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Making The Most Of The 2021 Expansion Draft

Oilers will need a little roster tweak to make the most out of their 2021 expansion draft experience

NHL: MAR 11 Jets at Oilers
Keep Caleb Jones

The 2020 season was a ride, and we are still feeling the wave. After the NHL season was postponed due to Covid-19, the NHL eventually crowned a champion late in September. The NHL Draft was conducted shortly afterwards, followed by free agency. Though we are most definitely not on schedule, the calendar rolls on.

The 2020-21 NHL season will pick up sometime in Feburary (maybe?), and we’ll have to wait to see all of the details. One of the details we do know is that there will be an expansion draft at the conclusion of next season. The Seattle Kraken will be the NHL’s 32nd team, the expansion draft will select one player off of every team’s roster (save for Vegas).

The Oilers would probably love it if the Kraken would select a player on the roster who is a bottom six player with a chunky cap hit. The Oilers will need to put themselves in the best possible position to avoid losing a young prospect or a player they otherwise wouldn’t want to lose.

How can the Oilers mitigate loss in the upcoming expansion draft? Plan ahead. The time is now.

First, some rules about expansion. Thanks to CapFriendly for making this easy.

Like the Vegas draft, the Oilers (and other NHL teams) will be required to protect 7 forwards, 3 defencemen, and one goaltender. Teams may opt to protect 8 players (any combination) and one goaltender if they so choose.

  • A player in year 1 or year 2 of their ELC is exempt from being selected.
  • Players who do not play 40 games of the 2020-21 season OR a combined 70 games between the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 season are exempt. If Oscar Klefbom is out for the season, this will make him exempt.
  • MINIMUM EXPOSURE REQUIREMENT: All teams must expose at least two forwards, one defenceman and one goaltender that meets the previous bullet. In other words, you can’t protect eight forwards, or seven defencemen and one forward. Clubs must expose at least two forwards, one defenceman and one goaltender.
  • Players with NMCs are required to be protected. Fortunately for the Oilers, they don’t have any.

So let’s take a look at where the Oilers stand.

Forwards (all expansion eligible forwards are multiple year contracts save for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins)

  • Connor McDavid
  • Leon Draisaitl
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (if he gets an extension)
  • James Neal
  • Kyle Turris
  • Josh Archibald
  • Jesse Puljujarvi
  • Kailer Yamamoto
  • Zack Kassian
  • Seth Griffith


  • Darnell Nurse
  • Caleb Jones
  • Ethan Bear


  • Mikko Koskinen
  • Stuart Skinner
  • Dylan Wells


At the conclusion of the 2020-21 NHL seaosn, all of these players have at least one year remaining on their contracts. I assume they get something done regarding a deal with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and he will need to be protected. If they make a dollars-in, dollars-out deal, they’ll still likely need to protect whomever they bring in. If the Oilers extend Adam Larsson or Kris Russell (may God help me), they will then have four defencemen who could possibly be exposed, which may cause them to proceed in a different manner. Again, recent draft picks and players who will finish in year one or year two of their ELC at the end of the 2021 season are exempt. That means you, Dylan Holloway. You too, Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, and Raphael Lavoie. You get it.

If I’m the Oilers, I’ve got McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins (if he’s re-signed), Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Turris, and one more. I could be talked into Kassian, but I’d much rather have the Kraken select either him or Neal. If the Kraken select Neal, that’s a big win, as would be Kassian at his cap hit.


Remember when we talked about the rules of expansion? Unless Ken Holland makes another move to acquire a defenceman that’s under contract for at least two years, the rules say that the Oilers will need go to 8-1 and they’ll need to expose at least one of their three eligible defencemen. I don’t think the club is going to want to lose any of Ethan Bear, Darnell Nurse or Caleb Jones, so it’ll take a move from Ken Holland to acquire a defencemen who is under contract for at least two years (UFA 2022). Holland will need to acquire another defenceman that could keep all of Bear, Nurse and Jones in the fold while still protecting seven forwards as well.

If they don’t acquire another defenceman with term (or sign William Lagesson to a 2 year deal this offseason), they’ll have to expose one of Jones, Bear or Nurse. I don’t see the club exposing Nurse, and it’s almost equally as unlikely of them to expose Bear, who should be walking around with a shiny new contract by that point. Don’t let it be Jones. I don’t want to lose Lagesson either, but that hit is much more manageable than losing someone like Caleb Jones.

The Oilers could get lucky, maybe Ron Francis and the Seattle Kraken value a heavily priced forward with grit and heart over a young defenceman.

For our sake, let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that choice.