Blackhawks protect 11 players for NHL expansion draft, leave Nikita Zadorov exposed

Read more at chicago.suntimes.com

The Blackhawks’ 11-player protection list for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, released Sunday, surprisingly does not contain defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

Zadorov, Adam Gaudette, Ryan Carpenter, Calvin de Haan and Malcolm Subban will be available for the new Seattle Kraken to choose from during Wednesday’s expansion draft. The Kraken will pick one player from each of the 30 other teams, excluding the Golden Knights.

The Hawks’ protection list is as follows:

Forwards (7): Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Brandon Hagel, Henrik Borgstrom, David Kampf

Defensemen (3): Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman, Caleb Jones

Goaltender (1): Kevin Lankinen

Players with two or fewer professional seasons — a group which includes Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Lukas Reichel, Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin — are automatically exempted from the expansion draft.

The Hawks’ decision to protect both newly extended Stillman and newly acquired Jones over Zadorov was unexpected. Even as a restricted free agent reportedly asking for a big contract, Zadorov — acquired for the hefty price of Brandon Saad from the Avalanche last fall — still carries significant trade value.

Among the forwards, the final spot likely came down to a decision between Kampf and Gaudette, with the Hawks ultimately choosing to protect the more long-tenured of the two.

Around the league, the flat salary cap clearly played a major role in teams’ decision-making processes, with an array of big-name veterans with hefty cap hits — including the Canadiens’ Carey Price, Blues’ Vladamir Tarasenko, Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk, Predators’ Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen and Flames’ Mark Giordano — left exposed.

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