Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Have Potential Issue for 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft

The NHL will expand to 32 teams next summer with the addition of the Seattle yet-to-be-named franchise. All 30 teams, excluding Las Vegas, will lose one player to Seattle. Vegas has the sixth most wins and sixth most points in the NHL since entering the league in the fall of 2017, but this well-run organization is exempt from the expansion draft.

“Actually our expansion agreement with Vegas doesn’t even account for the exemption,” said deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in the spring of 2018.

Vegas will not receive any of the $650 million expansion fee from Seattle. The other 30 teams will receive $21.66 million, but in exchange Vegas will not lose a player.

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  • Seattle must select 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.
  • Of the players Seattle selects, at least 20 of the 30 players must be under contract for the 2021-22 regular season. The other players they select are allowed to be pending free agents, but they can not select any more than 10 pending free agents.
  • The total value of cap hits for players Seattle selects must total between 60 and 100 percent of the 2020/2021 salary cap ($81.5 million). So at least $48.9 million.
  • The players Seattle selects are not eligible to be bought out of their contracts by Seattle any earlier than the summer of 2022.


  • Teams can protect only one goaltender, and can choose one of two options for protecting skaters: Either seven forwards and three defensemen for a total of 10 skaters, or teams can protect any combination of eight skaters. A team could protect five defencemen and three forwards, for example.
  • Teams must protect players with no-movement clauses in their contracts, unless the player elects to waive the clause. They do not have to protect players with only no-trade clauses.
  • Players with only two pro seasons, and all unsigned draft choices, are exempt from the draft. However, they do not count toward a team’s protected list.
  • Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games may be exempt from being selected with league approval.


  • For defensemen exposed to the draft, at least one must be under contract in 2021-22 and have played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or played 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • Teams must expose two forwards who under contract in 2021-22, have played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or played 70 NHL games in the previous two seasons.
  • For goaltenders, at least one must be under contract in 2021-22 or be a restricted free agent prior to 2021-22. If a goaltender is exposed who is a restricted free agent, he must have already received his qualifying offer.
  • Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games can not be included to meet the aforementioned requirements.


The Oilers protected seven forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian, Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu along with Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson and Cam Talbot.

They exposed the following players:

Forwards: David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Matt Hendricks, Roman Horak, Jujhar Khaira, Anton Lander, Iiro Pakarinen, Tyler Pitlick, Zach Pochiro, Benoit Pouliot, Henrik Samuelsson and Bogdan Yakimov.

Defence: Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Mark Fraser, Eric Gryba, David Musil, Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart and Kris Russell.

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Goalie: Laurent Brossoit

They didn’t have to protect Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning or Jesse Puljujarvi.


Nov 19, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing James Neal (18) scores a goal past San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the second period at SAP Center in San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

It is difficult to accurately project who they will protect next year, due to trades etc, but based on today’s roster I see them protecting eight skaters due to the depth on the blueline.

They don’t have to protect Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Ryan McLeod.

If they protect seven forwards, that means one of Ethan Bear, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse or Caleb Jones will be exposed. I don’t see the Oilers doing that, considering their situation at forward.

So I would protect McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH (assuming he gets a new contract before the expansion draft), Kailer Yamamoto, Klefbom, Nurse, Bear, Jones and Mikko Koskinen.

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Adam Larsson doesn’t have a contract and I don’t see the need to rush and re-sign him during the season. I doubt Seattle would draft him as a UFA, unless they are confident they can sign him.

Which means James Neal, Josh Archibald, Tyler Benson, Kassian, Khaira, Puljujarvi and Andreas Athanasiou (if he signs more than one season) will be exposed. Joakim Nygard and Gaetan Haas are UFAs at the end of next season and pending UFA Riley Sheahan currently doesn’t have a contract.

Stuart Skinner would qualify as a goalie who could be exposed.

The challenge for the Oilers is under this scenario they don’t have a defenceman who would qualify to be exposed. Kris Russell isn’t under contract for 2021/2022 and neither is Larsson or Matt Benning at the moment. So general manager Ken Holland will have to acquire a D-man this season or sign William Lagesson to a two-year extension this off-season and ensure he plays 40 games next season, or re-sign Benning or Larsson to an extension, or the Oilers protect seven forwards and expose one of Jones, Nurse, Klefbom or Bear. Most likely Jones.

I can’t see the latter coming to fruition, so I’d expect a signing or a trade to occur between now and next year’s trade deadline.

The Oilers are a much deeper team than they were in 2017, so they will lose a better player than they did to Vegas (Griffin Reinhart). Once Holland rectifies the blueliner issue, I sense the most likely candidates to be picked are Puljujarvi or Kassian. Benson would need a strong season in the NHL to be chosen ahead of those two, in my eyes.

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Maybe Holland entices Seattle to claim Neal, by adding in a pick or a player, but seeing how that strategy backfired for teams in 2017, I’m not sure GMs will be as willing to sweeten the pot too much just to lose one player.

Who would you protect and why?