The Washington Capitals announced their 11 players protected for Wednesday’s expansion draft for the NHL’s 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken. The Caps protected goalie Ilya Samsonov, three defensemen — John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and seven forwards — Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anthony Mantha, T.J. Oshie, Daniel Sprong and Tom Wilson.
Immediately, it was clear the most notable omission of forwards — captain Alex Ovechkin.
For fans who understand the protection rules going into the process of expansion, the omission was expected. But for those who don’t, here’s why the Capitals opted not to protect the franchise’s greatest player.
Washington did not have to protect Ovechkin because he is an unrestricted free agent. His 13-year, $124 million contract expired at season end. Negotiations have been ongoing since the start of this past season. However, no deal has been reached and for good reason.
While there have been legimate stalling towards a new deal, not agreeing to a deal until after Wednesday’s expansion draft benefits the Capitals in a major way.
Yes, Ovechkin is technically unprotected and exposed to being selected by the Kraken. Yet, Seattle would have to negotiate terms of a new deal with him since Ovechkin is a pending free agent. It’s hard to see Ovechkin signing a deal there. Thus, It’s highly unlikely Seattle would waste a pick on a player who ends up not signing with the team.
Thus, it could be viewed that Ovechkin is essentially protected from being picked by the Kraken with no deal in place with the Capitals. That allowed the Capitals to place a protection on a young developing player such as 24-year old Daniel Sprong.
Meanwhile, NHL has placed a freeze on trades and a moratorium in place to halt teams from signing players to contracts until July 22 at 1:00 pm EDT, according to NHL insider Frank Seravalli. That would include Alex Ovechkin who was officially left unprotected but is an unrestricted free agent.
Again, yes, Alex Ovechkin is technically available. He is a pending UFA and has yet to sign an extension with the Capitals. However, both sides have made it clear they want him to stay in Washington. Carry on!— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) July 18, 2021
Seattle will select a player from each of 30 NHL teams with the exception of 2017 expansion team the Vegas Golden Knights. That will mean the Capitals will lose one of their unprotected players, but don’t expect it to be the three-time Hart Trophy winner.
Also don’t fret just yet about a new deal in Washington. The Capitals and Ovechkin have both made it clear they want to hammer out a new deal for him to stay in Washington. Any announcement of an extension wouldn’t come until Thursday afternoon at the earliest. Maybe it will come before the July 28 start of free agency just to ease everyone’s minds.