At the end of the season, the National Hockey League will be welcoming their first team since the year 2000 and the San Jose Sharks will need to plan ahead. This offseason expansion comes with a very rare and interesting event known as the expansion draft. Every team is forced to participate and could potentially lose out on some of their impactful depth players. The rules are as follows: teams will have two choices for players they wish to protect, either (7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender) or (8 forwards/defensemen and 1 goaltender). Players in their first two years will be exempt and players with “no movement” clauses are automatically counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits.
So what should the Sharks’ plan be to protect the most value that they can? Starting with the players guaranteed to be protected we have Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Martin Jones. Pavelski is the captain of the Sharks as well as the best forward that the team has, followed by the younger Couture who showed just how valuable he is when he put up 30 points in the playoffs last year. This season, Burns is showing that he is the NHL’s best defenseman and quite possibly best player overall which earned him an $8,000,000 contract extension. Vlasic has been the Sharks’ most underrated player since he came into the league and is by far the team’s second best defenseman. Lastly, Martin Jones is becoming an elite goaltender and is without a doubt the future for the Sharks.
After this, there are still five forwards and a defenseman to protect. I believe that the Sharks will end up signing either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau before the draft and one of them will be the third protected forward. Tomas Hertl should also be on this list regardless of his past injury issues as he is still very young and talented. Both Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson are up for a contract renewal, youthful, and important to the Sharks’ defensive game. I expect both of them to be resigned and protected by the Sharks. The last forward to be protected should be between Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward. Even though Ward has proven to come up big when he is needed most, the Sharks will go with Boedker because he is younger, has a longer contract and more trade value.
The last defenseman to choose from is much harder than the last forward. There are six candidates but I believe it will likely come down to Paul Martin, Justin Braun, or David Schlemko. It is hard to take away Martin from Burns but he is the second most expensive defenseman and will be by far the oldest at 36. Braun has struggled this year but he pairs nicely with Vlasic on the second defenseman unit. In the end, I believe that the Sharks will use their last protected selection on Schlemko who is cheaper and younger than the other two with more offensive upside.