Earlier this evening, the Colorado Avalanche threw a major wrench in the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft plans, as they dealt defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Mikhail Maltsev and the New York Islanders 2nd round pick in the 2021 NHL draft (61st overall). In our pre-protection draft submission Kraken mock draft article, Ryan Graves was a key piece of our projected defense group for the expansion club, which obviously is now out of the picture, as Graves will surely be protected on a Devils team in need of defenseman of his caliber. We’ll discuss expansion implications for both clubs later on in the article, however, let’s first examine the two players involved in this significant trade.
Ryan Graves is a twenty-six year old, left shot defenseman with two years remaining on a three-year, $9.5 million dollar contract (AAV $3.166), who also happens to be one of the best AB defensemen in our database. With a Career AB score of +6.24, Graves instantly becomes New Jersey’s best defenseman in terms of AB upon arrival, as well as one of the better AB players in the entire organization. His +16.16 score in 2019-20 was the 4th best of any player in the NHL that year, as well as 2nd among all defensemen, trailing only Carolina’s Jaccob Slavin, who registered a +16.98. Of his three NHL seasons, Graves has only registered a negative AB score one time, as it was a slightly negative -0.47 in his rookie season in 2018-19. In his last two seasons, Ryan Graves has played in 123 games, scoring 11 goals, and registering 30 assists for 41 points as well as an outstanding +55 +/-. It made sense for the Avalanche to deal Graves prior to the expansion draft, as even with the recent announcement of Erik Johnson waiving his NMC for Colorado to protect Sam Girard, they risked losing him for nothing to Seattle in next week’s expansion draft. However, of Colorado’s “Big four” defense group of Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Devon Toews, and Ryan Graves, Graves actually had the 2nd best career AB score of the group, and the best individual season registered at this time by any of the four men. Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald still has a whopping $31.520 million in cap space heading into the expansion draft and free agency after this trade, and we wouldn’t be surprised if that number actually increases (see expansion lists later in article. However, we believe it was a great decision to take advantage of their ability to protect an extra defenseman, by getting a quality player for a significantly cheaper price than he would’ve been otherwise due to this expansion process. The Devils no longer own a 2nd round pick in this upcoming draft, however, they have a late 1st round pick from the Islanders from the Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac trade, in addition to one selection in every additional round.
For Colorado, it was a foregone conclusion that the defenseman they decided to expose to Seattle of their “Big four” group would’ve definitely been the selection, so we believe it was a very smart decision to get assets for Ryan Graves as opposed to losing him for nothing. The 2nd round pick from the Islanders originally acquired by the Devils in the Andy Greene trade prior to the 2020 trade deadline pre-Covid. Essentially, Tom Fitzgerald traded a thirty-seven year old Andy Greene and a bottom-six player in Maltsev for their new Top-2 defenseman making under four million dollars and is on the right side of thirty. Terrific asset management on his end, as we’re sure most people would agree. In that 2nd round pick, Joe Sakic and the Avalanche are able to make up for dealing two 2nd round picks to the Islanders for Devon Toews prior to the 2020-21 season, as their own 2021 2nd rounder they gave the Islanders turned into 60th overall. They will pick one selection behind them at 61st following this trade, as they now have one selection in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th rounds of this draft. Maltsev however, is no scrub, as he had a solid rookie season this year with six goals and three assists for nine points in thirty-three games with the Devils this season. The former 4th round pick was one of three Devils players this season with positive AB scores, as he registered a +0.04 score. This number was the 3rd highest on the team as well, trailing only Jesper Bratt’s +2.45 and Andreas Johnsson’s +0.20. At only twenty-three years old, if Colorado gives Maltsev the opportunity to play with better players in Colorado, at around the same ice-time (11:27 TOI per game), we believe he has the chance to be an effective player for the team under Coach Jared Bednar. In general we believe this was a beneficial trade for both parties, the only loser being the Seattle Kraken for now being unable to select Graves in next Wednesday’s expansion draft. With that being said, let’s look at new protection list scenarios for both New Jersey, and Colorado.
With the signing of Michael McLeod earlier today to a two-year, 975k AAV deal, the Devils now have the met the proper exposure requirements at the forward position, meaning they now should not lose Andreas Johnsson as we projected, they would in our mock draft article. Our new list based on today’s events is shown below.
New Jersey Devils
Forward 1- Nico Hischier
Forward 2- Yegor Sharangovich
Forward 3- Miles Wood
Forward 4- Jesper Bratt
Forward 5- Pavel Zacha
Forward 6- Andreas Johnsson
Forward 7- Janne Kuokkanen
Defenseman 1- Ryan Graves
Defenseman 2- Damon Severson
Defenseman 3- Jonas Siegenthaler
Goaltender 1- Mackenzie Blackwood
Notable UFAs- Ryan Murray, Connor Carrick, Aaron Dell
Notable Exempt– Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, Dawson Mercer, Alexander Holtz, Nolan Foote, Ty Smith, Kevin Bahl
Notable Exposed– P.K. Subban, Nick Merkley, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Will Butcher
The Devils recently signed Jonas Siegenthaler to a two-year, $2.25 million dollar deal, after trading a 3rd round selection for him at this year’s trade deadline, giving us the indication they plan on protecting him. They’ll obviously protect Damon Severson, leaving P.K. Subban and his $9 million dollar cap hit exposed to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. We could absolutely see Tom Fitzgerald dangling an asset to Seattle to tempt them into taking the final year of Subban’s deal. However, if the Devils are a team struggling to hit the salary cap floor, they may just want to wait it out and keep the assets it would cost to make this happen. If there is no Subban deal to be done, we believe the selection for the Kraken will be one of Nathan Bastian or Nick Merkley, who are both not as critical to the team’s success as Andreas Johnsson, which is more quality asset management by Tom Fitzgerald and his group, as they put themselves in a position to not lose a player of Johnsson’s caliber for nothing.
For Colorado, we now have the answer to what their expansion draft format will be, as well as the three defensemen they will be protecting as a result of this deal. They will go with the 7-3-1 option after some speculation of the eight skater option being a possibility for the purpose of protecting Graves, which is clearly no longer an option. Our new projected list is shown below.
Forward 1- Nathan MacKinnon
Forward 2- Mikko Rantanen
Forward 3- Andre Burakovsky
Forward 4- Nazem Kadri
Forward 5- Gabriel Landeskog (UFA)
Forward 6- Valeri Nichushkin
Forward 7- Tyson Jost
Defenseman 1- Cale Makar
Defenseman 2- Devon Toews
Defenseman 3- Samuel Girard
Goaltender 1- Philip Grubauer (UFA)
NMC Waived- Erik Johnson
Notable UFAs- Brandon Saad, Matt Calvert, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Patrik Nemeth, Devan Dubnyk
Notable Exempt– Shane Bowers, Alex Newhook, Pavel Francouz, Bowen Byram
Notable Exposed– Erik Johnson, J.T. Compher, Joonas Donskoi
Nothing changes in the form of the actual list unless the Avalanche opt to not protect Gabriel Landeskog so they can keep Donskoi or Compher out of Seattle’s hands. However, if it comes down to Donskoi or Compher for Seattle, we believe they should select Donskoi, as he has been scoring at a near twenty-goal rate each of his seasons with Colorado with an average AB score of +4.66 in that two-year span. He makes $3.9 million until the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. In our post-protection list submission Seattle mock draft, we will go more in-depth about why Donskoi would be our selection in this situation, as we plan on posting it at least a few days prior to next Wednesday’s expansion draft. Stay tuned, as many more great trades like this one are sure to come.