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Evaulating the Blackhawks on the Expansion Draft ‘bubble’

Who should the team protect? Who could end up getting taken by the Kraken?

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Tuesday, we went over the logistics behind the expansion draft for the incoming Seattle Kraken and how that affects the Blackhawks.

After that procedure, a handful of players were left, removing those who are exempt from expansion draft exposure due to no-movement clauses or first/second-year status and the ones who are obviously not going to be exposed, like Alex DeBrincat.

Here’s where the list ended up, with contract status listed in parenthesis for the players who are not under contract for next season:

Forwards (10): Henrik Borgstrom, 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

With Kevin Lankinen likely to be protected, Chicago has no choice but to expose both Delia and Subban to the expansion draft process. From this pool of skaters, Chicago can protect two more forwards and one more defenseman.

Let’s explore the remaining options.


Borgstrom was not listed among the “locks” from Tuesday’s post but upon further consideration — and based on a few proper objections from the comment section on that article — he’ll probably be protected. Although he’s a restricted free agent, Borgstrom likely won’t cost much and a statement from general manager Stan Bowman when Chicago acquired Borgstrom suggests they have high hopes for his future:

So now it’s down to one more forward and one more defenseman who can be protected.

Let’s start at forward and check off the obvious ones. Dickinson, Pirri and Quenneville are fringe NHLers and won’t be protected. Smith’s injury history and UFA status remove any desire to protect him.

Carpenter and Connolly are veteran NHLers who will primarily be confined to fourth-line roles for the rest of their careers. That typically doesn’t warrant protection in an expansion draft, so we can cross their names off.

Now we’re down to three: Gaudette, Hinostroza and Kampf.

All three are free agents, with only Hinostroza of the unrestricted variety. There are cases to be made for each of this trio. Hinostroza was quite good in his return to Chicago and may have warranted another chance to lock down a roster spot next season. Kampf is the type of defensively responsible center that good teams need (he said as he started longingly towards Phillip Danault in Montreal). Gaudette had a slow start to his NHL career but believes he has more to offer after learning that the stomach issues he’d dealt with for years have a specific diagnosis: candidiasis. Gaudette, 24, is younger than Kampf (26) and Hinostroza (27), so let’s bank on Gaudette’s ceiling — which remains the highest out of those three — and say that Gaudette will be the final player the Blackhawks protect from the expansion draft.

Here’s the full list of Blackhawks forwards we’re protecting in the expansion draft:

  • Jonathan Toews (no-movement clause)
  • Patrick Kane (NMC)
  • Alex DeBrincat
  • Dylan Strome
  • Brandon Hagel
  • Henrik Borgstrom
  • Adam Gaudette


While he still may not be properly valued in Chicago, de Haan’s injury woes over the last few seasons make him an obvious choice for expansion draft exposure and there’s not much of an argument about Lindholm, either. So of that initial group of four, the decision really comes down to two players: Stillman and Zadorov.

Contract status is no issue here, as de Haan’s exposure fulfills the requirement of one player under contract for next season who played at least 27 games in the 2021 season. Unless the Blackhawks have a fondness for Zadorov within the organization that exceeds what exists virtually everywhere else, it’s hard to make a substantial case for protecting Zadorov over Stillman. Zadorov (26) is older than Stillman (23) and will likely carry a higher cap hit once his contract is sorted out. There’s also cost certainty with Stillman, who’s under contract for $1.35 million AAV for three more seasons. If utilized properly, Zadorov can be a solid NHL blue-liner. Let Seattle try to figure that out.

Here’s the full list of Blackhawks defensemen we’re protecting in the expansion draft:

  • Duncan Keith (NMC)
  • Connor Murphy
  • Riley Stillman

As aforementioned, Lankinen is the one goalie we’re protecting leaving both Subban and Delia exposed to the draft.

Here’s the full list of players we’d leave available for Seattle to select in the upcoming expansion draft:

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Brett Connolly, Josh Dickinson, Vinnie Hinostroza, David Kampf, Brandon Pirri, John Quenneville, Zack Smith

Defensemen: Calvin de Haan, Anton Lindholm, Nikita Zadorov

Goalies: Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban