Expert Panel: Thoughts on the Anaheim Ducks Expansion List

Bob Murray‘s Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft plans have now been exposed. Perhaps, more to the point, the Anaheim Ducks, along with every other team in the league, have released their Expansion Draft protection lists to the public.

While it is worth noting that the Anaheim Ducks will only lose one single player in this draft and that it is currently unknown if Murray has made any backroom deals with the Seattle team, the list is, for want of a better term, perplexing.

Anaheim Ducks Expansion Draft Protection List

I feel extremely confident that literally, no one outside of the Anaheim Ducks brain trust would imagine that Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks would choose to protect the 30-year-old, 4th-line enforcer, Nicolas Deslauriers over some of his younger and more recently acquired counterparts.

The recently signed Alexander Volkov was each exposed. Of the more recently acquired members of the team Sonny Milano, Danton Heinen, and Haydn Fleury each remain eligible for the Kraken to select, as are Kevin Shattenkirk and Derek Grant.

In essence, each of the players Murray has acquired since Deslauriers was nabbed from the Montreal Canadiens in June of 2019 has been left unprotected by the club. Two entire calendar years of player acquisitions and not a single one of them was deemed worthy enough to be protected. Love that for the Ducks.

One other notable exclusion on the list is Adam Henrique, who last season ranked 2nd on the team for goal scoring and 4th for overall points. This coming one season after leading the team in both metrics during the 2019-2020 season. It’s a stunning fall from grace for a player, Bob Murray, actively targeted and moves around acquiring during the Las Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft.

Who can forget the Ducks trading the Knights Shea Theodore in order for them to acquire Clayton Stoner so that Murray could keep each of his top-4 defensemen at the time? A move that inevitably led to trading Sami Vatanen for Henrique. A move which we found out later had been in the works for some time.

 

It’s also worth noting that three of the Anaheim Ducks’ top-10 goal scorers, and four of the top-10 point-getters, from last season, have been excluded from the protection list. Of that list, Max Comtois is ineligible from the drafting process and Ryan Getzlaf is an unrestricted free agent, expected to extend his stay in Orange County.

Five of the Ducks’ top-10 points per 60 players have been left of the protection list, as have five of their top-10 players for individual expected goals and rush attempts. Four of their top rebound-creating players are also missing.

Perhaps notable since Murray flagged it in his end-of-season press release, five of the Anaheim Ducks’ top-10 forwards for drawing penalties have been left off of the protection list. Additionally, less relevant to fans but more relevant to NHL teams, the top-4 players for faceoff percentage, and seven of the top-10 (8 including Getzlaf) have each been left unprotected. It’s astounding.

But those are merely facts and statistics. You clicked on this for the sheer emotion. On that note, here are our staff’s initial responses to the protection list, and subsequently available players, Bob Murray has gifted us fans and the Seattle Kraken franchise.

Benny

Well first…

https://twitter.com/CastsFish/status/1416865385920425984?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1416865385920425984%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps3A2F2Ftwitter.com2FCastsFish2Fstatus2F1416865385920425984widget%3DTweet

Now that’s out of the way…

This is quite frankly all I have. I like Nicolas Deslauriers more than most, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see his name on the protection list. Perhaps Bob Murray knows more than us, but I now currently have some serious doubts about this new coaching panel they’ve put together (Newell Brown, Mike Stothers, Geoff Ward, and to some extent, Joel Bouchard) along with the new Assistant General Manager (Jeff Solomon).

However, it seems highly unlikely to me a group of presumably intelligent and insightful hockey people got together and decided that the Anaheim Ducks absolutely needed to protect those seven forwards and that Nicolas Deslauriers – the owner of the franchise quickest scored hattrick – desperately needed to be on the list. Thus, taken together, I mostly think this was just a trolling move for the fanbase and that they already have a trade locked into place with the Seattle team.

I personally am looking forward to seeing them trade really good assets in order for them to move on from Adam Henrique, and finally bringing the saga from the last expansion draft to a close. Will Seattle take Adam Henrique in the draft and acquire Josh Mahura or Henry Thrun in trade for expansion considerations? It would be somewhat ironic to see another young defenseman go in the expansion draft, only dominate at his new address.

Jordan German

I am usually one of the harshest critics of General Manager Bob Murray for the inept and, more often than not, the embarrassing tenure he has had in Anaheim, but just as a broken clock is right twice a day, a useless manager can make at least one decent moves. This expansion list has more pros than cons, so the Anaheim Ducks got real lucky considering how miserable this could have been.

Nicolas Deslauriers being protected is the big stand-out con of this list, and it has floored a lot of people. It would have made more sense to attempt to trade him for some kind of return last season or in 2019-20, and it would seem that any return for GMBM would be heavily diminished unless Deslauriers has another outstanding season.

It isn’t impossible for lightning to strike twice with Deslauriers, he actually had another relatively successful season last year in terms of his career averages. A great skater that still has some decent IQ playing an average of 11 minutes in his 8th year of play is definitely going to be worth something to someone.

Considering that he only cost a 4th round pick, his tenure in Anaheim has been about as good as it could be on a tanking team. To keep him is a strange move, but it must mean Murray has a lot of confidence in the 30-year-old left-winger.

The big pro on this exposed player list might be one that Anaheim fans aren’t too happy about, and that is Adam Henrique most likely being on his way to Seattle. The Seattle Kraken only being able to take one person off the Ducks roster is actually a blessing in disguise for the Anaheim Ducks, it is an easy way out of a contract that makes no sense for the team.

