SAN JOSE — The Sharks released their protection list for Wednesday’s NHL Expansion Draft Sunday morning, exposing forwards Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward, defensemen Paul Martin, David Schlemko, Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo, along with goalie Aaron Dell.
The team decided to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie from being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in Wednesday’s draft.
At forward, the Sharks protected Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Carpenter, who re-signed with the team Saturday for two years.
On defense, the Sharks protected Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns and Justin Braun. They also protected goalie Martin Jones.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both unprotected because they’re pending-unrestricted free agents. The Golden Knights will receive a 72-hour window between Sunday and Wednesday to negotiate potential contracts with pending-free agents, like Thornton and Marleau, but it’s highly unlikely that either of the Sharks veteran forwards would choose to sign with an expansion team at this stage in their careers.
“We are excited to welcome the Vegas Golden Knights to the National Hockey League and the Pacific Division. Per the guidelines that were set forth under the expansion draft rules, we have submitted our protected list to the National Hockey League,” general manager Doug Wilson said in a media statement. “The reality is that we will be losing a player and quality person from our organization but whatever the outcome, we feel fortunate that we have a strong prospect pool with the San Jose Barracuda to help fill that loss.”
In all likelihood, the Sharks will lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, which is why the team provided itself with insurance on the blue line Saturday by re-signing Barracuda defensemen Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan to two-year contracts.
Assuming that the Golden Knights select Dillon or Schlemko Wednesday night, DeMelo would slide onto the third pairing where he’s acquitted himself well over the last two seasons when injuries have arisen. Heed or Ryan would then fill out the No.7 spot on the Sharks blue line.
The Sharks exposed Boedker, Ward and Martin for obvious reasons: each player’s salary could be used to re-sign Thornton and Marleau or to bring in another top-six forward via trade or free agency.
Boedker, who signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Sharks in free agency last summer, underperformed in his first season with the team, serving as a healthy scratch on Jan. 5 and in Games 3 and 4 of the squad’s Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers. If Wilson can get the remaining $12 million of his contract off the books, it would give him more cap flexibility when free agency kicks off on July 1.
The Sharks also wouldn’t mind getting back the $3.275 million owed to Ward this season. Ward lived up to the expectations of the three-year, $9.75 million contract he signed with the Sharks in July 2015 when he collected seven goals and 13 points during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. But at age 36, the bulky power forward is struggling to keep up in a league that continues to get younger and faster every year.
If the Golden Knights selected Ward, the Sharks would get rid of some dead weight in their forward group while Vegas would gain veteran leadership in what will likely be a young locker room.
The same argument applies to Martin, who still has two years with an average-annual salary of $4.85 million left on his contract. Martin, 36, plays a key role on the Sharks blue line as the Burns whisperer, but with depth on the backend, the Sharks can afford to lose him knowing that his salary could give them some wiggle room in free agency.