Here’s who Detroit Red Wings are best served protecting in Seattle expansion draft

Detroit Free Press

The last time the Detroit Red Wings were involved in an expansion draft, they lost a solid young forward who is still in the NHL. This time around, it’s likely to be a somewhat-experienced defenseman.

Saturday is the due date for the Seattle expansion draft protection list, with the Kraken’s choices to be revealed Wednesday. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters of any type and a goalie.

Kraken general manager Ron Francis must choose at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. The remaining four players can be from any position. Each team can lose only one player, and Vegas — the previous expansion squad — is exempt from the draft.

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First- and second-year professionals and unsigned draft choices are exempt, so the Wings don’t have to worry about Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno or Moritz Seider. The Kraken have an exclusive window from July 18-21 to sign pending unrestricted free agents who were left unprotected (for the Wings, that includes Luke Glendening and Jonathan Bernier). If a player is signed in that window, it counts as the Kraken’s pick from that player’s former team.

It makes the most sense for general manager Steve Yzerman to go with the 7-3-1 format. Here is a look at how the Wings’ rebuild is best served:

Forwards

Protect Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith. That does leave Vladislav Namestnikov exposed, but he had a disappointing season, with 17 points in 53 games. Smith didn’t play much (16 games) but he’s a gritty, physical forward who is willing to drop the gloves, and that’s a dimension the Wings lack.

GET HIM ON THE ICE: Wings must consider a larger role for Givani Smith. Here’s why

Defensemen

Protect Filip Hronek, Gustav Lindstrom and Dennis Cholowski. That would leave Troy Stecher exposed, and he would be the obvious choice for the Kraken. Stecher, 27, would help the Wings more in the present, but Lindstrom, 22, and Cholowski, 23, figure to have more impact long term. Cholowski has yet to live up to being a first-round pick (No. 20, 2016) but he’s an NHL-caliber skater and passer. It takes some players longer than others to figure out how hard they have to work every game to make it in the NHL.

WHY CHOLOWSKI WAS CHOSEN: How a deal at the 2016 draft impacted the Wings

If the Wings give up on Cholowski and lose him for nothing, they might regret it. Lindstrom doesn’t have the offensive skills Cholowski has, but Lindstrom is a safe, smart player who could be a solid third-pairing guy. Stecher, signed last October for two years with a $1.7 million annual salary cap hit, played well at times but he was also a healthy scratch at times. Besides, with Seider coming in, the Wings have an internal candidate to fill that spot.

Goaltender

This one is easy — protect Thomas Greiss. He’s under contract for another season, and after struggling early, he played well down the stretch.

Required players

Teams have to meet minimum requirements in the players left unprotected. One defenseman who is under contract in 2021-22 and who has played in at least 40 games this past season, or 70 the past two seasons: Stecher and Danny DeKeyser meet those requirements. Two forwards who are under contract in 2021-22 and who played in at least 40 games this past season, or 70 the past two seasons: Namestnikov, Frans Nielsen and Richard Panik meet those requirements. One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22: Kaden Fulcher checks that box.

The last time

In 2017, the Wings’ list of exposed players included goaltender Petr Mrazek and forwards Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Glendening. All had sizable NHL experience. The Knights went with a guy who was never drafted and who had 17 NHL games to his credit, selecting 6-feet-2, 205-pound forward Tomas Nosek. Nosek, 24 at the time, was coming off a standout Calder Cup-winning season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Nosek has appeared in 240 games for Vegas, recording 31 goals and 34 assists.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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