Plainly put, Henrique is an 11-year veteran that badly regressed for most of last year and almost ended up off the roster halfway through the season anyway, it doesn’t make sense for him to continue playing on a team that is rebuilding around younger prospects. Murray made a decent move giving Seattle one viable option, especially with a more valuable and long-standing contract than anyone else Seattle might have taken.

In most regards, the protected list also makes sense for the team. With the protected player category, the team retains most of the fan favorites like Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, John Gibson, Hampus Lindholm, and Cam Fowler. It also makes sense to protect some of the younger cornerstones of the franchise like Max Jones, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, and Troy Terry.

Most of the rest of the unprotected main roster was AHL players either coming up to try and develop with the main club or to fill in roster spots, but the main few important prospects are protected, and that was the biggest need for Anaheim.

So, in recap, all the Anaheim Ducks truly stand to lose from this expansion draft is a player that has a contract that hurts Anaheim more than it helps. Bob Murray protected most of the valuable assets of the franchise that would have made sense for Seattle to take, and it is looking like this expansion draft won’t be nearly as much of a disaster as the last one was for the Anaheim Ducks. Good job on not screwing up an easy situation Bob, now let’s hope that Seattle doesn’t pick a random AHL roster fill-in instead.

Redan Lopez

No surprises here. After looking at the Anaheim Ducks’ protected and non-protected lists, there really is not much to bicker about regarding GM Bob Murray’s picks (and non-picks) for whom he chose to keep safe from the mysterious Seattle Kraken.

For reference, Murray opted to go with protecting 7 forwards (F), 3 defenseman (D), and 1 goalie (G): Nicolas Deslauriers (F), Max Jones (F), Isac Lundrestrom (F), Rickard Rakell (F), Jakob Silfverberg (F), Sam Steel (F), Troy Terry, (F), Cam Fowler (D), Hampus Lindholm (D), Josh Manson (D), and John Gibson (G).

Some observations: 1) In regards to the forward group, only one oddity sticks out – protecting Deslauriers. Deslauriers is not someone who is known to us as a skill and scoring forward, something the Ducks desperately need more of nowadays. Rather, he’s played more of an old-school game with some speed in his game, but also someone always willing to stick up for a teammate.

By taking Deslauriers and ignoring a more prominent scoring threat like center Adam Henrique who has been the Ducks’ most productive forward points-wise the past three years, it’s clear why Murray is trying to do: He’s trying to maximize cap flexibility and hoping the Kraken takes a bite at Henrique.

Henrique, coming off a gold medal for Team Canada at the World’s as Canada’s team captain, should not be ignored. He’s still a good (but not great) scorer, but the big concern for the Anaheim Ducks is his sizeable cap hit the next 3 years. Henrique is signed for the next 3 seasons through 2023-2024 at $5.825 million per season.

By exposing Henrique, Murray hopes to increase the already $21.6 million in cap room the Ducks have entering into the 2021-2022 season. Should the Kraken bite and take Henrique, Murray would have even more options to sign an impact free agent (cough, like Buffalo Sabres’ center Jack Eichel) to accelerate the Ducks’ rebuild to becoming a playoff contender yet again.

2.) In regards to the defensemen picked, Murray clearly went with those that have had tenure, are in their prime, and are the most proven. Fowler (29), Manson (29), and Lindholm (27) have each been with the Ducks for 6+ seasons (and in Fowler’s case, about a decade) and make a great top-3 when all are healthy.

It can be argued why the Anaheim Ducks didn’t go with protecting someone younger like Haydn Fleury (25) or the constantly developing Josh Mahura (23), but Murray must have felt that he didn’t want to give any of his proven veterans away. Though, we must always wonder what might happens should the Kraken select Mahura and he turns into a top-pairing defenseman for the Kraken.

If Mahura turns into anything close to what Shea Theodore has been for Vegas (note: Theodore was picked by Vegas back in the 2017 expansion draft and has fit the team perfectly), Murray will have yet again repeated history by letting a good, young defenseman get away for nothing.

3) For goaltending, protecting John Gibson was a no-brainer. He is the backbone of the franchise until the Ducks offense gets going again and at age 28, is still in the midst of his prime. Leaving Gibson unprotected would have sent a big message to the team and the league that the Ducks were definitely starting over, though it would have been foolish too for Murray to give him away for potentially nothing.

Conclusively, I believe Murray protected the right personnel this time around for the 2017 draft. For the forwards, he picked those veterans that are most proven and some rising stars that still need to prove more on a daily basis in terms of output. The goaltending choice in Gibson was a given, but the most consequential piece given up by the Anaheim Ducks (if the Kraken select one) could potentially be a young & developing young defenseman.

Brad Senecal

This protection list was slightly predictable but at the same time poor asset management on the part of Bob Murray. The thing that stands out the most is that both of their trade acquisitions, Alexander Volkov and Haydn Fleury are both up to be exposed.

While Volkov is more lost in the shuffle of forwards, Fleury showed a lot for the team when he came over as he was awarded important minutes for the team. After seeing what happened with the Vegas Golden Knights draft and losing Shea Theodore I thought that GMBM would be more cautious.

As far as the rest of the exposed list I was surprised to see Adam Henrique on but not Jakob Silfverberg, as both players have been almost equally productive while on similar contracts. Other than that, it is predictable to have the higher contract guys up to move (Henrique, Shattenkirk)

All stats can be sourced from naturalstattrick.com and are in relation to 5-on-5 play unless otherwise stated.