Landeskog’s Avs future uncertain leading up to NHL expansion draft

Sports

DENVER (KXRM) — The National Hockey League released protected lists for the 30 teams eligible to have players selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft set for Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The Colorado Avalanche protected seven forwards (Andre Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Nazem Kadri, Nathan MacKinnon, Valeri Nichushkin, Logan O’Connor, Mikko Rantanen), three defensemen (Samuel Girard, Cale Makar and Devon Toews), and goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

Initial shock might set in for long-time Avs fans when they notice that captain Gabriel Landeskog was left unprotected. While seemingly risky to make a high-quality player available such as Landeskog to the Kraken, it might have been a move that will become a successful loophole based on trust.

“I do think it’s mainly a chess game here,” Colorado Hockey Now creator Adrian Dater said. “Call it a bluff if you want. I did write about this possibility about a month ago on my site saying this could happen, and the reason why is because if they know they’re not going to lose Landeskog, and they have a wink-wink deal cooked up already, then they don’t have to protect him, and they can protect another guy they didn’t want to lose.”

Dater listed O’Connor as the likely candidate to have replaced Landeskog on the protected list.

Colorado wasn’t the only team to take a similar approach. The Washington Capitals left their captain, Alex Ovechkin, unprotected because he is also entering unrestricted free agency. But Ovechkin is not expected to entertain any discussion from Seattle and will instead return to Washington.

“(Landeskog) is not as much of a slam dunk as the Ovechkin thing,” Dater said. “The sides are not all close on a contract from what I, and a lot of other people, keep hearing.”

Deciding what to do with Landeskog isn’t the only tough decision Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has had to make in the past week. He traded defenseman Ryan Graves a few days ago to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick. Graves’ salary-cap hit of $3.2 million, as well as the likelihood of him being unprotected in the expansion draft, were probably the driving factors in dealing him to New Jersey.

“To be able to get something for Graves, it was a good move by Sakic when I think he was going to be taken by the Kraken,” Dater said. “It was tough to lose Graves because he was a good player for them, but they had their hands squeezed by the expansion draft. They wanted to get something for him and they did.”

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