Analyzing the Tampa Bay Lightning’s protected list ahead of Expansion Draft


As the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft looms later this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with 29 other teams, revealed their protection list this morning. The Vegas Golden Knights will have the opportunity to select one of Tampa Bay’s exposed players this Wednesday.

Ever since Las Vegas was granted an NHL franchise and began to build a brand, there has been widespread speculation of whom the league’s newest team might select in the expansion draft. Now, the rest of the league knows what players could be headed to Vegas and who will stay with their current teams.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and 29 other teams revealed what players they decided to protect and leave unexposed in the upcoming expansion draft. The players left exposed have a shot a getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights and making up a roster filled with veterans, rookies and rising stars.

Per the Tampa Bay Lightning’s official website,

"“The Vegas Golden Knights must select one player from each team to fill a roster of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies, with a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2017-18 season.”"

Exposed unrestricted (UFA) and restricted (RFA) free agents can be signed by the Golden Knights prior to the draft from June 18-20. Without further ado, take a look at which players the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to protect.

Forwards Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Ryan Callahan, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are protected, along with defensemen Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. As we can see, the Lightning decided to go the 11 forwards/seven defensemen route, with Vasilevskiy as the sole goaltender protected.

Notable players who were left exposed include forwards J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette and defensemen Andrej Sustr and Jason Garrison. One notable player left protected is Callahan, who was hampered by injuries last season and the lingering effects of his hip surgery in 2016; there was some speculation that he might have considered waiving his no movement clause (NMC) so that he could be left exposed, but that turns out not to be the case.

When the list was initially released, some fans were confused and surprised to see that forward Brayden Point was left off the protected list, but he doesn’t meet the exposure requirements (still considered a rookie), and thus, Vegas will not be able to select him. Left wing Adam Erne, along with many other Lightning prospects, fall into the same category.

In addition, Coburn was protected over younger blueliners Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, both of whom can be selected by Vegas. It’s not clear why Coburn (UFA in 2019) was protected over those two, and some fans hope Vegas will look elsewhere for defensive help.

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Looking at other notable blue-liners not on the list, both Sustr and Garrison struggled defensively in 2016-17 and are considered “prime” targets among the Lightning players who might get drafted by the Golden Knights. There was speculation that Killorn, who also had a less-than-stellar season, would’ve been a target for Vegas to select, but that’s no longer a possibility because he’s on the protected list.

With Killorn protected, Sustr, Garrison and even goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis could be taken in the draft. Gudlevskis, who spent most of 2016-17 with the Syracuse Crunch, has been on the decline the past couple of seasons, and it looks like he could be pushed out of the organization by veteran Mike McKenna and Tampa Bay’s 2016 third round pick, Connor Ingram.

Forwards Johnson and Palat find themselves on the protected list, and this note likely means there’s a strong chance they’ll both get re-signed this summer. Before the Jonathan Drouin trade last week, there was talk all of last season about whether or not the Lightning would be able to re-sign both of them with Drouin on the books as well (The Lightning have around $17.53 million in projected cap space).

Overall, there were few surprises when the list was unveiled. Most of the players on the list were expected to be protected, with the exception of one, and now there’s a clear picture of who the Tampa Bay Lightning intend to keep. The Vegas Golden Knights will have a great crop of players to choose from, and at least one current Lightning player will head to Vegas to begin training with a new team.

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It’s been 17 years since the last NHL expansion draft when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild selected players throughout the league for their rosters. Some of the rules of the draft have changed, though, and those changes will allow Vegas to start the 2017-18 season with a solid group of players.