Who Should The Winnipeg Jets Protect In The Expansion Draft?

Which Winnipeg Jets players will be shielded from Vegas’ cross-hairs? –

Just to preface – This is what I would personally do if I was general manager of our beloved Winnipeg Jets.  It is NOT necessarily what I believe True North and company will do.  This is just one Jets fan’s opinion.  

On June 21, 2017, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will announce their selections for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.  The expansion draft will take place to give the Golden Knights a chance to fill out their roster for the upcoming 2017-18 NHL season.

The Golden Knights will be the first major professional sports team in Sin City (excluding the short-lived Las Vegas Posse of the CFL) and will be required to select one player from each of the 30 other NHL teams for a total of 30 players.


Each NHL team will be able to protect a certain number of players from selection in the expansion draft.  As per NHL.com, the protection rules are as follows:
⦁ Clubs may protect either 7 forwards, 3 defencemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie
⦁ All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement Clauses” (NMC) at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive such clauses) must be protected and will count toward their club’s applicable protection limits
⦁ All first and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and therefore will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits)
⦁ All teams must expose at least one defenseman who is under contract in 2017-18 and played in at least 40 games in 2016-17 or played in 70 games or more in 2016-17 and 2015-16 combined
⦁ All teams must expose two forwards who are under contract for the 2017-18 season and played in at least 40 games in 2016-17 or in 70 or more NHL games in 2016- 17 and 2015-16 combined
⦁ All teams must expose one goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protection list
⦁ Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a club’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players may also be deemed exempt from selection by the NHL
All NHL teams will be required to submit their protection lists by June 17, 2017, with the announcement of Vegas’ selections being made on June 21, 2017.

Now that we’ve gone over the main rules of the expansion draft, let’s talk about who I would protect if I was GM of the Winnipeg Jets.  I decided to go with the seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender option as opposed to the eight skaters and a goaltender option.  With that in mind, these are the players I would protect. 

Forwards: Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Matthieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia, Andrew Copp
defencemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Trouba
Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

Exposed: Shawn Matthias, Marko Dano, Tyler Myers, Ben Chariot, Mark Stuart, Julian Melchiori, Brenden Kichton, Quinton Howden, and Michael Hutchinson.  

UFAs:  Ondrej Pavelec, Chis Thorburn, Brian Strait, and Paul Postma.

Exempt: Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Brandon Tanev, Jack Roslovic, Brendan Lemieux, Eric Comrie, Chase De Leo, Jimmy Lodge, Jamie Phillips, Nelson Nogier, and Jan Kostalek

My locks:  Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Bryan Little are what I consider to be “locks” for protection.  There’s no scenario where I see them left unprotected.  

Forwards –

Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Bryan Little are what I consider to be “locks” for protection.  There’s no scenario where I see them left unprotected.  

Blake Wheeler:  Wheeler is the captain of course and it would be complete lunacy for the Winnipeg Jets to expose their captain.  Combine that with the fact that Wheeler has probably been the Jets best player in the six seasons since the team came from Atlanta, so Blake Wheeler is not going anywhere.

Mark Scheifele:  I think Scheif will be the face of the franchise in the coming years. He was the first ever player drafted by the reborn Winnipeg Jets.  He absolutely loves Winnipeg.  The image of him putting on the generic NHL jersey and cap will always be special to the Winnipeg Jets 2.0.  Scheifele is also great in the community and is someone who True North really likes.  He broke out last season and has blossomed into a legitimate number one center.  He has scored at a point per game for the past season and a half.  He is a hard worker and a great role model for young hockey players in Manitoba.  He obviously is being protected.

Bryan Little:  Little is a solid player who is one of the NHL’s most criminally underrated players.  Although hampered by two major injuries over the past two seasons, Little’s production continues to be dependable.  He’s a veteran on this team and actually played pretty well in the playoffs in 2015, from what I remember.  He is a reliable 2C behind Scheifele, and he’s not going to Vegas. After these three, it becomes a little more interesting.

Mathieu Perreault:  Next on my protection list for forwards is Matty P.  In my opinion, he should also be a lock for protection.  Some would argue that he should be exposed (especially if the Winnipeg Jets choose the 8 skaters option) but I don’t see it. He’s a versatile player, who is an offensive threat whenever he’s on the ice.  He chalks up a lot of assists every season and is a nice playmaker to have on a young offensive team such as the Winnipeg Jets.  He’s also sound defensively.  He’s signed to a healthy contract through 2021.  The one problem I have with Perreault is that he seems to be injury prone.  However, when he’s healthy he is an exceptional player. I’m hoping he can overcome his injury woes. Furthermore, his injury problems aren’t as bad (in my opinion) as another player on the team.  More on that later. In my opinion, he is Chevy’s best free agent signing since the return of the Jets, and he has committed long-term to Winnipeg. For a city that has a reportedly negative reputation as a free agent destination, the fact that Perreault signed here and committed here means a lot.  It would be a slap in the face to expose him.

