal. Murray's been awful for a season and a half, but it's too early to write off the two-time Stanley Cup champion. Protecting Murray would leave Seattle with DeSmith, who's posted a stellar .924 save percentage through 34 NHL games. Rust is the only other real contender, though his ceiling doesn't appear to be particularly high.

Washington Capitals

Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today Sports
Pos. Protected players
F Alex Ovechkin
F Evgeny Kuznetsov
F Nicklas Backstrom
F Tom Wilson
F Jakub Vrana
F Lars Eller
F Andre Burakovsky
D John Carlson
D Dmitry Orlov
D Michal Kempny
G Ilya Samsonov

Pick: TJ Oshie (F)
Other considerations: Madison Bowey (D), Christian Djoos (D), Jonas Siegenthaler (D), Matt Niskanen (D, UFA 2021)

Oshie will be 34 to start the 2021-22 season with four years left on his contract. The Washington state native would give Seattle a marketable player with a winning pedigree who could potentially wear a letter. Meanwhile, we project the Capitals will protect Burakovsky - who's just 23 and still has room to grow - along with Kempny rather than 2021 free agent Niskanen and a trio of up-and-coming defensemen.

Seattle mock expansion draft series:
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.