The Florida Panthers submitted their official protection list for the upcoming Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft which will come on Wednesday night.
There were no real surprises on the list of protected Panthers submitted by GM Bill Zito if you read my past two prediction lists.
And, with Seattle expected to sign free agent goalie Chris Driedger, the list appears to be as much for public relations as anything else.
Driedger, if he does sign with the Kraken before Wednesday’s draft, would count as the player lost by the Panthers. Thus, the protected list is basically for show.
Of course, if Driedger does not sign with Seattle before Wednesday, the Panthers need to be protected a bit.
Before Saturday’s pre-draft roster freeze, a number of NHL teams made deals although the Panthers were not one of them. There has been chatter since Friday that Florida was trying to work out a deal in which it would send defenseman Anton Stralman to Arizona.
Deals can resume on Thursday with the NHL entry draft’s first round coming on Friday night.
The Panthers’ first-round pick (No. 23) is said to be available and could be in play with Arizona as trading Stralman in the final year of his contract would free up another $5.5 million off the salary cap this season and give Florida over $16 million in space.
Florida is apparently unwilling to give up its first-round pick just for some cap relief.
Some of the biggest trades before the roster freeze: Former Panthers forward Jared McCann went from Pittsburgh to the Maple Leafs; Nashville sent Ryan Ellis to the Flyers; the Rangers got Barclay Goodrow from the Lightning.
With that said, here are the players the Panthers are protecting and are thereby exempt from the Seattle expansion draft.
THE PROTECTED PANTHERS
Forwards (7): Jonathan Huberdeau (NMC), Sasha Barkov (NMC), Sam Bennett (RFA), Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Mason Marchment, Anthony Duclair.
Defensemen (3): Aaron Ekblad, MacKenzie Weegar, Gus Forsling.
Goalie (1): Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC).
THE UNPROTECTED PANTHERS
The biggest name on this list may just be defenseman Radko Gudas although with the Panthers only protecting three d-men — and Forsling getting his extension on Thursday — it is of no surprise. And, if the Driedger deal goes down, is of no consequence to the Panthers.
The other are forwards Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari, although as we have noted for the past few weeks, both players entering the final years of their contracts (and likely due raises in 2022) has a lot to do with this.
Here is the complete unprotected list:
Forwards: Acciari, Patrick Bajkov, Juho Lammikko, Ryan Lomberg, Brad Morrison, Aleksi Saarela, Vatrano, Lucas Wallmark (KHL), Alex Wennberg (UFA), Scott Wilson.
Defensemen: Lucas Carlsson, Kevin Connauton, Tommy Cross, Gudas, Noah Juulsen (RFA), Brady Keeper (UFA), Brandon Montour (UFA), Markus Nutivaara, Ethan Prow, Anton Stralman.
Goalies: Philippe Desrosiers (UFA), Driedger (UFA), Sam Montembeault.