By: Jeremy Perrigo
Before getting into the details of the NHL Expansion Draft in relation to the Boston Bruins, it is important to understand the rules that each team must abide by when selecting who they want to protect from the Vegas Golden Knights come June.
First off, there are two separate methods a team can use when protecting its players. Method number one is the 7-3-1 strategy where organizations are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie for a total of 11 players.
The second method is the 8-1 strategy, where a team is allowed to protect any eight skaters of their choosing and one goalie, for a total of nine players. A team would choose this method if they have a strong interest in protecting four defensemen. Their protection method would likely be 4-4-1 where they sacrifice three forward spots in order to save a fourth defenseman.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of spots for a team to protect, considering an NHL roster generally consists of about 23 players. However, there are other rules to take into account that change how a team selects, and who they do and do not have to protect. Also to keep in mind, Vegas must select from all 30 teams, and cannot select more than one player from each.
Players with a No Movement Clause in their contract must be protected by their team. So if for some reason a player with a No Movement Clause was on the list of players that a team wasn’t planning on protecting, they automatically need to be protected. This isn’t usually the case as most players with No Movement Clauses are top forwards or defensemen that a team would plan on protecting regardless of their contract.
While the rule regarding No Movement Clauses could potentially be seen as a negative for some teams, this next rule is of huge benefit to teams with a significant amount of young talent. Players on Entry-Level contracts, or those who have yet to be signed to an NHL contract with the organization that drafted them, are not eligible to be selected in the draft, and a team does not need to use one of their protection slots on these players. Entry-Level contracts are typically three years long, which means players that have already played significant time in the NHL, but are still on their first contract, are automatically protected from the Expansion Draft.
In relation to Boston, the Bruins are likely to go with the 7-3-1 strategy. With this method the B’s can protect all their top forwards, while not giving much up on defense. Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand - David Backes - David Krejci - David Pastrnak - Riley Nash - Ryan Spooner will likely be the seven protected forwards with Tuukka Rask will being protected in net. While Backes has a long-term contract that many have said is overpaid, and David Krejci will be a 7.25 million cap hit until 2021, they both have No Movement Clauses and must be protected. Frank Vatrano and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are on Entry-Level contracts and therefore exempt from the draft.
On defense the situation is not as simple. The Bruins will likely have to give up a player they would rather keep. Zdeno Chara has a No Movement Clause and therefore must be protected. Torey Krug is a shoe-in for the second spot; his 51 points were fifth on the team and most among B’s defensemen. His style of play as an offensive-defenseman fits well into the system of head coach Bruce Cassidy, who demands more offensive proclivity from his blueliners.
Who the Bruins should protect with their third spot differs depending on who you listen to. The decision ultimately comes down to Colin Miller, Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid. Keep in mind neither Charlie McAvoy nor Brandon Carlo are eligible to be drafted. Most are saying Boston will protect one of the two Millers, which makes sense. While Adam McQuaid has proven a reliable shot-blocker, he is also prone to injury. Kevan Miller, who plays a stay-at-home enforcer role like McQuaid, had just as strong of a season.
Colin Miller is a younger 24 years old to Kevan’s 29 and McQuaid’s 30. However, with this younger age comes less experience and less reliability. While the Bruins know what kind of players Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are, Colin Miller is more of an unknown. There is the possibility that he could step into a role as an offensive-defenseman like Krug. However, Colin Miller played two more games this year than Kevan Miller, a defenseman not known for his offensive capabilities, yet the pair ended the regular season each with 13 points.
If the Bruins are going to grow a young defensive core around players like Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo it would make sense to have a younger Colin Miller as well. A veteran like captain Zdeno Chara is playing an important leadership role now for the Bruins’ young defensmen. Chara was paired with Carlo for most of the season, the two have noticeably similar playing styles. Before Chara retires it is likely he will have a strong role in grooming the next generation of B’s defensemen.
Though something to consider is the place of a tough, shot-blocking defenseman that is willing to throw punches to defend his teammates. Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are exactly that. While the team is beginning the process of growing a young defensive core, they are not going for a full rebuild. This means they need players they can rely on right now; players that have a consistent history of doing the job they are asked to do.
The Bruins made the playoffs for the first time in two years this season. This success came with a group of defensemen that wasn’t expected to give much for Boston, yet they almost made it to the second round of the postseason regardless. With the prospect of a stronger D-core coming in the 2017-2018 season, fans are expecting more from their team, not less. I believe somewhere in the organization there is still the desire to not completely lose players that give the Big Bad Bruins their name, and I think that much might be enough for the B’s to protect Kevan Miller over Colin.
That being said, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney still has time to negotiate with other GMs across the league, including Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee. Sweeney could potentially work out a deal that involves keeping both of the Millers. Providence Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban could be in the cards as well. With Tuukka Rask the obvious starter for the Bruins and Zane McIntyre (still too young to be drafted) making the case to be Rask’s backup with a goals against average of 2.03 and save percentage of .930 in 31 games with Providence this season, Subban may be in need of a new home.
All 30 NHL teams must have their protection picks in by June 17th. Vegas will have two days to draft players and its roster is due June 20th. The players selected will officially be announced June 21st. Until then GMs will be negotiating to save players important to the future of their team. Fortunately for Boston, their future is in young players that are exempt from the draft, expect them to be among the teams less affected by expansion.
Photo Credit: (USA Today Sports)