The New Jersey Devils are in a good spot, for sort of a bad reason.
Well, just consider New Jersey’s defense, where only Damon Severson is an absolute must-protect.
That’s no disrespect intended to Andy Greene, who’s been a fine defenseman in this league for a while now. But Greene also turns 35 in October. He’s no longer the offensive catalyst he used to be.
Again, no disrespect intended. But if the Devils could get Vatanen at a reasonable price, might they be willing to expose Lovejoy and Moore? At most, they’d only lose one of those two anyway.
A similar thing could be said about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense. The Bolts will obviously want to protect Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, but to add a guy like Vatanen, they might be willing to expose Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr.
Ditto for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who’d love to add another defenseman. The Leafs are going to protect Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, but they don’t have to expose Nikita Zaitsev, and losing Connor Carrick or Martin Marincin wouldn’t be a complete disaster.
Now, we’ve only used Vatanen as an example here. There could be other defensemen traded ahead of the expansion draft. Other forwards or goalies, too.
The point is, any team that adds a player prior to the expansion draft will need to be able to protect him, and some teams are better able to do that than others.