Lessons Learned From Vegas Expansion Draft & How Wild Will Handle Seattle

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21: A general view during the 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21: A general view during the 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Revisiting the Vegas Expansion Draft

When it was announced that the NHL would be adding Seattle as the 32nd team in the NHL, it gave Wild fans a bitter flashback to the previous Vegas Expansion Draft where the Wild gave up a promising prospect that just happened to be a right-winger, a position the Wild have a lack of depth in.

As the Seattle Draft grows nearer, many Wild fans are worried that the Roster will leave management with tough decisions again.

At the time, General Manager Chuck Fletcher, who is now the GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, had choices to make regarding who to protect, who he felt comfortable exposing, and whether or not he thought it was fit to make a side deal to protect a potential breakout player.

As we revisit the Vegas Expansion Draft, we could go back and forth whether Fletcher made the right decision, no action was guaranteed and it felt like free agency, a guessing game. Fletcher had to decide potential breakout candidates, whether or not a veteran player could exercise consistency and not drop off in the early 30s like so many veteran players do.

This is what the Minnesota Wild’s 2017 Vegas Expansion Draft protection list looked like:

"Protected Players:F – Zach Parise (NMC) F – Mikko Koivu (NMC)F – Jason Pominville (NMC) F – Jason Zucker F – Mikael Granlund F – Nino Niederreiter F – Charlie Coyle D – Ryan Suter (NMC)D – Jared Spurgeon D – Jonas Brodin G – Devan Dubnyk"

*Notable players that were exposed: Erik Haula, Eric Staal, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella & Darcy Kuemper

The Wild were forced to protect Parise, Koivu, Pominville, and Suter due to their No Move Clauses. Based on who was protected and the predicament Fletcher was in, you can’t really blame Fletcher on his decision to ultimately resort to doing a side deal with Vegas.

At the time, Zucker was 25 and coming off a career year where he had 22 and 25 goals for 47 points. Granlund was 24 and was coming off a career year in which he had 26 goals and 43 assists for 69 points which is still his best season to date. Like Zucker and Granlund, Niederreiter was 24 and coming off a career year with a career-high 25 goals and 32 assists for 57 points which is still his best season to date. Coyle AS WELL was 24 and coming off a career year in which he had 18 goals and 38 assists for 56 points which is still his best season to date.

The Wild were simply unlucky that everyone had a career year the season before the Vegas Expansion Draft. Regarding the protection list, Fletcher did the best he could, and I wouldn’t have made any other changes, Fletcher was forced to protect 4 veterans.

Fletcher was left in a difficult and complex situation. With the given information that Fletcher had, he had to decide whether he was comfortable giving up Matt Dumba who was a 22-year-old right-shot defenseman that just had his second double-digit goal season or Eric Staal who just came off a great season with 28 goals, 37 assists for 65 points.

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As much as it hurts to see Alex Tuch and Erik Haula succeed and breakout in Vegas, I think Fletcher made the right decision at the time. There was no evidence to suggest that Haula would have broken out to the extent he did, as much as Haula did have a spectacular season, he has never had a season as he did in Vegas Inaugural season.

Haula was then sent to the Hurricanes,  and then to the Panthers which has brought him to where he is now, a free agent likely going to his 4th team in his last 2 seasons, not to mention that he has dealt with injuries lately. Teams covet right-handed defenseman like Dumba who is now probably the Wild’s best asset to package for a first-line center.

If not for the side deal Fletcher made, I doubt that Vegas would have selected Staal over Dumba. I believe that the Dumba has more value than Tuch for a trade for a center, so as much as it hurts to lose Tuch, I don’t think it was as bad as Wild fans act like it is.

Looking Ahead to the Seattle Expansion Draft

Just like in the Vegas Expansion Draft, the Wild have tough decisions to make. This time around, there will probably be more thinking into the process because of the consequences of the Vegas Expansion Draft. Whether you believe Fletcher made the right decision or not, the Wild still lost Alex Tuch, a young and very talented winger that could have possibly prevented the Zuccarello signing.

My Wild protection list prediction for the Seattle Expansion Draft:

"F – Zach Parise (NMC)F – Mats Zuccarello (NMC)F – Center Acquired Via TradeF – Kevin FialaF – Joel Eriksson EkF – Luke KuninF – Jordan GreenwayD – Ryan Suter (NMC)D – Jared Spurgeon (NMC)D – Jonas BrodinG – Kaapo Kahkonen"

*Notable Exposed Players: Alex Galchenyuk (Assuming he re-signs), Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Donato & Carson Soucy

For this exercise, I did leave a protection spot for the center in the much-anticipated trade and assumed the Wild would trade Dumba rather than Brodin, but either way, there is a spot for the center we will acquire in the trade. Joel Eriksson Ek is a given due to the Wild’s lack of depth at the center position. I think Ryan Donato deserves a protection spot just as much as Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin but due to Greenway’s size and Kunin’s shot, I left Donato exposed.

My Prediction is that Seattle selects defenseman Carson Soucy and that the Wild give up an asset such as a middle-round draft pick. My reasoning for this is that I think the Wild would rather have Soucy be taken than Foligno and Donato. I think the Wild have young and promising defensive prospects such as Brennan Menell, Calen Addison, Louis Belpedio & Fedor Gordeev. Calen Addison will most likely be a top 4 offensive defenseman and power-play specialist. With Soucy turning 27 at the time of the expansion draft and with the solid defensive pipeline, I think he is expendable.

* I think it is very important to point out that Seattle will have to take 20 players under contract for the 2021-2022 NHL season, an expansion draft rule. Assuming Soucy signs more than a one-year deal, this will increase the odds that Seattle will take him as he would count towards that 20.

All stats are from NHL.com & Hockey Reference

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