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Seattle Expansion: Arizona needs to sign another defenseman for compliance

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The Coyotes look to be in decent shape for the Expansion Draft but they will not meet the NHL’s Expansion Draft requirements until they sign another defenseman to expose.

Buffalo Sabres v Arizona Coyotes
Coyotes defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin.
Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken is set to become the National Hockey League’s 32nd team in the 2021–22 season.

Who will skate for Seattle? That will be decided at this summer’s Expansion Draft, an event at which 30 of the NHL’s 31 teams will lose a player to the Kraken.

All NHL teams—with one exception—must submit a list of players to the Kraken who are protected from being selected by the new expansion team. The Vegas Golden Knights, Seattle’s expansion sibling from 2017, are exempt from the upcoming Expansion Draft.

The NHL is again offering all participating teams two options for their protection lists. Teams can choose either of the following configurations:

  • Protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender
  • Protect any eight skaters and one goaltender

Players deemed by the NHL to have completed two seasons or fewer of North American professional hockey are exempt from the Expansion Draft and cannot be protected or selected. Unsigned draft picks are also exempt.

All players signed through at least 2021–22 with no-movement clauses (NMCs) in their contracts must be protected unless they consent to waive the clause for the Expansion Draft. In 2017, Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury both waived their NMCs for the Vegas Expansion Draft.

The NHL also requires teams to meet certain “exposure requirements” in advance of the Expansion Draft to ensure the Kraken will have a reasonable crop of available talent to scrutinize. Here is a rundown of these requirements.

Forwards

All teams must expose two forwards who are signed through at least 2021–22.

These forwards must both have a certain degree of NHL experience. They are required to have either skated for at least 27 games in 2020–21 or 54 total games in 2019–20 and 2020–21, combined.

Right now, the following Coyotes players satisfy these requirements:

Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel (NMC), Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Tyler Pitlick, Lawson Crouse, Johan Larsson, and Christian Fischer.

Defensemen

All teams must expose one defenseman who is signed through at least 2021–22.

As is the case with the forwards, the exposed defenseman is required to have either skated for at least 27 games in 2020–21 or 54 total games in 2019–20 and 2020–21, combined.

Right now, the following Coyotes players satisfy these requirements:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NMC) and Jakob Chychrun.

Goaltenders

All teams must expose one goaltender who is either signed through at least 2021–22 or set to be a restricted free agent in the 2021 off-season.

There is no experience requirement for exposed goaltenders.

Right now, the following Coyotes players satisfy these requirements:

Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill.

Exempt

The following Coyotes players under contract will be exempt from the Seattle Expansion Draft:

Barrett Hayton, Matias Maccelli, Nate Sucese, Ryan McGregor, Jan Jenik, Cameron Crotty, Victor Soderstrom, Ivan Provetsov, and David Tendeck.


The Coyotes currently have just two players with no-movement clauses and it is likely they would be protected either way. Phil Kessel and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are all but certain to be on Arizona’s list.

In 2017, the Coyotes chose to protect eight skaters and a goaltender:

  • Forward Tobias Rieder
  • Forward Jordan Martinook
  • Forward Anthony Duclair
  • Forward Nick Cousins
  • Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
  • Defenseman Alex Goligoski
  • Defenseman Connor Murphy
  • Defenseman Luke Schenn
  • Goaltender Chad Johnson

The Coyotes have since added a great deal to their ranks up front and it looks very likely that general manager Bill Armstrong will opt to protect seven forwards and three defensemen from Seattle.

Here is a guess as to what such a list could look like:

  • Forward Phil Kessel (NMC)
  • Forward Clayton Keller
  • Forward Nick Schmaltz
  • Forward Christian Dvorak
  • Forward Conor Garland
  • Forward Lawson Crouse
  • Forward Tyler Pitlick
  • Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NMC)
  • Defenseman Jakob Chychrun
  • Defenseman Kyle Capobianco
  • Goaltender Darcy Kuemper

The following players would be left unprotected and satisfy the exposure requirements for the Coyotes:

  • Forwards Johan Larsson and Christian Fischer
  • Defenseman ???????
  • Goaltender Adin Hill

These players (all pending RFAs, unless otherwise indicated) would also be left exposed in this scenario:

  • Forwards Derick Brassard (UFA), Drake Caggiula (UFA), Brayden Burke, Tyler Steenbergen, John Hayden, Michael Bunting, Hudson Fasching, Blake Speers, Lane Pederson, Michael Chaput (UFA), and Fredrik Gauthier
  • Defensemen Alex Goligoski (UFA), Niklas Hjalmarsson (UFA), Jason Demers (UFA), Jordan Oesterle (UFA), Ilya Lyubushkin (UFA), Jordan Gross, Cam Dineen, Aaron Ness, Villi Saarijarvi (RFA 2020), and Dysin Mayo
  • Goaltender Antti Raanta (UFA)

If the Expansion Draft were held today, the Coyotes would have to expose Chychrun or Ekman-Larsson to be compliant with the requirements listed above. That, almost assuredly, will not happen.

Instead, the Coyotes will need to sign a defenseman through at least 2021–22 who plays 27 games this year or who accumulates 54 games between 2019–20 and 2020–21.

Goligoski, Demers, and Oesterle have all met the experience thresholds already and could be exposed to meet the requirement if signed through next year (or longer). Hjalmarsson needs to play in at least seven more games to reach the necessary amount of experience.

Gross would have to suit up for 24 more games this year to hit the 27 game mark; Dineen, Ness, Saarijarvi, and Mayo would all need to play in 27 more games this year and be signed to meet the exposure requirements.

The Coyotes’ most simple avenue might be to re-sign and expose Lyubushkin. The 26-year-old Russian has played in 53 games over the last two seasons and needs just one more to meet the exposure requirements. Lyubushkin will likely command a relatively modest contract, one the Coyotes could live with if he were to go unclaimed by Seattle.

Assuming Lyubushkin plays again this season, he seems like the obvious choice for Armstrong to re-sign and use as the player to ensure the Coyotes’ Expansion Draft compliance.

Lyubushkin, Hill, Fischer, Larsson, and a couple of other Coyotes look like they could give Seattle a boost in its inaugural 2021-22 season.

Who do you think the Kraken will take from Arizona? Let us know in the comments.