Nashville Predators: Best Case Scenarios for the Expansion Draft

Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s inevitable that the Nashville Predators, and pretty much every other NHL team, will lose a player in the Expansion Draft that they probably don’t want to lose.

The Predators are right on that fringe of being either a playoff team or a team that continues to go backwards in 2021-22. They need a successful offseason from GM David Poile, and his protection list is first on the to-do list.

General Managers have to submit their protection lists by July 17. Poile said he wasn’t ready to reveal any details on his protection list in the end-of-season press conference with media, and this comment via AtoZSports:

"“There should be trades before that, so I certainly won’t be able to answer your questions right now as to who we are protecting or who we are leaving available.”"

Totally understandable stance from Poile, but hey it was worth asking him anyway. Deep down I don’t believe he really knows which direction he’s going to go in with his protection list yet.

I’m fully expecting the Seattle Kraken to take a similar path that the Vegas Golden Knights took by getting a high-quality starting goaltender and a starting lineup that will be deep with second-line caliber players. They’re going to be an instant playoff caliber team.

Looking over the Nashville Predators and who they’ll possibly have to expose to Seattle, there’s several different ways this can go.

Who Nashville Predators can’t/won’t lose to Seattle

Let’s start with the locks to be protected. We know Poile will absolutely protect Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Juuse Saros. Those are the only 100 percent locks I have. Others you might expect to be protected, but they’re not locks.

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It would be malpractice to lose Ekholm at this point in an expansion draft when you could’ve traded him for a lot of value before the trade deadline. Poile will protect him, and maybe even start negotiating a new contract.

Forsberg is another big contract that Poile will start looking at to work out a new deal. Saros is due to become a restricted free agent and will get a new contract as well.

To the chagrin of some, Ellis can’t be lost in an expansion draft. He’ll remain a top line defenseman with Roman Josi in 2021-22. Josi has the No Move Clause so must be protected.

Another player I have as being a must-protect is Luke Kunin. A player that outperformed my expectations for him in his first season in Nashville, and a player that does a little bit of everything really well.

Kunin wasn’t always a lock to be protected, but his play down the stretch has earned himself an absolute need to be protected.

Finally, Ryan Johansen should be protected if I’m the GM. However, I don’t have full confidence that Poile feels the same way. It will be intriguing to see if he tries to work out a deal with Seattle to take on some salary.

The last player I’m throwing on my list that you can’t lose is Calle Jarnkrok. He’s still a very important offensive player for this team as he was tied for the team lead in goals with 13, and for a team that lacks offensive shooters. I can’t see Poile leaving him unprotected.

Who should be absolutely protected by Poile:

All others are honestly up for grabs as players that might not be protected by Poile. Let’s dive into which ones would be the best-case scenario if they’re taken by Seattle.

Who should we hope Seattle takes from Nashville Predators?

If we’re going by “best case scenario” when it comes to losing a player, then the top of this list is easily Matt Duchene. If the Predators could move on from this experiment and entice Seattle to take on some of his salary then that would be a huge win for Poile.

Unfortunately, that’s a very far-fetched pipe dream. Duchene is likely going to remain with the Nashville Predators going into next season.

Let’s get into some more realistic possibilities on who the Predators could lose. Viktor Arvidsson stands out as a player that could benefit in a new system.

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators /

Nashville Predators

After Duchene, the other big one that Seattle would be enticed by is Ryan Johansen. Are the Predators ready to finally part ways for their top-line center that just hasn’t lived up to his contract or his position on the depth chart?

I’ll be rather surprised if Johansen is left unprotected. It’s all about having the right linemates with Johansen, and the Predators don’t have a lot of options at center going into next season. The contract is an eyesore, but I expect him to get protected.

Arvidsson has steadily regressed in recent years, but by no means is his career finished. He has good hockey left in him on the right team. Maybe Seattle could be that fresh start for him.

Another player I would live with losing, but not necessarily be happy about, is Colton Sissons. He’s actually my prediction for who the Predators will lose.

Sissons would be an outstanding addition for Seattle as a key depth player who has veteran experience and play great defensive hockey as a forward. He can contribute  on the penalty kill and is versatile as a winger or center.

Then there’s Dante Fabbro. It’s all about what format the Poile chooses. Will he protect eight skaters and one goaltender, or go seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender?

The 7/3/1 route means Fabbro is exposed, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Seattle takes him. That would be difficult to stomach seeing a young defenseman with promise lost for nothing.

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Duchene or Arvidsson tops my list of players I’d most want Seattle to take, with Sissons coming closely behind them. If any of these three end up in Seattle, I’ll have no problem cheering for their success in a new uniform.

There are other less impactful players that will be exposed, but won’t be taken by Seattle as there will be other unprotected players with more value.

Players to leave unprotected and live with it:

What happens in the expansion draft will directly affect how Poile handles the rest of the offseason in terms of pursuing free agents and proposing trades.

I’m ready to just get this expansion draft over with so we can move forward with more changes for this roster. I don’t want to see the same basic core trotted out there in 2021-22 and expect different postseason results.