According to Cap Friendly’s expansion draft tool, there are 886 players available to next month’s Las Vegas draft. Each team will lose one player in the draft. While teams have two options for protecting players in the draft and there are various layers to who is and isn’t available, the endless possibilities of who will don the Golden Nights’ uniforms next season makes it nearly impossible to project without knowledge of who teams will protect (that will be released June 17).
Armed with the knowledge that teams are likely to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie as opposed to eight skaters and a goalie, here is our projected protect list for the Capitals. Included at the bottom is a list of players who are eligible (according to Capfriendly.com).
Goaltender – protect 1
- Braden Holtby – the 27-year-old workhorse for the Caps is really a no-brainer. He’s under contract until 2020 with a large cap hit of $6,100,00 however there is no doubt that the Caps will take no chances here.
Defense – protect 3
- Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, and Nate Schmidt – Yeah, that’s going to shock some of you, and I certainly don’t want John Carlson or Karl Alzner to leave, but this is a gamble. Keep in mind that Las Vegas has to come in under the salary cap. If you dangle guys with big contracts, they won’t be able to pick them all off. Additionally, if Washington loses a big contract, well, more money to bring back Oshie! Orpik, Orlov, Alzner, Schmidt, and Niskanen were all +20 or above making them very attractive, but proving that Washington will have four strong defensemen if one is selected.
Forwards – protect 7
- Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, and TJ Oshie (but I really want to include Jay Beagle). Almost as hard as the defense to leave someone off this list. I think Beagle deserves to be on it, but that would mean exposing someone else – Oshie?
Eligible for Draft
Goaltenders – Washington has two eligible goaltenders for the list as Vitek Vanecek is exempt due to the first and second year players protection.
- Pheonix Copley – Copley rejoined the Bears in the Shattenkirk trade with the Blues. He became Hershey’s #1, taking a great deal of pressure off of Vanecek. A season ending injury in Providence cut short his return. He’s currently an unrestricted free agent
- Philipp Grubauer – Make no mistake, this one hurts, but the likelihood that we’re losing him has had Caps fans upset for awhile. He deserves to be a starter somewhere, but the restricted free agent is loved in D.C. and it will be rather hard to part with him.
- Brooks Orpik – What have you done for us lately? I don’t see Vegas biting on him if he is unprotected for two reasons – contract and age.
- John Carlson – Here’s a big gamble; his nearly 4 million dollar contract would make it difficult for LV to jump on him.
- Taylor Chorney – I honestly hope LV takes Chorney so he gets his shot as a top-6 defenseman somewhere, because the poor guy rarely got a shot in D.C.
- Aaron Ness – One of Hershey’s d-men, making it doubtful he’s selected unless there is a deal.
- Christian Djoos – The scariest of the Hershey d-men on the list. Huge upside, but he’s not the biggest guy out there, so maybe…
- Tom Gilbert – He’s been in the NHL and has tons of experience. He arrived in Hershey before the trade deadline and remained there after the Shattenkirk trade.
- Cody Corbett – played in the ECHL at the end of the season, so it’s unlikely he’s selected
- Karl Alzner – Another one that will hurt if he’s selected because he’s also well-loved in D.C. He’s another UFA.
- Darren Dietz – Has not been in Hershey since a late-season player swap with the Texas Stars. It’s highly doubtful he’d be taken.
- Kevin Shattenkirk – He was projected to be a one-and-done in Washington. Don’t see that changing for the UFA.
- Lars Eller – He has the 4th highest contract of the Caps forwards. It’s not a stretch to think that LV won’t select him as the cornerstone of their forwards.
- Jay Beagle – Please no, please no, please no – enough said.
- Zach Sill – Highly doubt LV will dig into Hershey’s corps, so he’s probably safe.
- Liam O’Brien – O’Brien most likely isn’t on the radar unless they’re looking for a more physical guy on the 4th line.
- Brett Connolly – It would be a shame to lose a youngster that has been able to contribute, but let’s face it – someone is leaving.
- Christian Thomas – The odds of him returning to the organization are about the same as him being selected in the draft – 0.
- Nathan Walker – Has yet to get his shot in the NHL as an injury indefinitely delayed his recall to DC
- Stan Galiev – This guy will get his chances somewhere else next season if he has anything to say about it, but I doubt it will be in LV unless there is a deal in the works we don’t know about.
- Daniel Winnik – The 32-year-old UFA played a role this season in DC.
- Chris Bourque – Has made himself a house-hold name…in the AHL.
- Garrett Mitchell – Hershey’s captain certainly garnered attention in his recall.
- Justin Williams – The 35-year-old UFA has had a spectacular career. Aside from Orpik, he’s the oldest guy on the roster, so would Vegas offer him a contract for any length of time? Probably not…
- Paul Carey – Here’s a scary one – Carey would be a very low $ contract and can play on the 3rd/4th lines.
- Chandler Stephenson – Hershey’s mainstay at center. He was recalled during the season, but as a relative unknown in the NHL, he should be safe as well.
You can rea
By Julie Beidler