Almost three years ago the sports world witnessed history as they watched the first professional sports team in Las Vegas make their picks in the 2017 expansion draft. That same roster, give or take some trades, went on to the Stanley Cup Final the next season against the Washington Capitals. Next summer the NHL’s 32nd team, located in Seattle, is scheduled to have their expansion draft. Seattle must pick a player from each team. 14 forwards, nine defenceman and three goalies are required to be picked. Seattle doesn’t have access to every player on all the teams, as the other 30 teams can protect nine to 11 players depending on the configuration of their protected rosters.
The last go-around, the Chicago Blackhawks roster chose seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie, protecting a total of 11 players. A lot of their picks were filled with players that had no-trade clauses in their contracts. Most notably Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and current Arizona Coyotes defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson. With only five players having no-movement clauses this time around, it leaves the door open for more players to be protected, which begs the question. Who makes the protected Chicago Blackhawks roster?
Predicting the Protected Chicago Blackhawks Roster
It is nearly impossible to predict where players will and will not be going during free agency. So, for this list, let’s assume that all pending free agents get signed onto one-year deals and are on the team come the expansion draft. We will also include players that could be retiring for the same reason. For the Chicago Blackhawks roster expansion list, it is best to go with the seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie list that they had for previous expansion.
The five players with no-movement clauses are, naturally, protected on the list. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are, likely, going to be Blackhawks for life and their protection is a no brainer considering their skill ceiling. Duncan Keith plays 24 minutes a night at the age of 36. He still has gas in the tank and is another no brainer on their list. Seabrook, although he has rapidly regressed in a short period of time, still has some life left in his play. By the time the expansion draft rolls around, he could be healthy enough and have his game tuned and controlled enough to still be a valuable bottom pairing guy on the team. Crawford, despite his battle with injuries, still manages to put up great numbers each season. Even though he is reaching his mid-thirties, he has proven that he is still a serviceable option in net.
Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are on track to be the Blackhawks next one-two punch once Kane and Toews are gone. Despite DeBrincat’s down year, he has the potential to score 40 goals a season and add a similar quickness that Kane does on the wing. With Dylan Strome down the middle adding at least 30 assists, assuming he continues the trend he’s shown in Chicago, the two could dominate for a long time.
Drake Caggiula has a high ceiling. Towards the end of the 2018-19 campaign, head coach Jeremy Colliton had paired him with Kane and Toews on the top line, helping them go on that run they made towards a playoff berth, which fell short. He is a little injury prone, having 67 games being the highest he has ever played in a season. However, once you get around that hump, Caggiula could be a great depth winger that could add some firepower to the line up, as well as some toughness. Think of him like an Andrew Shaw type player.
Alex Nylander can be used in the same sense in the future. As he continues to develop into a top-nine winger for the Blackhawks he can slot in with any of the top six forwards to be a nice piece to the line. He’s a fast player and can only get better as Colliton continues to give him responsibility.
Ryan Carpenter, similar to the previous two forwards, is another great depth addition to the lineup. He doesn’t have the best point production, with 15 points in 69 games. His value comes off the puck. Carpenter has earned a 52.5 corsi percentage over his career. This means that a little over half the time he is on the ice, his team has the puck. He has some grit to his game too, something that can be valuable to a lineup if used properly and with the right linemates. At 29 years old, his best years are right around the corner.
Connor Murphy is being developed to be a Niklas Hjalmarsson style of defender. He may not be able to quarterback a power play like Hjalmarsson can, but he can shut down a play well and has an active stick just like him. He’s 27 years old and has a lot of time ahead of him to improve his game more than he already has. He is a little injury prone, but the years he has left in the game make up for it.
Notable Names not on the List
Brandon Saad is a great top-six winger for the Blackhawks. He’s usually a 50 point player, although he has fallen a bit short of that mark recently. It has recently been rumored that Saad will be up for grabs for teams this offseason. He was also rumored to be a piece at the deadline as well but was not moved around. If Bowman decides to stick with him through the next season and doesn’t trade him away, he would be the first player from the Blackhawks cup core to not be protected.
Shaw’s ability to play rests on his health. He has taken a few too many blows to the head over his career and, like Crawford a few seasons ago, would likely benefit from taking time off and focusing on getting back to his old self. If he can play, his physical game and his injury history could leave him exposed for Seattle to pick up.
Collin Delia is likely to be on the team’s main roster next season, starting the slow transition to the starting job the team wants him to fill. With Crawford likely finishing his career as a Blackhawk, and his current contract having a modified no-movement clause, it forces Bowman to leave him unprotected.
The expansion draft is probably not on a lot of general managers’ minds right now, considering all the development around the virus. Chicago, similar to the last expansion draft, will likely not have to make any tough decisions on who to protect and who to expose. Besides, we still don’t know what the expansion team is even called yet!