When the Blue Jackets lost William Karlsson to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, the club knew it was going to lose a good player.
That's not to say they won't again in 2021, when yet-to-be-named Seattle is afforded the same favorable protection rules, but as it stands today, the Blue Jackets will at least have more control over the situation.
A quick primer: Teams are allowed to protect either 7-3-1 (forwards-defensemen-goalies) OR 8-1 (forwards/defensemen-goalies). First and second-year players are exempt, and if a player has a no-movement clause (NMC), they must be protected. A full list of the rules can be found here.
In 2017, the Blue Jackets were forced to protect four players with NMCs: Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell, and Sergei Bobrovsky. And while an argument could have been made for protecting two of them (hint: they hug after home wins), it's likely that the organization would have preferred protecting guys like, well, William Karlsson, Josh Anderson, and Matt Calvert.
I can hear it in the comments section already: it's Aug. 6, 2019. Why should I care?
Well, for starters, because you can expect all the other 30 teams (Vegas is somehow not participating in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, which I'll complain about until the day I die) to be a little better prepared for the draft, and by that logic, will be thinking ahead in the coming year(s) to prevent the same debacle from occurring again. Teams will make trades to position themselves for the summer of 2021, and the Blue Jackets are no different.
The difference is the Blue Jackets are in fantastic shape for the Seattle draft.
Get this: only two players, Dubinsky and Foligno, have NMCs attached to their contracts. Even better: both of their contracts both expire in 2021, which is nothing less than a huge win for the franchise. And with all due respect to the two veterans, it's for the best that the club will be able to have flexibility in 2021. If their contracts didn't have NMCs and they were signed past 2022, the Blue Jackets would certainly expose Dubinsky, and would more than likely do the same for Foligno.
But they don't have to make that decision. Instead, they'll be able to protect forwards like Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alexandre Texier, all of whom (we assume) will still be key contributors for the organization. Defensively, it gets a bit hairier, but for now we can safely assume that Seth Jones and Zach Werenski will be protected, and the rest of the defense corps, including David Savard, Markus Nutivaara, Vladislav Gavrikov, Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington, and so on... will be figured out a later date. And because none of those aforementioned players have NMCs, the club is in a position of strength.
This article isn't going to pretend to guess who the Blue Jackets will or won't expose – or who they'll inevitably lose to Seattle. Nearly 24 months out, that's a fool's errand. My point is to simply convey that the organization is sitting in a much more enviable position heading into the Seattle Expansion Draft today than it was in the years heading into the Vegas Expansion Draft, and much of that has been due to GM Jarmo Kekalainen's reluctance to handing out NMCs.
And while (I know) this may not help this organization win games in 2019, it's simply good business, and that should be refreshing to a fan base that has seen its fair share of poor asset management in the history of the franchise.
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