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Blackhawks and the Expansion Draft: Who’s protected? Who isn’t?

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A quick guide to how the upcoming expansion draft will affect the Blackhawks roster.

NHL: MAR 25 Panthers at Blackhawks Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NHL offseason is just about here.

The Montreal Canadiens avoided a sweep on Monday night but any other victories from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the next three games will kickstart a few busy weeks of NHL offseason activity — with the expansion draft for the incoming Seattle Kraken atop the list.

It’s just a few weeks away now, so, using this handy FAQ from the CapFriendly website, let’s run through the Chicago Blackhawks roster and see what options exist.

First, players with no-movement clauses must waive said clauses to be exposed to the draft. Assuming that won’t happen, it removes three players: Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith (let’s assume those Keith trade rumors won’t involve Seattle for the sake of this exercise) and Jonathan Toews.

Next, first and second-year players are exempt from the upcoming draft. As CapFriendly puts it:

Any players who have earned two or less professional seasons at the end of the 2020-21 season, as well as all unsigned draft choices appearing on the team’s reserve list

Chicago’s recent youth movement means a slew of players fit into this exemption, including Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell , Dominik Kubalik and many more. Alex Nylander is also on this list because he missed last season with an injury, as Scott Powers of The Athletic reported last month.

By removing the players with no-movement clauses and the first or second-year players, here are the remaining options (players who are not under contract for next season have their free agency status indicated in parenthesis):

Forwards (13): Henrik Borgstrom (RFA), Ryan Carpenter, Brett Connolly, Alex DeBrincat, Josh Dickinson (RFA), Adam Gaudette (RFA), Brandon Hagel (RFA), Vinnie Hinostroza (UFA), David Kampf (RFA), Brandon Pirri (UFA), John Quenneville (UFA), Zack Smith (UFA), Dylan Strome

Defensemen (5): Calvin de Haan, Anton Lindholm (UFA), Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman, Nikita Zadorov (RFA)

Goalies (3): Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban

From that list above, the Blackhawks have two options. They can protect:

  • 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie

Or

  • 8 total skaters (forwards & defensemen) and 1 goalie

Considering the first option allows 10 players to be protected, let’s assume that’s the route Chicago will pursue. The no-movement clauses for Toews, Kane and Keith take up two of the forward spots and one of the defenseman spots, leaving five forwards and two defensemen available to be protected by the Blackhawks.

A few of the decisions are obvious here. DeBrincat is not going to be exposed. Neither is Hagel. Strome’s future in Chicago may not extend beyond this offseason but he certainly won’t be allowed to walk for nothing in the expansion draft. Murphy is also a lock to be protected and Lankinen played well enough in 2021 that he won’t be exposed either. That moves the number of protected players up to five forwards, two defensemen and one goalie.

Removing those players, the list looks something like this:

Forwards (10): Henrik Borgstrom (RFA), Ryan Carpenter, Brett Connolly, Josh Dickinson (RFA), Adam Gaudette (RFA), Vinnie Hinostroza (UFA), David Kampf (RFA), Brandon Pirri (UFA), John Quenneville (UFA), Zack Smith (UFA)

Defensemen (4): Calvin de Haan, Anton Lindholm (UFA), Riley Stillman, Nikita Zadorov (RFA)

Goalies (2): Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban

From that list above, Chicago can protect two more forwards and one more defensemen. And that’s where the intrigue begins.

The deadline for teams to submit their list of protected players is next Saturday, July 17 with the expansion draft to follow on Wednesday, July 21.