Wild general manager Bill Guerin can take a breath. At least for a few days.
After stressing out all offseason about which players the Wild might lose in this week’s NHL expansion draft, Guerin has submitted his protection list, and has most notably exposed goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and defenseman Carson Soucy.
It’s assumed the Seattle Kraken will take either Kahkonen or Soucy in Wednesday night’s draft unless the Wild strike a deal to get them to take someone else. Logistically, the Kraken will select one player from the other 30 teams, with the Vegas Golden Knights as the only exempt team.
As for the Wild, their protection list is as follows:
- Forwards: Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Nico Sturm, Mats Zuccarello
- Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon
- Goaltender: Cam Talbot
It’s worth noting that star rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov was exempt from the expansion draft and thus did not need to be protected.
The protection list started to crystalize last week when Guerin made the shocking decision to buy out veteran stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Both players had no-movement clauses in their contracts, which by rule required the Wild to protect them.
If the Kraken want a young goaltender to build around, the 24-year-old Kahkonen would be the obvious selection. He has grown into a solid option between the pipes, and while he struggled down the stretch last season, he still finished 16-8-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
If the Kraken want a young defenseman to stabilize their backend, the 26-year-old Soucy would make sense. Though he spent most of last season on the bottom pairing, Soucy still finished with a career-high 17 points (1 goal, 16 assists) filling out a steady third defensive pairing with Ian Cole while bringing size and grit to the Wild blue line. He also led the team in plus-minus (plus-22).
Aside from Kahkonen and Soucy, some other notable Wild players left exposed were forwards Victor Rask and Nick Bjugstad.