No big surprises on Florida Panthers protected list ahead of Seattle Expansion Draft

Frank Vatrano of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Dallas Stars during first period action at the BB&T Center on February 22, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Joel Auerbach, 2021 Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. – The NHL will expand to 32 teams this summer, welcoming the Seattle Kraken as the league’s newest franchise.

One of the most highly anticipated elements of adding a new team is always the Expansion Draft, in which the new franchise (Seattle) selects a player from each of the other clubs in order to build what it hopes is a competitive first year roster.

The Kraken’s Expansion Draft is set to take place Wednesday, July 21 at 8 p.m. ET.

Ahead of the draft, every team is permitted to protect a certain number of players, and clubs were given two choices for how they could construct their lists.

Option A is seven forwards, three defenseman and a goalie. Option B is eight total skaters and a goalie.

On Saturday those protection lists were submitted to the NHLPA and league’s Central Registry for approval, and Sunday they were distributed to each club.

(Vegas is exempt from the Expansion Draft this year, having come into the league just four seasons ago in 2017-18.)

The Florida Panthers decided to go the more traditional route and went with the aforementioned Option A of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie.

The eleven players Florida chose to protect are:

Forwards – Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mason Marchment, Carter Verhaeghe

Defensemen - Aaron Ekblad, Gustav Forsling, MacKenzie Weegar

Goaltender – Sergei Bobrovsky

Now the interesting thing about the Panthers and the Expansion Draft is that Seattle is expected to sign unrestricted free agent goalie Chris Driedger during its exclusive negotiating window that opened Sunday morning, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

The Panthers’ list of players left unprotected for the expansion draft includes both restricted and unrestricted free agents. That’s because during the exclusive negotiating window, Seattle (and ONLY Seattle) is permitted to interview and potentially negotiate with those unsigned players.

Should a free agent on a team’s unprotected list get signed during the window, that player would count toward the Expansion Draft…so if the Kraken and Driedger agree on a contract between now and Wednesday at 10 a.m. (when Seattle must submit its draft selections and any standard player contracts that were signed), Driedger would count as Florida’s Expansion Draft pick and the Panthers wouldn’t lose anyone else.

Here’s the full list of the Panthers’ unprotected players:

Forwards - Noel Acciari, Patrick Bajkov, Juho Lammikko, Ryan Lomberg, Brad Morrison, Aleksi Saarela, Frank Vatrano, Lucas Wallmark, Alex Wennberg, Scott Wilson

Defensemen - Lucas Carlsson, Kevin Connauton, Tommy Cross, Radko Gudas, Noah Juulsen, Brady Keeper, Brandon Montour, Markus Nutivaara, Ethan Prow, Anton Stralman

Goaltenders - Philippe Desrosiers, Chris Driedger, Sam Montembeault

The Seattle Expansion Draft will be the fifth that the Panthers franchise has participated in.

Below you can find the previous players that were selected off Florida’s past unprotected lists.

1998 (Nashville) – Chris Armstrong

1999 (Atlanta) – Johan Garpenlov

2000 (Minnesota) – Mike Vernon, Cam Stewart

2017 (Vegas) – Jonathan Marchessault

About the Author:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.