How the Ottawa Senators fit into the expansion draft

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If the Vegas expansion draft was any indication, Seattle’s expansion draft is going to involve plenty of side deals.

The key to all of it might be the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators, given a projected protected list — they are due to the league in nine days — will have some room to protect a few defensemen. Here’s what their protected list may look like:

Forward: Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Nick Paul, Connor Brown, Colin White, Austin Watson, Logan Brown

Defense: Victor Mete, Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev

Goalie: Filip Gustavsson

There’s some debatable there at forward; maybe Evgenii Dadonov instead of White. Maybe Logan Brown isn’t worth a protection spot. Perhaps they value the rights to KHL left winger Vitaly Abramov, who has two years left in his contract overseas.

Where the Sens have an impact on the rest of the league, though, is on the blue line. Mete and Chabot are givens. Zaitsev, not so much. He has three years left at $4.5 million on the cap and might be worth exposing if they could bring in another right-shot defensemen.

This is a defense-heavy expansion draft. Plenty of teams are projected to lose good defenders; Vince Dunn in St. Louis stands out, as does one of Devon Toews or Ryan Graves in Colorado. Erik Cernak could be risked by the Lightning. Maybe Jake Bean in Carolina is worth more than being exposed.

The Senators have plenty of assets at goalie, too, and they can only protect one. Likely that’s Gustavsson, which leaves Joey Daccord exposed.

For teams with good defensemen who can’t or won’t be protected, getting something is always better than the nothing they’d get in return from Seattle. Maybe a goalie prospect is in the cards.

There’s a lot of depth at the position in Ottawa. Marcus Hogberg will likely become a free agent, but that still leaves them with Gustavsson and Daccord, along with Matt Murray, who is safe from the Kraken due to his undesirable $6.25 million cap hit for the next three seasons, especially when they can take a more capable goalie anyways in the expansion draft. Anton Forsberg is also under contract for another year, though leaving him unprotected should be safe.

One of the advantages of being a struggling team over the years when it comes to expansion is the flexibility that comes with it. Ottawa has the ability to take on a roster player and not risk losing more value.

Perhaps St. Louis or Tampa Bay wants Daccord there’s a path to adding an extra defender. Cernak — who has two years left at $2.95 million — especially is a right-handed defenseman, which just adds to Ottawa’s needs. Maybe the Lightning find a way to protect Cernak after all; they have options.

There’s going to be plenty of side deals with the Kraken and before that, deals that shape what the expansion draft looks like. There’s a good chance the Senators have a hand in the options the Kraken actually have.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

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    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

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