- Ryan Callahan
- Steven Stamkos
- Tyler Johnson
- Nikita Kucherov
- Alex Killorn
- Vladislav Namestnikov
- Ondrej Palat
- Andrei Vasilevskiy
Where things get a little bit interesting, however, is on defense. The general consensus within Bolts Nation was that either Jake Dotchin or Slater Koekkoek was going to be exposed, while the other would be protected alongside Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. Well, both Hedman and Stralman were protected as expected (duh!), but both Dotchin and Koekkoek were exposed. The Lightning instead opted to protect Braydon Coburn, who will be 33 years old by the end of next season.
On the one hand, it's easy to see the rationale behind protecting Coburn. He was, after all, a bright spot on a defense that was really quite bad for most of last season. Having a near-guarantee that he will be back next year is certainly a positive for Jon Cooper's squad. On the other hand, though, the thought of protecting an aging D-man who has produced mixed results in the last few years over a 23-year-old, former top-10 pick who projects as a top-four defenseman is almost mind-boggling. Protecting that same D-man over the former top-10 pick AND a another young guy, one who showed very well alongside Victor Hedman last season, is even more confusing.
Of course, it's impossible to really judge Steve Yzerman's expansion-related decisions until the dust settles on any side deals that have been made/will be made with the Vegas Golden Knights. Already, there is thought out there that Tampa might be able to swing a deal that gets Vegas to stay away from Dotchin, Koekkoek, or both. And then there's also the possibility that the Lightning use Vegas as a middleman to facilitate them getting the immediate top-four help they desperately need. Names like Sami Vatanen, Jason Demers and Matt Dumba immediately jump off the page of exposed players as potential targets for Tampa to acquire via the Golden Knights.
It's with that in mind that this blogger will elect to reserve full judgement on the protection list released today. If the draft comes and goes with one of Koekkoek or Dotchin leaving and nothing else coming in the door, though? The friendly tone of this post likely won't carry over into the next one.
Happy Father's Day, and thanks for reading!