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Bean: Here's who the Bruins should protect from expansion draft

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Connor Clifton or Jeremy Lauzon.  

That’s gotta be the opposite of burying the lede, but if you’re wondering who the Bruins can expect to lose to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft next Wednesday, it’s one of their young defensemen. 

Protected lists will be turned in and made public this weekend, so we’ll know soon enough who the Bruins have chosen to make off-limits.  

Teams can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight total skaters and a goalie. The move for Boston will likely be the 7-3-1 format, as it lets them keep more players. If they went the eight skater format in order to protect someone like Clifton, they would have to expose Craig Smith, which goes against any interests to contend in the here and now.

Related: How should the Bruins use their salary cap space this summer?

Plenty of young players are exempt from the expansion draft, so don’t fret when you don’t see Jeremy Swayman, Jack Studnicka or Urho Vaakanainen on the protected list. They aren’t going anywhere. Similarly, unrestricted free agents like David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Tuukka Rask and Mike Reilly don’t factor in. Restricted free agents, however, can be plucked by the Kraken if left unprotected. 

Here’s what the Bruins’ protected list should look like: 

Bruins NHL Expansion Draft Protected List

That’s the protected list, but just as intriguing is the list of players that would then be available to Seattle. Should the Bruins protect the above players, Seattle would choose from the following notable players: 

 
Bruins Exposed to NHL Expansion Draft

Don Sweeney’s toughest decision when assembling the protected list is choosing which two forwards to protect out of Jake DeBrusk, Nick Ritchie and Trent Frederic. The B’s signed Frederic, a (controversial) first-round pick who is due for a full-time job on the fourth line, to a two-year deal with a $1.05 million average annual value this offseason. They should hold onto him and find out whether they defied their track record by drafting a good forward. 

Ritchie vs. DeBrusk is easier than it may seem. Yes, Ritchie was the better player last season, but his ceiling is also apparent. The Bruins can’t afford to lose DeBrusk, a proven scorer, for nothing. He could be this expansion draft’s William Karlsson, so the team should protect him. 

Bean: The case for the Bruins protecting Jake DeBrusk

In the end, exposing Ritchie won’t matter anyway. The guess here is Clifton or Lauzon heads to the Kraken, with Clifton the favorite to go to Seattle.