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. For the sake of this series, the Habs will follow the seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie protection list. With Carey Price and Jeff Petry having no movement clauses in their contracts, they are automatically included in the protected list.
With all that out of the way, lets take a look at Phillip Danault.
Protect or Expose: Phillip Danault
Height/Weight: 6’1” 193 Pounds
Cap Hit: $912,500 – One year remaining
Danault does not possess great offensive ability. He had a significant run along side Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov in the 2016-2017 season, which saw his offensive numbers skyrocket. He ranked second on the team (and 15th in the NHL among forwards that played at least 400 minutes) shot-attempts-for with 55.9%, and his scoring-chances-for was 57.8% was the best on the team and 21st in the NHL (among forwards with at least 400 minutes).
Playing with the Habs top wingers defiantly improved his offensive zone numbers. With all these improved metrics, however, Danault’s conversion rate was shockingly low. He only managed to score 40 points, which, extrapolated over 82 games is good for less than half a point-per-game. Despite this time on the first line, Danault’s production was not even in the top 90 forwards in the league. The Victoriaville native did struggle against stronger competition, scoring two-goals and 14 points when playing against playoff teams. He was also a non-factor in the Habs first round playoff loss to the New York Rangers.
This was also Danault’s first full season in the NHL, at age 24. It is not as if he is suddenly going to find his offensive game. He has never a major point producer, even in junior. While he still has room for improvement in his game, it is not likely he will be able to significantly improve on his point totals. Danault is another third line player on a team with an overabundance of this type of player.
In his first full season in the NHL Danault proved he belonged in the NHL. In his first full season, Danault scored a career high 13 goals and 40 points. Through the first 11 games of the 2016-2017 season he was able to match his 2015-2016 (three goals, five points in 21 games) production with the Habs, on a line with Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn. Danault was bumped higher up the lineup to pair with Max Pacioretty and developed some decent chemistry for most of the season.
He owned a respectable 51.7% faceoff percentage, good for second on the team, and a 55.6% Corsi For good for fourth on the team. Danault also became a trusted penalty killer averaging 1:09 per game on the PK. Furthermore, the center position is also a very big concern for the Montreal Canadiens. It would be a mistake to expose one of their emerging talents at the position.
Phillip Danault’s acquisition at the 2016 NHL trade deadline has been one of Marc Bergevin‘s better moves as Habs GM. When he was acquired, the hope for Danault was to develop into a replacement for Tomas Plekanec, whenever he moves on from the team. In his first full season, Danault netted 13 goals and 40 points. He significantly out scored Plekanec (10 goals 28 points) and was given a larger role 5 on 5.
While Danault had a career year offensively, it seemed to be a byproduct of playing with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov for a good portion of the season, rather than him creating his opportunities. Danault has shown he can play with the team’s top players in a pinch, but is miscast as the team’s number one center. Still, if the Habs can slot him into the lineup properly, he will be a very important player for the club. Furthermore, Canadiens Head Coach Claude Julien should be able to help develop Danault into a very serviceable defensive forward for the team.
With the center position being as weak as it is for the Canadiens, exposing one of their younger cheaper players at the position would be a huge mistake.
Protected List 7 Forwards, 3 Defensemen, and 1 goalie:
G: Carey Price (NMC)