New Jersey Devils: Expansion Draft Strategy Takes Shape

New Jersey Devils left wing Andreas Johnsson (11): (Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils left wing Andreas Johnsson (11): (Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Seattle Kraken can officially make trades and will soon have a full roster as the NHL expands the league to 32 teams next season. The New Jersey Devils, like all teams, will have some choices to make. As it sits right now, they are in a rather good position for the expansion draft. The rules are the same as the last one when the Vegas Golden Knights picked a fantastic team that carried them all the way to the Finals, so they should get a relatively competitive team and have a little more expectation than a normal expansion team.

The Devils will have the option to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie or 8 skaters and 1 goalie. Players with no-movement clauses will need to be protected, players with only two years of professional play are safe and unsigned prospects are safe as well which will bode well for the young Devils.

So what do they do?

Of the two options, the Devils will 100% be using the first and protecting 7 forwards as they do not even have 4 defenders worth protecting at this point. If the option comes up, they can even attempt a trade from a team with to many good players should the opportunity come up.

Forwards Devils Should Protect:

Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Michael Mcleod, Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen

This would leave Andreas Johnsson, Nathan Bastian and Nick Merkley as the most likely choices for Seattle if they decide to take a forward. While Merkley has been good in a depth role and will make a case to be on the team next year, the loss would not set back the organization at all and neither would the disappointment that has been Andreas Johnsson.

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If this is the route they go, which they should, the Devils can protect their current entire top 6 with ease and two parts of the best depth line in hockey. The biggest danger is losing the big body of Nathan Bastian and it is just to hard to tell what another team or the league thinks of him. With 10 points in 40 games, he should be safe and hopefully the Kraken don’t value him as much as the Devils do. They need his hitting capability and his heart on the ice in a big way.

For Defenders the Devils should protect.

Damon Severson, Ryan Murray, Jonas Seigenthaler.

This is where it gets more interesting since the Devils really only need to protect Damon Severson and could do a lot of different things come expansion day. Ryan Murray should be re-signed, but there is always the chance the organization doesn’t want him back. Siegenthaler has been disappointing, going -5 in his first 7 games but the Devils would look foolish trading a 3rd rounder for a guy to just drop him almost immediately before getting a good look at him. The Devils should just be hoping they didn’t trade another pick for Mirco Mueller2.0.

P.K. Subban was a decent middle defender as the season went on after a horrendous first year and first month this season, but at $9 million for another year, it would be an odd choice to protect him unless they feel his leadership and experience add something in the locker room that the average fan can’t see. From the Kraken perspective, they could use him to get to the cap floor for a year and get a poster boy to get fans interested in a new team in a time when there is a growing competition for your hard-earned money.

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Will Butcher has been passed over by the organization clearly and the coaching staff has gone at great lengths to make sure he isn’t playing for whatever reason. Since the team traded a pile of players at the deadline and got hit by the injury/sickness bug, he has played 22 games before the last game of the season and actually looked pretty good. Sure, he will never be a superstar but with 10 points and limited opportunity he would be an intriguing choice for an expansion team. Given the right spot on a bottom pairing with top powerplay time Butcher could easily get back to being a 30point defender and make the Devils look a little ridiculous for burying him behind Tennyson multiple times.

For goaltenders it will be exactly 0 surprise but the Devils will protect Blackwood, leaving Scott Wedgewood and Aaron Dell able to be picked but the odds of that happening is low at their ages with the season they have had. They are also free agents at the end of the season. With the main players they could lose not being a big loss the Devils are in a great position and there is little for the fans to worry about.