With the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21st, the Montreal Canadiens writers on Last Word on Hockey are going to go in depth to see which players the Habs should expose or protect from the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are the rules of the expansion draft if you need a refresher. With Carey Price and Jeff Petry having no-movement clauses in their contracts, they are automatically included in the protected list. For the sake of this series, the Habs will protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie.
With all that out of the way, lets take a look at the final protected spot on the Habs defense and Jordie Benn.
Protect or Expose: Jordie Benn
Jordie Benn is a solid bottom pair defensemen in the NHL. Thats all he is. Benn does not drive possession, as he has a career 50.7% Corsi-For. Consequently, Benn is not known for his point production, his highest point total for a season is 20.
Benn is a serviceable defender, but should he be selected, it would not severely impact the team. The Habs would be able to replace him through free agency or promotion from the AHL. He is a replaceable member of the blueline. Therefore the risk of losing him in the expansion draft would not set the Canadiens back in their development.
Benn was acquired near the trade deadline by the Habs for Greg Pateryn (and his disgruntled wife). The veteran was able to add stability and experience to the Habs defence. Where Pateryn and others could not solidify their place in the Habs lineup, Benn was able to come in and cement his spot.
Settling into the Habs third pairing, Benn was able to proved decent possession numbers in his 19 games (13 regular season, six playoff) with the Habs. Benn was able to produce a 54.1% Corsi-For and had a 56.0% Scoring-Chances-For. Benn gained the trust of the Habs coaching staff with his play through out the season. This resulted in him being promoted to the second paring for the Playoffs, where he averaged 20:20 of ice time per game.
Finally, Benn’s contract, $1,100,000 for two more seasons, gives the team some much needed flexibility with their salary cap. Having a defender round out your top-six with such a low cap hit is an incredible asset.
With the trade of Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres, this becomes a very easy protect for the Habs. Benn was able to come in and stabilize the bottom paring for the Habs. Because of this, Head Coach Claude Julien gained confidence in the defender and increased his role throughout the season and into the playoffs.
Secondly, his very reasonable contract is also a very attractive reason to protect him. With several players on the Habs defence making a large salary, having a trusted player at a minimal cap hit, is very advantageous. Furthermore, Vegas could be interested in bringing in Benn to be a leader for the expansion team. His salary would proved the team a low cost veteran to help mentor and stabilize their defence.
Benn is the final player protected on the Habs defence. This means the notable players on the Habs defence to be exposed are Alexei Emelin and Brandon Davidson. Our Montreal Canadiens protected list is now complete. How will it stack up to what Marc Bergevin actually does, only time will tell.
Final Protected List: One Goalie, Three Defence, Seven Forwards
Goalie: Carey Price (NMC)