Montreal Canadiens: Current Habs Most Likely To Be Selected By Seattle Kraken

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 11: Cale Fleury #20 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 11: Cale Fleury #20 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /
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Montreal Canadiens, Marc Bergevin
OTTAWA, ON – JANUARY 11: Cale Fleury #20 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

If the Habs protect 7 forwards, 3 defencemen and 1 goaltender.

One way to look at an expansion draft is, the most players you can protect is ten skaters and a goaltender, so just protect the best ones you have. If the Habs are going to go down this route, it would lead to some difficult decisions both up front and on the blue line.

At forward, the Habs would want to protect their top line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. It’s the best possession line in hockey, so why would they want to lose a piece of it for nothing?

Who else would they protect. Well, they aren’t going to let Jesperi Kotkaniemi escape just before he turns 21 years old, so he is protected. Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi are two key players up front as well and have lots of offensive potential. That makes six forwards protected and only one more spot.

Making a case for that last forward spot is a trio of solid two-way players. Artturi Lehkonen is 25 years old and a key performer on the penalty kill. He leaves a lot to be desired in the goal scoring category but has shown flashes of offensive potential and is a terrific defensive player.

Joel Armia is a very similar player to his countrymate Lehkonen. He is a great defensive player, plays a big role on the penalty kill, can shutdown the opposition’s best players, and he has shown a little more offence than Lehkonen. He is a big, right-hand shot and the Habs are a little weaker on the right side right now. They do have Jesse Ylonen and Cole Caufield arriving shortly, but losing Armia would sting.

Paul Byron is the veteran presence up front for the Habs at 31 years of age. He is also a solid two-way player and proved to be a consistent 20 goal threat. He is among the fastest players in the league, kills penalties and makes quick, smart decisions all over the ice. He makes $3.4 million until the end of the 2022-23 season, while Lehkonen and Armia are free agents next summer.

If you had to pick just one from this group of three, I’d take Armia. He is a bit of a late bloomer, but fills a void on the Habs top six with ease, or plays a shutdown role from the third line. I’d be most confident in Armia’s ability to provide offence for the next few years, but losing Lehkonen would hurt for sure.

That’s just the forwards. The choices are no easier on defence. Well, general manager Marc Bergevin talks about Shea Weber like he is his first born son so I think it’s obvious the Canadiens captain will be protected. Who else?

Jeff Petry makes a strong case, but he will be 33 years old at the time of the draft and is also a pending unrestricted free agent. Another strong season like we have become accustomed to seeing and Petry will force the Habs to re-sign him and protect him.

That leaves one final protection spot for Cale Fleury, Victor Mete, Ben Chiarot and Noah Juulsen. The final decision will have to be based on who plays best next season. Fleury is just 21 and looked fine playing a third pairing role at the NHL level this season. Mete is 22 and hasn’t developed as quickly as many hoped, but is a valuable puck moving defenceman on a weak left side. Juulsen is just 23 and missed so much time he is almost the forgotten piece. He has all the tools to be a top four defender in the future. Juulsen is the guy I would pick because I think he has the most potential of the trio.

That would leave Lehkonen Byron, Mete and Fleury open for the Kraken. Getting depth forwards will be easy for the new team in Seattle, so I’m sure they would take wither Mete or Fleury. It would be tough for the Habs to lose one of those defencemen, but every team has to lose somebody. With his skating ability and experience at a young age, I’m guessing the Kraken would select Mete in this scenario.