The Blues’ finalized protected list for the upcoming NHL expansion draft was revealed Sunday, and there weren’t really any surprises.
Electing to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender–in lieu of protecting eight total players regardless of position–St. Louis minimized risk of watching a key contributor walk out the door as a member of the newly formed Vegas Golden Knights come Wednesday night, when the expansion draft takes place.
Doug Armstrong and company protected forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, and Ryan Reaves, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, Joel Edmundson, and Jay Bouwmeester, and goaltender Jake Allen.
Among those left unprotected are David Perron, Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, Magnus Paajarvi, Jori Lehtera, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, and goaltender Carter Hutton. All things considered, the list makes sense for St. Louis from both a performance and financial perspective.
Among forwards, most of the household names were protected. Ryan Reaves over David Perron could perhaps be considered the only questionable decision of the bunch, considering Perron was resigned just last summer, and typically plays on the second or third line, with Reaves on the fourth. But taking into account Perron’s disappearance during the playoffs this past season and his $3.75 million salary for 2017-2018, he could be an interesting player for Vegas to consider.
The Golden Knights can’t just claim a bunch of low-cost players and tank for profits and high draft picks in their inaugural season; they are required to reach the NHL salary floor, which according to Elliotte Friedman, will be set at $55.4 million for 2017-2018.
Under that line of thinking, Jori Lehtera is a player many Blues fans would like to see claimed by Vegas, as his performance has rarely lived up to expectations set by his rookie season and hefty contract. However, with his $.4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons, Lehtera is unlikely to be an attractive option to the Golden Knights–even considering their necessity to reach the salary floor.
On the defensive side, Carl Gunnarsson has been a productive player, and one with a reasonable salary that could fit the mold for Vegas. Brodziak and Jaskin are players the Blues would certainly love to retain, but could be nice pieces for the Golden Knights to snag to fill immediate roles on the inaugural team.
While the Blues must be prepared to lose one of their assets, it’s possible that they could have some say in the proceedings, even beyond the protected list. Vegas has indicated via statement they will give all 30 clubs “every opportunity to keep their rosters intact if they’d like.”
This means if the Blues have an unprotected player they would like to keep, Vegas could work out a deal for other players and/or draft picks to accommodate their wishes. There is plenty of room for negotiation, so Doug Armstrong will have to be on his game in these dealings to put the Blues in the best spot for success in the upcoming season.
It’s an intriguing time in the NHL, because of the rarity of the circumstances, but all will be resolved by Wednesday morning. Until then, keep an eye to Twitter, as the Golden Knights are expected to announce trades and moves through that avenue over the next few days.