Adam Lowry:  Up next is the big center, Adam Lowry.  Lowry, a third-round pick out of the WHL in 2011, just scored a career-high 15 goals in his third NHL season with the Winnipeg Jets.  He’s a physical presence on the ice and knows how to use his size to his advantage.  He played very well in the playoffs in his rookie year, and there was even talk of him possibly being the team captain in the future. While I do think that is a little far-fetched (I think Scheifele will eventually succeed Wheeler), it is clear that Lowry will play a part in the Jets future.  On top of that, he was a prolific scorer in junior, and I predict he will hit 20 goals in a season very soon.  He was also a beast on the penalty kill last year and tore it up on a line with Shawn Matthias and Joel Armia.

Joel Armia:  Speaking of our Finnish friend he is next on my protection list.  He is being protected for many of the same reasons Lowry was protected.  Much like Lowry, the 23-year-old forward was a stud on the PK last season.  He is possibly the best penalty killing forward we’ve had in six seasons.  He’s also got a nice pair of hands; does anyone remember his goal against Dallas a couple of years ago? YouTube it if you don’t remember it.  Absolutely filthy.  He was also taken 16th overall in 2011 by Buffalo, so maybe he still has the potential to grow and become even better.  In the meantime, he’s a great third line player.  The main reason I went with the 7-3-1 route over the eight skaters route is because I wanted to protect both Lowry and Armia.  The 7-3-1 route allows me to do so without exposing any locks.

Andrew Copp:  The final forward on my protection list is Andrew Copp.  It was really a toss-up between him and Marko Dano.  It really just boiled down to personal preference.  Copp is a solid addition to the fourth line and PK.  Problem is, the Jets have a seemingly plethora of young forwards who also fit this description.  I’m hoping his relationship with Jacob Trouba will help the team in retaining Trouba (if the problem still exists).  Copp has also been pretty decent at face-offs in the past, which is another plus.  

Although I’m choosing to protect Copp, I wouldn’t lose my mind if Dano was instead protected.  Dano has produced at a decent rate in the NHL so far and has been pretty good for the Jets since coming over in the Andrew Ladd deal.  He is also a former first round pick.  I actually think that the Jets will end up protecting Dano over Copp.


Defencemen –

Dustin Byfuglien:  Buff is an obvious choice for protection.  The 32-year-old, 260 pound product of Roseau, Minnesota is fresh off the first year of his five-year contract. That contract included a No Movement Clause (NMC), which means that Buff must be protected. This is not a bad thing. Byfuglien would be protected regardless.  When on his game, Big Buff is a game changer.  He provides bone-crunching hits and exciting offense.  He played great in his contract year in 2015-16 but seemed to take a step back last year.  To be fair, the majority of the team seemed to do the same.  Byfuglien, especially when on the top of his game, is huge to Winnipeg.  He was (and arguably still is) the face of the franchise when the True North bought the Thrashers.  He’s a leader and an impact player.  There’s no one else in the league like him.  He’s a lock to be protected, and not just because of his NMC. 

Tobias Enstrom:

Like Byfuglien, Toby must be protected because of his NMC.  Although I’d rather protect Tyler Myers over him, Toby isn’t the worst player to be auto-protected. He’s a pretty good puck-moving defenseman and a veteran leader on the team. He was the Jets second best defenseman when the Thrashers came over, but he’s slowed down in recent years due to age, and the emergence of Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey have pushed him down the depth chart.  In addition, he just had his season ended with an injury after a brutal hit by Tom Sestito.  I’d ask him to waive his NMC, but I don’t think he will, so I’ll have to protect him over Tyler Myers.

