The NHL expansion draft is Wednesday, and the Wild’s list of 11 protected players is official as of Sunday. Our guy Michael Russo has expended about 14 billion words breaking down the subject already, and I’m not about to try to keep up.
But for review, the Wild protected these 11 players: forwards Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and goalie Devan Dubnyk.
That left several key players exposed, including forwards Eric Staal and Erik Haula as well as defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella.
It was obviously a tough decision for Wild executives to make, but that’s probably to be expected with a team that has good depth and has made the playoffs for five consecutive seasons.
But it leads to a hypothetical as well: what if the NBA, NFL and MLB were also having expansion drafts this year — which players would the Timberwolves, Vikings and Twins want to protect?
For the NFL and MLB, I kept the number at 11 players, while for the NBA’s smaller rosters I cut it off at five (various previous expansion drafts in those sports have had various different formats). For the hypothetical baseball expansion draft, I considered players both on the Twins’ 40-man roster and in the minor league system.
Here are my lists of players I would protect:
Vikings (11): Anthony Barr, Sam Bradford, Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook, Xavier Rhodes, Stefon Diggs, Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes.
Notable players not protected: Alex Boone, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, Teddy Bridgewater, Riley Reiff, Mackensie Alexander, Brian Robison.
Rationale: Bradford over Bridgewater is based on health at the moment plus Bradford’s solid 2016 season … Rudolph was a tough omission, but making a list shouldn’t be easy. … Eight of the 11 players were on defense, as they should be.
Twins (11): Joe Mauer, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Brian Dozier, Fernando Romero, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, Royce Lewis, Stephen Gonsalves.
Notable players not protected: Several minor league relief pitchers, Adalberto Mejia, Jason Castro, Eddie Rosario.
Rationale: Much like Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu with the Wild, the Twins would presumably need to protect Mauer in an expansion draft because of his no-trade clause. Gonsalves, Romero and Berrios are the only pitchers on the list, but they are absolutely worth it. Buxton, Sano, Kepler and Polanco should be Twins for a long time, while Lewis and Gordon are their top two prospects already.
Timberwolves (5): Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn.
Notable players not protected: Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad.
Rationale: Towns and Wiggins are obvious. LaVine is close to obvious even after last year’s injury. Rubio is still a valuable player, and the kind of guy you would hate to lose without at least getting value in return. Dunn, as uneven has his rookie year was, is just a year removed from being the No. 5 overall pick. This question would get a lot harder in one week if it happened after the Wolves picked No. 7 in Thursday’s draft.