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The Daily Chum: Who should the Sharks protect in the expansion draft?

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And who’s Vegas going to take?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll know the results of the first expansion draft in more than a decade on June 21. Now that the Sharks’ season is in the books, let’s take a final look at who San Jose is best off protecting. The list of protected players must be submitted to Las Vegas on June 17 and I’m going to put forth my best take for who should be on it.

Let’s start with the must protect players and see where the Sharks stand from there. Remember, San Jose doesn’t have to protect Patrick Marleau nor Joe Thornton (and they won’t) so erase that from your brains. If Las Vegas signs either of those players in their super exclusive negotiating window they don’t get to draft a player from the Sharks. It’s unlikely, but it could happen. Moving on.

Must Protect

  • Brent Burns
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic
  • Logan Couture
  • Joe Pavelski
  • Martin Jones
  • Tomas Hertl

The Sharks have now protected two defenders, three forwards and one goalie. At this point they can protect either one more defender and four forwards or three more skaters. Here’s the pool of players on the table for protection, for my money (net cast widely):

Players Worth Protecting

  • Chris Tierney (RFA)
  • Paul Martin
  • Justin Braun
  • Brenden Dillon
  • David Schlemko
  • Mirco Mueller
  • Dylan DeMelo
  • Jannik Hansen
  • Melker Karlsson (RFA)

There’s just about no reason, in my mind, for the Sharks to pick four forwards out of this group and only one defender. San Jose’s strength is in its defense corp (wow that’s still weird to type). Instead, the Sharks need to go the eight skaters route. So from this list, we need to identify the three most valuable skaters. Here’s what I’ve got.

Justin Braun

His play with Marc-Edouard Vlasic became a concern late in the season, but even if his future isn’t on the top pairing, he’s still a top-four defender. Check out this visualization from hockeyviz.com to see his numbers from the past three years to get an idea of what I’m talking about:

Here’s another table, this one from ownthepuck.blogspot.com, that gives another visualization of Braun’s value.

He might not be a top pairing defender, but he belongs in the top four and he should be protected. Braun is also on a decent deal ($3.8 million a year until 2020) — the type of contract Vegas should try to bring on board; exactly why San Jose needs to protect him.

David Schlemko

How good did this signing end up being for the Sharks? Based on talent alone, Schlemko is probably a tweener between the second and third pairing, which means he’s excelled with Brenden Dillon on San Jose’s bottom pairing. He’s on an extremely team-friendly deal and need to stick around.

Brenden Dillon

Here’s where opinions can (understandably) diverge. For my money, your choice is between Dillon or Chris Tierney with the final protection spot. Given the Sharks’ relative depth at the defense position (Tim Heed, if he’s re-signed), I can understand leaving Dillon unprotected; but at the same time... I don’t think the Sharks will be too heartbroken if Tierney becomes a Golden Knight given the way Danny O’Regan played this season.

Exposed Players

  • Mikkel Boedker
  • Joel Ward
  • Jannik Hansen
  • Melker Karlsson (RFA)
  • Chris Tierney (RFA)
  • Barclay Goodrow (RFA)
  • Paul Martin
  • Mirco Mueller (RFA)
  • Dylan DeMelo
  • Aaron Dell

Who should Vegas take?

This, of course, takes a little of speculation on my part. It seems Vegas will be (mostly) set in the goaltending and defense department, so if I’m the Golden Knights I think long and hard about taking either Jannik Hansen or Chris Tierney. Hansen is (obviously) the better player, but Tierney being an RFA means you get a cheaper player with some upside for longer.

Of course you can get a bit of a project in Mueller, or some #veteran #presents in Paul Martin (and the bad part of the contract to boot)! My hunch is the Golden Knights get either Tierney or Dillon, whichever player ends up being exposed. Like I said, your mileage may vary.

Thanks to Cap Friendly’s awesome Expansion Draft Tool for assisting mightily in this post.