The Sens had a great run this year, and losing a depth player with their system won’t harm their squad in the long run. As we saw going into double overtime a few weeks ago, the Sens are a team to be reckoned with, especially with a healthy Karlsson. But the expansion draft is looming, and losing a key player is almost guaranteed for the Sens.
I’m going to start at goaltenders. Condon is a UFA by July 1st, and the Sens have already guaranteed Craig Anderson will be protected. The goal-tending in the Sens system has always been questioned by other teams due to their defensive system, so I believe simply out of speculation, Condon will not be drafted. He could always sign in Vegas once his contract expires, but they Golden Knights will not use their pick on a player they could lose in 2 weeks or less.
Anderson is the real deal, and even at his age he is a guaranteed stater for the Senators for the next few years. He is guaranteed to be protected.
The defense core on the Sens is likely where the Golden Knights will take their pick. The 1-3-1 system emphasizes neutral ice control, and smart puck moving defense. This highlights the skill, speed and versatility of the Sens D core, making several of their players viable for the defensive team that Vegas builds. Scorers are the hardest to draft in the expansion (as they are mostly protected), so the Golden Knights will begin as a neutral zone defensive team. Ironically a 1-3-1 or a trap based system is the most likely mindset Vegas will have come September.
The protected D are Dion and Karlsson, no argument. If Dion does not waive his no-trade (which I don’t believe he will) that leaves a single spot for Ceci, Methot, Claesson and Wideman.
I truly think Methot won’t get protected due to his contract at 4.9 million and his age. I think Ceci or Claesson will be protected as they are 23 and 24 respectively. Pierre Dorion will have a tough decision between the young D men. He will lose a developing defenseman who plays regular minutes, or an underrated veteran in Marc Methot.
Ceci or Claesson will end up being protected by the Senators. They cannot afford to lose a developing D man in the short term, and they can afford to lose Methots contract. Their 1-3-1 system thrives on stay with stay at home defense, and Methot does this well. But he is 31, carries a large contract and can be replaced within the next two seasons, making him expendable in the long run. It would hurt to lose a veteran on the blue line, but losing a developing player is worse for future cup runs. Ceci or Claesson would be a good option down the road for Vegas. But in terms of immediate blue line control, Methot is the best option.
In terms of forwards – Bobby Ryan has still got it. He had a less than spectacular regular season, which he admittedly had to put behind him come playoff time. But do the Sens still need to protect him and his contract? He was a fifty point player one season ago, and had he figured out the system Guy Boucher had established, I can almost guarantee he would have repeated with 50 points. But I don’t know if he is worth protecting. The Sens have some great young talent in the pipeline and freeing up 7.2 million dollars per year until 2022 would be a good solution as well. His stats in the playoffs unfortunately have muddied the waters for the Senators management. That being said, if he isn’t protected I wouldn’t expect Vegas to take a risk on him. If he is unprotected, that leaves a space on forward (assuming the Sens adopt the 7-3-1 draft option) for Zack Smith.
If they protect Ryan, they won’t be able to protect Zack Smith, who could be a depth option for Vegas, as he is in Ottawa. He is signed until 2022 on a reasonable contract at 3.2 until 2021.
Pyatt, Kelly, Stalberg, are all UFA’s and are unlikely to be drafted to Vegas.
Clark Macarthur, and Alex Burrows are no threat to be drafted. MacArthur is one bad hit away from ending his career, and his age at 32 and a 4.6 million dollar cap hit does not look great long term. Burrows is 36, and seen better days in hockey. Both forwards played great for Ottawa, but neither should think about packing their bags for Vegas.
Tommy Wingels is a UFA at the end of this season, and could theoretically sign with Vegas. That being said I don’t believe they will draft him due to his expiring contract, and uncertainty.
If Vegas is to take a forward, they would take Zach Smith as a depth Center option, IF he isn’t protected in lieu of Bobby Ryan. He had 36 and 32 points the last two seasons and could benefit from a larger role in another market. That being said, he isn’t a standout player and more value could arise from the Sens D core.
The likely protected list:
Forwards: Hoffman, Pageau, Dzingel, Turris, Stone, Brassard, and Ryan (or Smith).
Defense: Dion, Karlsson, and Ceci.
Goalie: Craig Anderson.
My pick: Marc Methot.