NHL Seattle

NHL expansion draft: Sharks could protect, expose superstar defensemen

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AP

NHL expansion draft: Sharks could protect, expose superstar defensemen

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We continue with an examination of which defensemen the Sharks likely are to protect and expose.

If one of the Sharks' position groups drives home the uncertainty of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, it's their defense. 

San Jose currently has three blue liners under contract for the 2021-22 season, which will be Seattle's first in the NHL: Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Whether the Sharks opt to protect 11 players (seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie) or nine (eight skaters and a goaltender), Karlsson and Vlasic likely are going to have their names on the protected lists. 

That's because both players' contracts contain no-movement clauses. Unless they opt to waive those clauses, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will have to protect both players ahead of the expansion draft. Burns, who will be 36 at the time of the draft and is under contract until 2025, would not have to be protected. 

Could the Norris Trophy winner -- and three-time finalist -- be available for the Metropolitans Sasquatch Salmon Unnamed Seattle Franchise when the team joins the league in 2021? Much of that will depend upon Burns' performance, and just what San Jose's defense looks like in two years. 

According to the league's rules, the Sharks will have to expose a defenseman who is under contract for Seattle's first season (2021-22) and has played in either 40 games in 2020-21 or 70 total games in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Defensive prospects Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley could reach those totals if they're on the NHL roster, but both players automatically are protected since neither would have played more than two professional seasons at that point. 

Brenden Dillon, Tim Heed and Radim Simek all can hit unrestricted free agency in 2020, when the Sharks would have $62 million in salary commitments and 11 players under contract, according to Cap Friendly. That probably won't cause a salary-cap crunch that resulted in forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist departing as unrestricted free agents while San Jose worked out an eight-year deal with Erik Karlsson and a four-year deal with Timo Meier.

But Kevin Labanc's new contract and/or Ferraro, Merkley or another prospect being ready for a bigger role could make the Sharks let Dillon, Heed or Simek test the market. 

As a result, the 2020 offseason should be instructive of the Sharks' plans for the expansion draft the following summer. Retaining any of the aforementioned three players likely would give the Sharks at least one defenseman who they are able to expose other than Burns, assuming they hit the games requirement. A prospect who already has made their pro debut, such as Nick DeSimone or Jacob Middleton, emerging as an NHL option could add another eligible unprotected player, as would signing a defenseman from a large free-agent class next summer.

If Burns, who just scored a career-high 83 points and has played 82 games each of the last five seasons, continues to perform at an elite level into his mid-30s, the Sharks conceivably could protect him in an expansion draft for the second time in five years. As it stands right now, they would need to retain some of their pending free agents or have a younger internal candidate replace one of them.

If Burns begins to decline, San Jose conceivably could choose to expose him in the draft. They have parted ways with two of the four longest-tenured players in franchise history (Pavelski and Patrick Marleau) in two of the last three offseasons, and exposing Burns would clear an $8 million cap hit. 

[RELATED: Which goalie will Sharks protect in expansion draft?]

Of course, that doesn't mean he would be Seattle-bound. The NHL's 32nd team would need to take on enough salary to reach at least 60 percent of the 2020-21 salary-cap ceiling, but general manager Ron Francis might turn to Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee's playbook and take on shorter-term contracts.

Plenty can change between now and the 2021 expansion draft, and the Sharks' lack of salary commitments outside of their big three on the blue line creates plenty of possibilities. We know which defensemen the Seattle franchise won't be able to choose, but the ones it can are up in the air.

NHL expansion draft: Sharks must decide which goalies to protect, expose

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AP

NHL expansion draft: Sharks must decide which goalies to protect, expose

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We continue with an examination of which goalies the Sharks likely are to protect and expose.

Two summers from now, the Sharks will have a new Pacific Division rival.

The expansion franchise in Seattle is set to officially join the NHL for the 2021-22 regular season, but before it can take the ice, it needs players to do so.

As described in the rules that will govern the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, the rest of the teams in the league (except for the Vegas Golden Knights) will be forced to expose a certain number of players, making them eligible to be selected by Seattle. Each team has the ability to protect a limited number of players on its roster, making those players exempt from selection in the expansion draft.

Those protections are specific to position, and when it comes to goalies, each team will only be able to protect one on its roster. However, all players with no-movement clauses are automatically protected (unless they waive those clauses), and all first- and second-year players -- as well as all unsigned draft picks -- are exempt from inclusion in the expansion draft. 

Based on those restrictions, we can begin to zero in on who the Sharks might expose to the 2021 Expansion Draft, since they (and 28 other teams) will be obligated to expose at least one goalie who is either a) under contract in 2021-22, or b) will be a restricted free agent immediately prior to 2021-22.

Martin Jones enters next season as the unquestioned starter, and he's under contract through the 2023-24 season. He has a modified no-trade clause, but that doesn't afford the same automatic protections as a no-movement clause, so he is eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft. However, with very little in the way of tested netminders behind him in the organization, San Jose might be inclined to protect Jones, assuming he shows further evidence of 'Playoff Jones' between now and then.

Outside of Jones, Aaron Dell is the only other Sharks goalie currently signed to an NHL contract. However, Dell is entering the final year of his deal, and he's due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season. If the Sharks decide they want to expose Dell to the expansion draft, they must first re-sign him so that he fills the contract requirement.

In fact, in theory, any goalie who plays for the Sharks this coming season would be eligible to be exposed to the expansion draft, assuming they fulfill both the contract and experience requirements. 

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

The Sharks have multiple netminders in lower levels of the organization that they're high on, and if they're thinking ahead and want to ensure that none of them are made available in the expansion draft, you could see some clever maneuvering on San Jose's part this coming season or next. For instance, they conceivably could sign a backup goaltender with NHL experience to a contract through at least the end of the 2020-21 season, and then expose that player.

If Jones regresses, he's a natural candidate to be exposed, considering he'll still be under contract at that time. Similarly, if Dell gets re-signed to a short-term deal, that's an obvious sign he's destined to be exposed. Regardless of how the Sharks approach their goaltending situation moving forward, clearly they will need to think long and hard about the ramifications of their decisions.

NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise

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AP

NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We begin with an explanation of the expansion draft rules.

Over the last two years, the Sharks have developed a budding rivalry with the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the NHL as an expansion franchise prior to the 2017-18 season.

Two years from now, another expansion franchise -- this one in Seattle, Washington -- officially will join the league, and like Vegas, will slide right into the Pacific Division, with the Arizona Coyotes being displaced to the Central Division.

Before the currently unnamed Seattle franchise begins play in 2021-22, it has to acquire its inaugural roster by way of the expansion draft.

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will operate under the same rules for Seattle as it did for the Golden Knights back in the summer of 2017. Seattle will select one player from each of the other teams in the league (excluding Vegas) for a grand total of 30. Specifically, those 30 players must include at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.

Eventually, Seattle will whittle down those 30 players to a minimum of 20 under contract for the 2021-22 regular season, and that inaugural roster must have a cumulative salary that is between 60 and 100 percent of the 2020-21 salary cap's upper limit.

However, it's not as if Seattle can just handpick the best player from each roster. The other 30 teams can protect a limited number of their own players, making them ineligible for selection in the expansion draft.

Those teams have two options for protecting players: Either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or protect eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie. Regardless of which option a team chooses, there are certain conditions it must abide by.

For instance, any player with a no-movement clause at the time of the expansion draft -- and who declines to waive that clause -- must be protected and will count toward their team's protected list. Additionally, all first- and second-year players, as well as all unsigned draft choices, are exempt from inclusion in the expansion draft, and won't count toward their team's protected list.

There are two sides to the protected/exempt coin, though. The other 30 teams can't simply scrape the bottom of their respective barrels and expose those remnants to the expansion draft. There are conditions that those teams must meet that ensure Seattle will receive legitimate NHL players, much like the Golden Knights did before making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their debut season.

Each of those 30 teams must expose at least one defensemen and at least two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or in at least 70 NHL games over the previous two seasons combined.

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

Furthermore, those teams must also expose at least one goalie who is either under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to expose the latter option to the expansion draft, it must have already given that goalie a qualifying offer prior to submitting its protected list.

Lastly, any players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games heading into 2021-22, or who have been otherwise confirmed to have a career-threatening injury, cannot be exposed to the expansion draft unless approved by the league.

Traditionally, expansion franchises have taken a long time to find their footing in the NHL, but the Golden Knights bucked that trend and took the sports world by storm. Considering the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will have the exact same setup as the one that jumpstarted Vegas in 2017, it stands to reason that Seattle could do the same.