I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Expansion Draft for months. We get to see two teams get created from scratch, which is every armchair GM’s dream. Trades and free agent signings and such are always exciting, so imagine eighteen of them all on the same day! As I’m sure many others have done, I’ve made my list of which players I would protect if I were an NLL GM. Some are obvious, some might be controversial, and there are probably a few “What are you thinking?” picks in there too. Let me know watcha think!
Rules: Teams can protect eleven players. No more than five can be forwards and no more than one can be a goalie.
One complication is unrestricted free agents (UFAs). If an expansion team drafts a UFA, that gives the team the exclusive right to negotiate with that UFA until August 1. If no deal is reached by then, the player can sign anywhere, including the team he was drafted from. However, a UFA that’s drafted can be named a franchise player by his new team, in which case he can’t sign elsewhere. However, a UFA that’s over 34 years of age is able to refuse the franchise tag. This means that teams are unlikely to protect older players who are UFAs. Giving someone the franchise player designation also means that you must pay them 10% more than the league maximum, so you wouldn’t make just anyone a franchise player.
For example, Matt Vinc is a free agent, but is unlikely to be picked by the Wings or Seals unless they’re sure he’ll sign with them. If he doesn’t want to leave the Knighthawks, he can refuse the franchise tag and tell the Wings or Seals that he’s not interested in signing. I don’t believe they are allowed to talk to him in advance so they’d be taking a big risk. If they pick him and he doesn’t sign, they’ve wasted that pick, and when building a team from nothing, these picks are too valuable to waste. That makes it unlikely he’ll be picked, which means the Knighthawks don’t have to protect him. That gives them the flexibility to protect an extra player.
Similarly, Bill O’Brien is a free agent and is too young to refuse the franchise tag but at this point in his career, he’s not a franchise player. It’s unlikely the Wings or Seals want to pay him top dollar so the Bandits don’t need to protect him. Thus, most free agents will not be protected and will not be picked. But there are a few that aren’t old enough to refuse the franchise tag and are good enough to be franchised, so they will be protected.
Thanks to Evan Schemenauer and his Expansion Draft Projection article on Lax All-Stars, where I got the list of UFAs for each team.
All names are listed in alphabetical order. I listed at least two potential losses for each team, but some have three because I couldn’t decide. No team is going to lose more than two players.
Forwards (5): Josh Byrne, Jordan Durston, Shawn Evans, Mitch Jones, Dhane Smith
Defense (5): Kevin Brownell, Mitch de Snoo, Craig England, Steve Priolo, Nick Weiss
Goalie (1): Alex Buque
UFAs: Mark Steenhuis, Bill O’Brien
Potential losses: Vaughn Harris, Zach Higgins, Ryan Wagner
The only drawbacks to picking someone like Harris or Chase Fraser is their lack of NLL experience. The expansion draft is San Diego and Philly’s chance to pick up players with NLL experience – they’ll get plenty of young kids in the entry draft in September. My guess is that they probably won’t be picking many of those types of players in this draft. Matthew Bennett is another possibility, depending on his injury status. Similarly, if Craig England’s injury is as serious as it sounds (detached retina!), he may be neither protected nor drafted, and the Bandits might add Harris to the protected list.
Forwards (5): Wes Berg, Holden Cattoni, Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie, Riley Loewen
Defense (5): Tyson Bell, Zach Currier, Dan MacRae, Garrett McIntosh, Mitch Wilde
Goalie (1): Christian Del Bianco
UFAs: Tyler Burton, Mike Carnegie, Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie, Curtis Manning, Creighton Reid, Tyler Richards, Bob Snider
Potential losses: Tyler Digby, Greg Harnett, Frank Scigliano
Dickson and Dobbie are UFAs but if you had a chance to draft either one and make him a franchise player, would you hesitate? The Roughnecks won’t take that chance. Del Bianco’s outstanding 2018 season gave Mike Board an easy decision on which goaltender to protect. Having Scigliano as a backup is a luxury many teams would love, but when you have two bona fide starters and you can only protect one, you pick the younger one.
Forwards (5): Ryan Benesch, Eli McLaughlin, Jeremy Noble, Jacob Ruest, Chris Wardle
Defense (5): Dan Coates, Joey Cupido, Jordan Gilles, Cam Holding, Robert Hope
Goalie (1): Dillon Ward
UFAs: Scott Carnegie, Greg Downing, Stephen Keogh, Brad Self
Potential losses: Tim Edwards, Zack Greer, Bryce Sweeting
If Greer isn’t protected, he’s a lock to be picked by someone. A year ago I would have said San Diego because Greer lived in SoCal but he’s apparently moved to Texas. This is still closer to San Diego than Philly, so my money would still be on the Seals.
Forwards (5): Shayne Jackson, Jesse King, Randy Staats, Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson
Defense (5): Alex Crepinsek, Jordan MacIntosh, John Ranagan, Chad Tutton, Joel White
Goalie (1): Mike Poulin
UFAs: Jerome Thompson
Potential losses: Jordan Hall, Kiel Matisz
The “no more than five forwards” rule hurts the Swarm more than anyone. They could try to argue that Jordan Hall is a transition player, and he certainly has been in the past, but nobody’d buy that now. They may decide to keep Hall or Matisz and not protect King instead, in which case King would be gone. If unprotected, Jordan Hall may be the first overall pick in the draft. Not only is he an outstanding player who can play forward or transition, but he’s a veteran who’s seen success and would be a strong presence in the locker room, especially on what would likely be a young team. Sounds like a good expansion team captain to me.
Forwards (5): Callum Crawford, Kevin Crowley, Stephan Leblanc, Reilly O’Connor, Johnny Powless
Defense (6): Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Joel Coyle, John LaFontaine, Brett Manney, Colton Watkinson
Goalie (0): None
UFAs: Aaron Bold, Kevin Buchanan, Kyle Buchanan, Callum Crawford, Kevin Crowley, Dylan Evans, Jay Thorimbert
Potential losses: Mark Cockerton, Anthony Joaquim
Three years ago, I’d have said you either protect Aaron Bold or he gets picked and franchised. Now, he’s probably not a franchise player. With so many free agents, the Black Wolves have a lot of choice in who to protect.
Forwards (5): Josh Currier, Kyle Jackson, Cody Jamieson, Joe Resetarits, Austin Shanks
Defense (6): Scott Campbell, Paul Dawson, Graeme Hossack, Luc Magnan, Sid Smith, Jake Withers
Goalie (0): None
UFAs: Angus Goodleaf, Billy Dee Smith, Matt Vinc
Potential losses: Eric Fannell, Brad Gillies, Cory Vitarelli
The Knighthawks have the same luxury as the Black Wolves in that they don’t need to protect their free agent goalie. They may decided to keep Gillies rather than Sid Smith, but I thought it would be weird not to protect your team captain.
Forwards (5): Robert Church, Marty Dinsdale, Ryan Keenan, Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh
Defense (5): Chris Corbeil, Jeff Cornwall, Ryan Dilks, Kyle Rubisch, Adrian Sorichetti
Goalie (1): Evan Kirk
UFAs: Tyler Carlson, Dan Dawson, Brett Mydske, Jeremy Thompson
Potential losses: Curtis Knight, Mike Messenger, Jeff Shattler
Jeff Shattler may not be what he once was but at 33, he’s hardly done and if he’s leading the Seals or Wings offense, could be a “comeback player of the year” candidate next year.
Forwards (5): Rob Hellyer, Brett Hickey, Adam Jones, Tom Schreiber, Reid Reinholdt
Defense (5): Sheldon Burns, Latrell Harris, Brad Kri, Challen Rogers, Brock Sorensen
Goalie (1): Nick Rose
UFAs: Sandy Chapman, Brodie Merrill, Brandon Miller
Potential losses: Damon Edwards, Dan Lintner, Kieran McArdle
After Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch for half the year, it’s only fair that he’s not protected, giving him a chance to actually play somewhere. And given how he played in the last few games where he did get time, he bumped his value. Paul Rabil is on the Rock “protected list” though his “protected” status on that list is not related to being protected in this draft. If the new Wings go the “stock the roster with Americans” route like the old Wings did, they may take a chance on Rabil if they don’t take McArdle.
Forwards (5): Rhys Duch, Tony Malcom, Pat Saunders, Logan Schuss, Corey Small
Defense (5): Matt Beers, Brandon Clelland, Brandon Goodwin, Justin Salt, Andrew Suitor
Goalie (1): Eric Penney
UFAs: Jon Harnett, Ian Hawksbee, Joel McCready, Peter McFetridge, Chris O’Dougherty, Cliff Smith
Potential losses: Evan Messenger, James Rahe
Many of my “potential loss” picks above are a little more experienced but most of the experienced players on the Stealth are either protected or free agents. Casey Jackson is another young player the Stealth are big on, though he’s only played 4 NLL games. I wonder if one of the teams may try to grab Mike Messenger from the Rush and his cousin Evan from the Stealth.
Could the Seals take a chance on Garrett Billings? He’s a west coast guy and seems to have worn out his welcome in Vancouver.