Arizona Coyotes will have an interesting protection list as a lot of their key players are on entry-level contracts and are expempt. That’s likely the biggest reason that they’re going to do the 4-4-1 method since they’re not that deep at forward. Let’s take a look and see who the Coyotes are likely going to protect.
Tobias Rieder will definitely be on the forwards the Coyotes. He plays on the top line and is a great penalty killer. He’s among the league leaders in shorthanded goals, had 16 goals to go along with 34 points this season.
The next player that’s a no brainer is restricted free agent Anthony Duclair. He had 20 goals in his first season in Arizona but then this season missed a chunk of time and only had five goals. He’s a restricted free agent but will get a nice raise as he’s a good forward.
The next forward they’ll likely protect is Jordan Martinook who finished 7th on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points. He’s another one of the Coyotes really good young talent and will get better as this was only his second full season in the NHL.
The last forward spot will go to Nick Cousins who they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade last night. In 60 games for Philadelphia last season, he had six goals and 16 points and they’ll definitely want to see how he does in his first season in Arizona. He’s worthy of being protected.
These decisions are pretty straight forward for the Coyotes. There’s no doubt they’re protecting Oliver Ekman-Larsson as he’s not only their best defenseman, but he’s one of the best defenseman in the entire league. His offensive numbers each season are really impressive as he’s been a 20 goal scorer twice.
They have to protect Alex Goigoski as he has a no movement clause and is signed until 2022.
That leaves two spots and they’re going to go to Connor Murphy and Luke Schenn. Murphy played top pairing minutes with Ekman-Larsson this past season and is signed until 2023. Schenn is signed for another year and has been playing in their top four so it’s a good bet they’ll go with him over Kevin Connauton.
If Mike Smith is traded, they’ll have to protect Louis Domingue who’s been the backup to Smith for the past couple seasons. If Smith isn’t traded though, he’ll definitely be protected as he’s the number one netminder and is signed until 2020.
Predicted Players and their cap hits
Tobias Rieder – $2.225M through 2019
Anthony Duclair – RFA
Nick Cousins – RFA
Jordan Martinook – RFA
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – $5.5M through 2020
Alex Goligoski – $5.475M through 2022
Luke Schenn – $1.250M through 2019
Connor Murphy – $3.850M through 2023
Mike Smith – $5.66M through 2020
Top two options on who they would most likely lose
For Arizona, the top two options would be Jamie McGinn or Kevin Connauton. McGinn is a bit older then some of the forwards that Arizona will be protecting. McGinn would be a good depth player for Vegas as he’s hit 20 goals twice in his NHL career. This past season he only had nine though.
Connauton is the only defenseman that will be left unprotected by the Coyotes and he might interest the Golden Knights. He’d most likely be in a middle pairing role or a bottom pairing role for them.
If Arizona were to make a trade that could alter their protected list
They could definitely trade Mike Smith as I wrote above and then protect Domingue as they’d get out of Smith’s massive contract and then likely go for someone else to be their starting netminder.