The Islanders’ list of nine protected players for Wednesday’s expansion draft included a surprising name and a few surprising omissions, but that only fueled chatter that general manager Garth Snow already has a deal in place with Vegas GM George McPhee to essentially protect a few more Islanders who were made available Sunday.
Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Calvin de Haan were left unprotected while young defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock were among the eight Isles skaters on the protected list that was released Sunday morning. John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic and Thomas Greiss were the others protected as the Isles were the only team in the league to protect five defensemen.
That one of those was not de Haan, who is currently a restricted free agent, led to reports that the Islanders have already agreed to send Vegas their first-round pick, 15th overall, in this weekend’s NHL Draft to steer Vegas away from Nelson, Strome and de Haan, along with perhaps a few others.
Among the other Isles regulars available to Vegas are defensemen Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield, forwards Josh Bailey, Shane Prince, Nikolay Kulemin, Jason Chimera, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas and goaltender Jaroslav Halak. It was unclear whether the first-rounder would only preclude McPhee from taking one of those three listed above, whether there were more players off-limits or whether the 15th pick would be dealt along with a specific player to be taken by the Golden Knights.
If the Isles are indeed sending their first to Vegas that might hamper their pursuit of a top-six forward after Wednesday’s expansion draft is over. But the Isles have been involved in trade talks for any number of high-level forwards, including the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene, the Oilers’ Jordan Eberle and the Canadiens’ Alex Galchenyuk.
So Nelson, Strome and de Haan may be kept away from Vegas, but that does not assure them of staying Islanders beyond this week.
Below is the full list of Islanders unprotected for Wednesday’s expansion draft:
Calvin de Haan