Multiple teams in this upcoming expansion draft have some difficult decisions to make. Only being able to protects either seven forwards, three defenseman and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. Players with no move clauses are forced by their respective teams to protect them unless the player chooses to waive their clause. Players with less than two full years of NHL/AHL experience are exempt from being claimed in the draft. The Nashville Predators have some big choices to make when it comes to making their picks for who to protect.
Nashville has an excellent defensive core and one of the best in the league if you ask me. Subban-Josi and Ellis-Ekholm make for a dominant top four. The problem with that is if Nashville wants to keep that together, they will only be able to keep four of their forwards which they are in desperate need for offensive help. Protecting those four guys would leave forwards like Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, and Pontus Aberg exposed. Jarnkrok is on one of the best deals in the NHL with a very cheap $2 million per year for the next six years. For a thrid line center who will get you 25-30 points per season that is a steal. Viktor Arvidsson who is an RFA after this season, has been a solid contributor on the first line wtih Neal and Forsberg. He was also a prolific scorer in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. Craig Smith has been a key player for over the years being a consistant 20 goal scorer, he is signed through 2020 making $4.5 million per year. Pontus Aberg is one of Nashville’s top prospects who also has had success at the AHL level who is an RFA at the end of this season.
Its clear to me that Vegas would either take Arvidsson or Jarnkrok if they were available. Jarnkrok has too good of a contract to pass up while Arvidsson is the youngest of the group and has shown the best offensive upside. Idealy in that situation for Nashville, Smith is claimed, Nashville frees up cap space, and Aberg replaces his goal scoring.
Now let’s say that they elect to protect just the three defenseman. It comes down to one of either Ekholm or Ellis they can protect. Ekholm is on a longer deal, locked up at $3.75 million until the end of 2022, while Ellis is making $2.5 million until the end of 2019. I would choose Ekholm over Ellis personally, they put up similar numbers but Ekholm’s contract is much better as Ellis is headed for UFA in two seasons.
If I’m David Poile I am keeping the four big defenseman together seeing Nashville is not very deep on defensive prospects. They can only pluck one of the forwards Nashville has. While losing a defenseman is a major blow to any team especially one who plays in the top four.
I would not be surprised to see Nashville make a move to a team who does not have alot of players they need to protect, like Arizona and Carolina. Flipping one of those forwards for even a minor asset is better than losing that player for absolutely nothing.