No fan base may be more fearful of the upcoming expansion draft than the Pittsburgh Penguins. After all the last expansion draft saw the Penguins expose franchise goaltender and fan-favorite, Marc-Andre Fleury. The decision in this go round may also leave the fans in a similar state of emotional distress.
First, let’s take a look at who will be protected from the Seattle franchise. In the Vegas expansion, the Penguins chose to protect 4 forwards and 4 defensemen. Of course this was a moot point, as the Penguins had already worked a deal for the Knights to draft Marc-Andre Fleury. I would expect the team to choose the more forward oriented protection list this time around.
Sidney Crosby, Center
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The face of the franchise and the league for the past 15 seasons will not be exposed. He will certainly finish his career with the Penguins and have his jersey hung in the rafters next to Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere.
Evgeni Malkin, Center
Another obvious choice here, Malkin has a No-Movement Clause which exempts him from exposure. Even without that certainty, Malkin is still at a very productive stage of his career. He should still be in the 80 point production range and be in the all-star conversations.
Jake Guentzel, Center/ Left Wing
Meet the future of the organization. Jake will be in line for a big payday in the coming offseason. He is going to be christened to be the next face of the franchise. He has adapted to a change in position and is a prolific playoff scorer.
Dominic Simon, Center/ Right Wing
Much like Chris Kunitz and Pacal Dupuis before him, Simon has excelled playing a full-time role on Crosby’s wing. Dominic is a very intelligent player, who always puts himself where Sid wants him to be. He is a fast and gritty player that does all the small things in all three zones. He will be a productive player for a long time to come.
Zach Aston-Reese, Left Wing
Aston-Reese is another guy that can play with elite level players. He has spent time flanking both Malkin and Crosby. ZAR was playing top 6 minutes in last year’s playoffs before encountering a broken jaw at the hands of Tom Wilson. He still shows relentlessness in the tough areas and uses his speed and IQ to make plays for the elite players around him.
Bryan Rust, Left Wing/ Right Wing
You want a guy that plays 3rd line and kills penalties, that’s Bryan Rust. You want a guy to play in your top 6 and makes your elite players better, that’s Bryan Rust. You need a Left Winger or Right Winger, that’s Bryan Rust. You get the point. This is the most versatile guy on the Penguins roster. You cannot let a guy like that walk out the door.
Patric Hornqvist, Right Wing
Affectionately known as “Horny,” Patric is a grinder that plays exceptionally well within 3 feet of the crease. A guy like Hornqvist is a guy that you don’t notice until he is not there. At the time of writing this, Hornqvist is on the IR with an Upper Body Injury and the suffering of the Power Play is noticeable. Outside of all that, he is an emotional leader in the locker-room that would be sorely missed.
Kris Letang, Right Handed Defenseman
Letang has a No-Movement Clause in his contract that will prevent him from being exposed. Beyond that, he is the best Penguins defenseman and they cannot let his leadership leave.
Brian Dumoulin, Left Handed Defenseman
Dumoulin is a phenomenal positional defenseman. He is very smart as to how he approaches the game. He has been playing across from Letang for the last few seasons and they have formed one of the best shutdown pairing in the league.
Juuso Rikola, Left Handed Defenseman
Juuso is an un-drafted defenseman that forced his way onto the roster out of training camp this year. He has added an element of physicality and speed that the Penguins defense core lacks in a single body. Rikola is going to be a staple for the Penguins defense well into the future.
Matt Murray, Goaltender
The protection of Murray is going to be a point of contention for Penguins fans. He is still a 24 year old with 2 Stanley Cups. Matt has had his share of injury and personal concerns to fill a career. Hopefully, he finds a way to get trending in the right direction and stay healthy. If he does, the Penguins could not afford to let another franchise goaltender leave.
Phil Kessel, Right Wing
Assuming the reality finally catches up with media trends, I assume a deal will be worked out to trade Phil Kessel and give the Penguins some much needed salary cap relief.
Justin Schultz, Right Handed Defenseman
With his current contract set to expire at the end of the 2019-20 season, I do not envision a scenario that the Penguins can afford to re-sign Schultz.
Jack Johnson, Left Handed Defenseman
I am sure most fans will be actively lobbying for GM Jim Rutherford to work all angles to trade Jack Johnson. However, I do not believe he will explore such options and expose Johnson during the draft.
Olli Maata, Left Handed Defenseman
Currently the fourth longest tenured member of the Penguins roster, Maata will be exposed to Seattle. Furthermore, I expect Seattle to select Maata with their Penguins selection. He may not pop out statistically, but he plays a very sound game and has a ton of postseason experience that will help a young locker room.
This is a very early projection of what the exemption list may look like. Many of the players that are protected and exposed may not even be on the roster at this time. This was a very fun thought experiment and is by no means an insider opinion. I hope you enjoy and let me know in the comments who you would protect and who you think Seattle will snipe off the Penguins roster.
Salary and contract information provided by capfriendly.com