With the Seattle expansion draft only five months away, some of the key dates on the calendar have already arrived. As of February 1st, teams can now begin to ask players to waive their no-move clauses for the purpose of the expansion draft.
In the Kraken expansion draft on July 21st, the Kraken will select one player each from 30 of the 31 other NHL teams (Vegas is exempt). Each team may protect either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and a goalie or 8 skaters and a goalie. The teams will be free to protect whichever players they wish, with the lone exception being players with a no-move clause, or NMC, in their contract. According to the expansion draft rules, “All players with no movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected and will be counted toward their team’s applicable protection limits.”
That means all players with NMCs must be protected unless they agree to waive their NMC for the expansion draft. For most players with NMCs will never be asked to waive them because those players would have been protected regardless. For example, Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron has a NMC in his contract and therefore must be protected. However, the fact that he must be protected makes little difference as there was never a chance of the Bruins exposing him.
There are, however, several players who would not otherwise be protected but have no-move clauses that require teams to protect them. Those NMCs can put a team in an unfavorable situation, forcing them to expose a more valuable player. A GM can implore a player to waive his NMC. But the final say is with the player, who ultimately might not want to take the risk, however small, that he might have to move to another city.
The Kraken will be watching these decisions closely. In a few cases, a player opting to waive his NMC could make a dramatic difference in the quality of player available to the Kraken this July. Here are some NMC situations the Kraken will be monitoring:
Erik Johnson – Colorado AvalancheEmbed from Getty Images
Of all the NMC decisions leaguewide, Erik Johnson’s easily has the biggest impact on the Kraken. Because of their wealth of talented forwards, the Avalanche will need to opt for the 7-3-1 protection option. This would seem to work out perfectly for the Avs, as they have three extremely talented young defensemen anchoring their blueline in Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, and Devon Toews. Makar is already one of the best defensemen in the NHL at only 22 years old. Girard is a prototypical offensive defenseman who provides extra value on the powerplay. Toews, who we covered in last week’s Scouting Spotlight, has been playing big minutes and excelling both offensively and defensively for Colorado. Adding to their value, Girard and Toews are both signed long-term (2027 and 2024 respectively) on relatively cheap contracts.
That’s where Johnson’s no-move clause becomes a problem. If Johnson isn’t willing to waive his NMC, it would force Colorado to protect him and therefore expose one of Toews or Girard to the Kraken. The Avalanche could offer the Kraken a generous side deal to go in a different direction, but it’s hard to imagine a better value than just taking the player. Either Girard or Toews would almost surely be the best defenseman on the Kraken roster.
So will Johnson waive his NMC? Avalanche GM Joe Sakic might try to persuade Johnson by pointing out that it’s unlikely the Kraken would have any interest in him. If Johnson waived his NMC, Seattle would likely select a younger defenseman like Ryan Graves or a forward like Tyson Jost. In that case, Johnson waiving his NMC would simply be a case of helping out the team with no immediate cost to himself. However he may not want to take the risk, however small, that he would have to move somewhere else.
Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, – Minnesota WildEmbed from Getty Images
What is it about being GM of the Minnesota Wild that possesses someone to hand out no-move clauses like candy on Halloween? The Wild have a league-high five no-move clauses, which greatly limits their protection flexibility. Current GM Bill Guerin is responsible for two, while inheriting three from his predecessors Paul Fenton and Chuck Fletcher. In addition to the five players with NMCs, the Wild have four players without no-move clauses who they will want to ensure are protected: Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, and Matt Dumba. That makes a total of 9 players. Because four of them are defensemen, the Wild would need to choose the 8-1 protection option instead of the 7-3-1 option if they want to protect Dumba. 9 players, 8 protection spots. You can see the problem.
One caveat here: It’s been rumored for over a year that the Wild will trade Matt Dumba for a package involving a top-6 forward. That would solve a lot of Minnesota’s expansion draft problems, as they could move to the 7-3-1 protection option and honor every NMC. However, since the trade has yet to happen, we’ll ignore that possibility for now.
Here’s a visualization of the current situation if all five players with NMCs refuse to waive them, assuming the Wild opt to protect Dumba over Greenway:
While Spurgeon and Brodin fall into the category of players who would be protected regardless of their NMCs, Suter, Parise, and Zuccarello would probably not be protected – or selected by Seattle – if they didn’t have no-move clauses. While having three such players limits your protection flexibility, it does provide flexibility of another kind. Unlike Colorado GM Joe Sakic, whose plans rest entirely on convincing Erik Johnson, Guerin has three options. If he can get even one of the three to waive his NMC, the Wild should be okay.
Here’s the Wild’s protection list if, say, Parise were to waive his NMC:
In this case, the Wild would be able to expose Parise and protect both Dumba and Greenway. If Parise won’t waive, the same concept would work for Zuccarello or Suter as well.
Will Guerin be able to convince one of the three to waive his NMC? It’s not immediately clear. Suter and Parise signed matching 13-year, $98 million deals back in 2012. Since Parise is from Minneapolis and Suter is from Madison, WI, one motivation for signing such a long deal with the Wild was proximity to home. Their NMCs were not waived for the Vegas expansion draft in 2017, although it’s not publicly known whether they were asked to waive them or not. They may not want to have any risk of moving given the long-term commitment they have to Minnesota. Zuccarello has only been with the Wild for one season, so moving might not be as big of a concern for him. He’s also the least likely to be taken by Seattle in the event of waiving his NMC. Three more years of a $6m cap hit is a scary number for a 33-year-old who’s dealt with recent injuries. Zuccarello has yet to play a game this season after having offseason surgery on his arm. Whichever of the three waive their NMC, there’s little to no risk of Seattle taking them if they were exposed. With Guerin only needing to get one of the three players on board, I would guess that he’ll be able to work out a solution. But if he can’t, the Kraken could be poised to draft a very talented player from Minnesota.
Milan Lucic, Calgary FlamesEmbed from Getty Images
When it comes to unnecessary protection, Milan Lucic’s expansion draft protection is on par with tsunami insurance in Oklahoma. He has one of the worst contracts in the NHL, carrying a $6m cap hit, although 750k is retained by the Oilers. Having $5.25m of cap space going to a player who at this point probably shouldn’t be in an NHL lineup is a massive waste of resources. Basically, there is zero chance that the Kraken (or any other team) would take Lucic were he to waive his no-move clause.
Lucic’s decision carries significant consequences for the Flames. As it stands now, the Flames would likely have to expose one Mikael Backlund or Dillon Dubé. Backlund has centered the Flames’ second line for several years and excels defensively while reliably scoring 45+ points per season. Dubé is a 22-year-old winger who’s make a big jump in his development this year with 5 points in his first 8 games. Having to part with either player would be a huge loss for Calgary. Lucic waiving his NMC would allow the Flames to protect them both.
Will the seemingly no-brainer team-friendly move happen before the expansion draft? According to some, it already has. Lucic was traded to the Flames by the Edmonton Oilers in July 2019, when the rules for the Seattle expansion draft were known. At the time, there were rumblings that Lucic and Flames GM Brad Treliving made a handshake deal that Lucic would waive his NMC as a condition of the trade. Since there would appear to be no downside for Lucic, I would bet that handshake deal or not, he will waive his NMC.