The expansion draft is coming up very soon as we’re only about 2 weeks away. Some teams, including the Winnipeg Jets, will have some difficult decisions to make. These are my predictions on who they’ll protect.
If you didn’t know, teams are allowed to have 1 of 2 types of protection lists. They can either protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie, or 8 skaters and a goalie. The Jets will without a doubt go with the first option due to the depth of their forward group. Anyone with a no movement clause is automatically put on the protection list. The only Jets player with a NMC is Blake Wheeler. Finally, any player with 2 or less years of experience is also exempt from being picked. So guys like Ville Heinola, Kristian Vesalainen and Cole Perfetti don’t need to be protected. Now lets get into my projections:
Blake Wheeler (3yrs left at $8,250,000) – As I mentioned, Wheeler is forced to be protected as he has a no move clause. Not that it would change much as he would’ve been protected anyway.
Kyle Connor (5 yrs left at $7,142,857) – Connor was a top 3 player for the Jets last season and has proven to be one of the better goal scorers in the league. This is an obvious one.
Mark Scheifele (3 yrs left at $6,125,000) – One of the leaders and best playmakers on the team, Scheifele will be protected. He also shouldn’t have been suspended 4 games, just had to throw that in there.
Nikolaj Ehlers (4 yrs left at $6,000,000) – Ehlers has been one of the most underrated players in the league over the past couple seasons and finally saw some recognition in 2021. He rounds out what I consider the core four forwards.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (1 yr left at $5,000,000) – Dubois was definitely disappointing this past season, but they have to give him another shot next year. We know he has high potential, hopefully he can figure things out in year 2 with the Jets.
Adam Lowry (5 yrs left at $3,250,000) – The Jets just gave Lowry an extension in a very team friendly deal. Lowry is the perfect 3rd line center due to his defensive abilities and physicality. He may not always produce offensively but he’s a necessary piece to this team.
Andrew Copp (RFA this offseason) – Copp emerged as a great asset for the Jets last season, and showed he can do it at any spot in the lineup. I hope the Jets can lock him up at a similar deal to Lowry’s as losing Copp would be a big hit to the versatility of this lineup.
Josh Morrissey (7 yrs left at $6,250,000) – I hate this contract as Morrissey hasn’t quite lived up to it yet, but I don’t see them leaving him unprotected. I think he could look a lot better if the Jets are able to bring in a capable top pairing guy to play alongside him. However if he has Tucker Poolman on the top line with him again next year, I don’t like his outlook as much.
Dylan Demelo (3 yrs left at $3,000,000) – This one was a tough one as I was debating between Demelo and Stanley. I went with Demelo as I don’t think Stanley has proven enough yet to be protected by the team. Demelo is great in his own zone and on the PK, he doesn’t offer much offensively but still a solid secondary guy.
Neal Pionk (RFA this offseason) – To me Pionk was the best Jets defenseman last season and will certainly be protected. He’s shown to be a pretty underrated player since being acquired by the Jets in the Trouba trade (great trade by Chevy). I hope they can work out a long term deal soon and run it back with Pionk.
Connor Hellebuyck (3 yrs left at $6,166,666) – This doesn’t even need to be said. Hellebuyck is the best player on this team.
There’s a few guys the Jets could potentially lose that would be pretty significant losses to the squad.
Mason Appleton (1 yr left at $900,000) – Appleton emerged in 2021 as a more than capable winger. He’s still young and has potential to continue to develop. To me he’s the most likely selection by Seattle, but I really hope Chevy can work his magic and keep this guy on the team.
Logan Stanley (RFA this offseason) – Big boy Stan showed he’s an NHL level defenseman last year with plenty of room for improvement. He reminds me a lot of Tyler Myers back when he was decent and he brings some much needed size to this group. He’s another guy I hope the Jets can hold on to.
Paul Stastny (UFA this offseason) – I don’t expect Seattle to take a 35 year old UFA, but Stastny is a solid piece in the middle portion of a lineup. I think he’ll end up taking a team friendly deal as he enjoys playing for Winnipeg, but also wouldn’t be surprised if he left in free agency.
I don’t think there’s anyone else the Kraken would take unless Cheveldayoff can work out a pre-arranged deal like he did with the Golden Knights (remember Chris Thorburn). As long as the price isn’t too high I hope he’s able to swing a deal as I’d hate to lose Appleton or Stanley. To me this team is a top pairing D man away from being a true contender, let’s all hope for Dougie Hamilton.
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If you want to check out expected protection lists for any other teams, check out my man Tyler MacKillop’s articles, he’s writing one for every team.