Jacob Trouba:  

As a player, protecting Jacob Trouba is a no-brainer.  The only thing that makes this a little sticky is the contract situation.  However, since last fall’s holdout, Trouba has emerged once again as the Winnipeg Jets best defenseman, and his ice-time has reflected this.  This would seemingly (hopefully) mean that this contract dilemma is behind us.  Trouba played great last season.  It was his best season since his rookie season.  If Scheifele is the face of the forwards, Trouba is the face of the defensemen.  I predict Trouba and Morrissey will be the Jets’ top pairing, as early as next season.  Assuming the contract problems are out-of-the-way, there’s no chance that I would trade Trouba now.  And it’s not even a question that I would protect him over Myers or not.  He’s staying.
Goaltenders –

Connor Hellebuyck:  The easiest decision to make was choosing Connor Hellebuyck as the goalie I’m protecting.  It’s really no contest.  Promising sophomore Eric Comrie is exempt.  Michael Hutchinson had a disastrous year and won’t be selected anyway and Ondrej Pavelec is on the way out after six years of mediocrity.  Hellebuyck is a young goalie who, despite popular belief, has been rather decent.  Is he the answer in goal? I don’t know.  What I do know is that he is the goalie that is being protected.

Now, that I’ve reviewed my reasoning for protecting the players that I did, I’m going to quickly go over some of the exempt and exposed players.  The Winnipeg Jets are lucky in the sense that arguably their two best forwards in Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine are both exempt from selection.  Likewise for defenseman Josh Morrissey.  

Most of the players being exposed aren’t much to get excited over but there are three players in particular that may intrigue Vegas GM, George McPhee.  They are Shawn Matthias, Marko Dano, and Tyler Myers.  Matthias had a pretty decent year as a checking forward, and Dano showed flashes in limited action due to injuries, but both fall victim to just not being able to protect everybody.  Myers, meanwhile, is probably the Jets’ third best D-man when healthy.  Unfortunately for him, Toby Enstrom must be protected due to his No Movement Clause.  Since I would rather go 7-3-1, and because there’s no chance that I expose Trouba or Buff, Myers must be exposed.  Myers is a good player, but he hardly played at all this year, and his injury history is a big concern.  If he even makes it back, I don’t think he will be the same.  I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Vegas passes on him and selects one of our young forwards instead.  It could entirely depend on who other teams make available.


Well, that’s it. If you’re still with me, I thank you for coming this far and giving this a read.  It will be interesting to see what the Winnipeg Jets do as the Expansion Draft approaches.  What do you think of my protection list?  Agree? Disagree?  Who would you protect?  Let me know in the comments down below or tweet me @WHTRiley.  I look forward to talking hockey with you.

I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments down below.  Agree? Disagree?  Who would you protect?  Please let me know.  I would love to talk hockey with you.

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Riley Malinowski (5 Posts)


Comments

  1. Mitch Kasprick says:

    solid reasoning Riley BUT for me, all things being equal … if Tyler Myers is healthy and ready to go I don’t protect ANY of those 3rd and 4th line forwards over him … not a chance and especially since the Winnipeg Jets have an over-abundance of forward prospects and very little organisational depth on the back end.

  2. Glen MacLean says:

    I agree with Mitch in that I don’t see the Jets exposing Myers without LV agreement they won’t take him. I believe the Jets will go 1-3-7 after trading to LV a draft pick and a prospect (maybe Lipon or Lemieux or Kosmachuk or Kostalek or De Leo or maybe even Petan ) to not pick Myers. And then the Jets expose & lose one of Hutch or Matthias,

    • Mitch Kasprick says:

      Lemieux, De Leo, and Kostalek are exempt …. If Chevy makes a deal with George McPhee to keep Myers it will be between Dano, Copp, and Matthias as Vegas’ choice …….. I could see the Jets trading a 2nd or 3rd round pick to Vegas for playing nice LOL

    • Riley Malinowski says:

      I don’t think any of those guys cut it for LV. I’m not sure they’d cover Myers value. Would you trade Myers in exchange for one of those players?

  3. Glen MacLean says:

    When considering who the Jets protect / expose, one needs to consider which Jets meet the criteria re mandatory exposure (1G, 1D, & 2F all under contract thru 2018 and played either 40 g last yr or 70 g in last 2 years). Hutchison & Stuart fill the G & D reqs, but of the list of players currently signed thru 2018, only Scheifele, Wheeler, Little, Perrault, Lowry, Armia & Matthias meet the reqs. Assuming Jets would be willing to expose Matthias and they want to protect 2 of Armia, Copp & Dano, ie., move to the 1-3-7 protection (with some sort of deal w/ LV re Myers), they really need to resign Copp and/or Dano so that both or either meet the exposure reqs.

  4. Why do u think Toby won’t wave his no trade Clause?

    • Riley Malinowski says:

      I would love for Toby to waive his NMC. It’s just – what reason is there for him to waive it? I don’t necessarily think that he won’t for sure, I just don’t have a logical reason as to why he might.

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