On Saturday afternoon, Wild general manager Bill Guerin will have to submit his protection list ahead of the July 21 expansion draft. He made that part of his job much easier on Tuesday morning by making the hard decision to buy out veteran stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
While the aftermath of that decision will likely be debated for the foreseeable future, there’s likely very little debate about which players will be on Guerin’s protection list now that Parise and Suter are no longer a part of the roster.
It’s almost a guarantee that the Wild choose the option that allows them to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender from the Seattle Kraken. Asked if he made the decision to buy out Parise and Suter solely based on the expansion draft, Guerin said, “It was a contributing part of the decision.”
It raises the question: Who are the Wild going to protect? Let’s take a guess. (Remember, star rookie Kirill Kaprizov does not need to be protected.)
Joel Eriksson Ek: This is a no-brainer. He just signed an eight-year deal. He isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Kevin Fiala: He still doesn’t have a contract. But he will undoubtedly be protected. He’s a legitimate sniper to build around.
Marcus Foligno: He’s the heart and soul of the locker room. He has also taken the next step as a scoring threat. No chance he’s left exposed.
Jordan Greenway: He took a gigantic leap last season. Though he still needs to improve his consistency, he’s on the right track for the future.
Ryan Hartman: He’s a gritty player that can wear many hats. There’s a good chance he would be plucked if he were exposed.
Nico Sturm: He was at risk of being exposed before. Not anymore.
Mats Zuccarello: He has a no-movement clause. He has to be protected by rule.
Jonas Brodin: He has a no-movement clause. He has to be protected by rule.
Matt Dumba: He was at risk of being exposed before. Now it’s essentially a guarantee he will be protected.
Jared Spurgeon: He has a no-movement clause. He has to be protected by rule.
Cam Talbot: He was a brick wall throughout the playoffs. If he were left exposed, he would likely get selected.
Who is left?
If the protection list actually plays out like this, that would notably leave defenseman Carson Soucy and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen exposed.
While there are a lot of other players the Wild would have to leave exposed, it’s likely the Kraken would select Soucy or Kahkonen. Both players have proven capable of making an impact at the NHL level early in their respective careers and could grow into a much more prominent role if given the opportunity.
There’s also a chance Guerin could try to work out a side deal with Kraken general manager Ron Francis at some point in the next week.