One of hockey’s tenets is that defense wins championships. That seems to be part of the Lightning’s mentality ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft.
The Lightning, coming off their second straight Stanley Cup title, opted to shield their defensive core from the Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season, and leave key veteran forwards exposed on their list of players protected in the draft that was released Sunday. Players with a no-move clause automatically made the protected list unless they agreed to waive it.
The Lightning’s protected players are forwards Anthony Cirelli, Nikita Kucherov (no-move clause), Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos (no-move clause); defensemen Erik Cernak, Victor Hedman (no-move clause), Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev; and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (no-move clause).
|Anthony Cirelli||Erik Cernak||Andrei Vasilevskiy (no move clause)|
|Nikita Kucherov (no move clause)||Victor Hedman (no move clause)|
|Brayden Point||Ryan McDonagh|
|Steven Stamkos (no move clause)||Mikhail Sergachev|
Teams had two options for making their protected list: a combination of seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters regardless of position and a goaltender. The Lightning went with the latter.
The unprotected include forwards Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, rookie Ross Colton, Mathieu Joseph and three-time Stanley Cup winner Pat Maroon; and defensemen Cal Foote and Jan Rutta.
Here’s what may make some of the forwards attractive to the Kraken:
Much of the identity of the Lightning’s gritty third line, which has paid dividends the past two years in the postseason, started with Gourde, who finished his sixth season with the Lightning with 17 goals with 19 assists in the regular season and seven playoff points (six goals).
Gourde adds value on special teams, too, on the second power-play unit and stepping in on the second penalty-kill unit as needed.
“You just can’t get enough Yanni Gourdes in your lineup,” linemate Blake Coleman said during the postseason.
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Johnson could be an attractive choice for Seattle given he’s a Spokane, Wash., native and can play center and wing.
Last offseason, Johnson’s name again was thrown around in trade talks as the Lightning looked for ways to become salary cap compliant. He has a cap hit of $5 million through 2023-24.
Nikita Kucherov’s hip surgery and trades to acquire injured-player contracts allowed the Lightning to become cap compliant through the use of the long-term injured reserve list, and Johnson stayed.
Then Johnson was put on waivers just before the season opener so the Lightning could be cap compliant on opening night. He wasn’t claimed.
With a rehabilitating Kucherov out for the regular season, Johnson had six goals and 14 assists, both career lows for a full season, while often centering the fourth line and logging significant time on the second power-play unit.
He assisted on the game-opening goal against the Panthers in a 4-0 Game 6 win that clinched a second-round playoff berth for the Lightning. He had four playoff goals total and three assists.
The Lightning’s longest-tenured player, Killorn, drafted in 2007 (a year before Stamkos), doesn’t bring the high-powered scoring that Kucherov and Point do, but his value in the locker room can’t be overstated.
In 2019-20, Killorn had a career-high 49 points (26 goals). In this year’s abbreviated regular season, he had 33 points (15 goals). He added eight goals and nine assists in the playoffs.Killorn played on the team’s top power-play unit and even logged some shorthanded minutes on the second penalty-kill unit. He skated on the second line with Cirelli and Stamkos, too.
Killorn skated on the second line with Cirelli and Stamkos, played on the top power-play unit and even logged some minutes on the second penalty-kill unit.
After breaking his fibula blocking a shot in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Canadiens, Killorn had a rod inserted three days later and was skating by the weekend in an effort to return to the series. He didn’t.
Palat often flies under the radar skating on the top line with Point and Kucherov. His simple style of play doesn’t always make headlines, but his consistency has kept him as a notable top-six forward over the years.
In his ninth year with the Lightning, Palat had one of the best seasons of his career this year, scoring 15 goals and getting 31 assists for 46 points in the regular season, second on the team to Point’s 48 points. He contributed another 13 points (five goals) in the postseason.
Palat’s effectiveness on the power play also makes him a valuable target for Seattle. He averaged the third-highest time on ice per game among forwards on the power play at 3 minutes, 12 seconds, behind Stamkos (3:37) and Point (3:24).
Other notable players left exposed from around the league
|Montreal Canadiens||Shea Weber||Defenseman||Atlantic (Eastern)|
|Montreal Canadiens||Carey Price||Goaltender||Atlantic (Eastern)|
|L.A. Kings||Jonathan Quick||Goaltender||Pacific (Western)|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Jason Zucker||Forward||Metropolitan (Eastern)|
|Calgary Flames||Mark Giordano||Defenseman||Pacific (Western)|
|Washington Capitals||Brenden Dillon||Defenseman||Metropolitan (Eastern)|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Jared McCann||Forward||Atlantic (Eastern)|
|Colorado Avalanche||Gabriel Landeskog||Forward||Central (Western)|
|St. Louis Blues||Vladimir Tarasenko||Forward||Central (Western)|
|Nashville Predators||Ryan Johansen||Forward||Central (Western)|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Max Domi||Forward||Metropolitan (Eastern)|
|New Jersey Devils||P.K. Subban||Defenseman||Metropolitan (Eastern)|
|Vancouver Canucks||Braden Holtby||Goaltender||Pacific (Western)|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Dougie Hamilton||Defenseman||Metropolitan (Eastern)|
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