What will the Blue Jackets protection list look like?

The choices seem obvious...or do they?

This post includes results from SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NHL. Each week, SB Nation sends out questions to the most plugged in Columbus Blue Jackets fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts.

It has been over two years since the NHL announced that Seattle would join the league as an expansion franchise. Since that time, we’ve been dancing around protection and exposure scenarios, even as the Columbus Blue Jackets roster saw some pretty dramatic changes.

By tomorrow, 30 teams (all except Vegas, those lucky bastards) will submit their list of protected players. Seattle’s choices will be announced on Wednesday night.

Teams can protect one goalie and either seven forwards and three defensemen, or eight skaters. From a math standpoint, I’ve  never understood why a 4th defenseman would be worth exposing two additional skaters, and it appears most SB Nation NHL fans agree with me:

Who will Columbus protect?

With the weakening blue line, the Blue Jackets will use the 7/3/1 approach. Our best guess is as follows:

Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist
Max Domi
Boone Jenner
Jack Roslovic
Patrik Laine

Seth Jones
Zach Werenski
Vladislav Gavrikov

Joonas Korpisalo

In last week’s NHL Reacts poll, fans were asked to pick who they thought was most likely to be picked from their team by Seattle. Here is who Blue Jackets fans chose:

1. Eric Robinson
t-2. Kevin Stenlund
t-2. Dean Kukan
t-4. Gustav Nyquist
t-4. Max Domi
t-4. Nathan Gerbe

Given the popularity of the Robinson pick, it’s no surprise that the team is reportedly having second thoughts about leaving him exposed. From Aaron Portzline at The Athletic:

The idea of exposing left winger Eric Robinson is no longer an easy call, not just because of Robinson’s gradually improving play but how this year’s playoffs have reminded everybody that big and fast never goes out of style.

“We’re looking at it hard from every angle,” Kekalainen said. “Whether there’s another player we can expose that we think we should protect, but they might not be taken for certain reasons … we’ll have to see. It’s always a bit of a gamble.

“If you have a guy with an ACL injury and he’ll be out for four months next season … I don’t think Seattle is going to claim that guy.”

Now, is Robinson really worth the risk of exposing a better player, even if that player is currently injured?

Our staff has thoughts:

Dalerrific: The rumors that the team may expose Domi or Nyquist in order to protect Robinson seem silly to me. Robinson is a replaceable player and Seattle would absolutely take either of those other guys. There are other ways to get rid of them, while also getting something in return, if the Blue Jackets don’t think they are part of the team’s future. Losing them for nothing is bad asset management. For Seattle, Nyquist would likely be a productive middle six forward and Domi could be flipped for a draft pick at the trade deadline (a first or second round pick in 2022 is more valuable than Kukan, Robinson, or Stenlund). Ultimately, I expect Columbus to not expose Domi or Nyquist and Seattle to pick Kukan in hopes they can sign him long-term if he plays well.

MrSwift13: I don’t want to lose Domi becaused he could be a rental trade piece. Stenlund has positional advantage, and I don’t care about losing Robinson or Kukan. I guess my whole thing with this is “Why is the front office seemingly trying to keep this guy who doesn’t move the needle at all?” From a roster management standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.  He’s just a dude.

I’m in agreement with my esteemed colleagues, but I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment: In 2021, Robinson was one of just four Columbus players to play in all 56 games (along with Atkinson, BJORKSTRAND, and Jones). Among all CBJ forwards with at least 200 5v5 minutes, Robinson led in CF% and FF% and trailed only Emil Bemstrom in GF% and xGF%. In other words, Robinson was one of the only players on the team that saw more good things than bad things happen when he was on the ice.

On the other hand, Robinson is already 26 years old, so he’s hardly a prospect. It’s rare that forwards reach their ceiling after that age. He’s older than half of the team, including Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine. He was just 6th on the team in goals and 8th in points in 2021, so it’s not like he carried the offense. He only played 12:24 per game. His 5v5 goals/60 were 10th out of the 14 forwards with 200+ 5v5 minutes.

Losing Robinson or Stenlund would hurt the Blue Jackets in the short term, but losing a Nyquist or Domi would hurt more given how productive each have been throughout their career. On a good team, Robinson or Stenlund or Kukan would be playing bottom six/bottom pair minutes. On a bad team, they could play up higher but you could also give those minutes to a younger player that would be part of the team’s long-term future, like a Liam Foudy or Yegor Chinakhov.

What do you think? Make your case in the comments.

What will Seattle look like?

Taking the answers from fans around SBN, this is what Seattle’s roster could look like on Wednesday night (note that this was made before Colorado traded Ryan Graves to New Jersey):

What’s your first impression of that group? Could they compete in the Pacific Division?

The Kraken will have to trim that group to 23 by opening day. Is there a player on there the Jackets should pursue in exchange for picks and/or prospects?

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