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Blues must turn in list for expansion draft on Saturday

Blues must turn in list for expansion draft on Saturday

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Blues workout at home before departure

Blues forward Vladmir Tarasenko practices on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights. (Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com)

(Updated 2:17 pm. July 17)

The 2 p.m. Central deadline for trades/signings/waivers came and went Saturday without the Blues trading either Vince Dunn or Vladimir Tarasenko.

So the earliest the Blues could trade Dunn and Tarasenko, assuming they're not exposed in expansion draft and one is taken Wednesday by Seattle, is after the trade/signing/waiver freeze ends at noon Central on Thursday.

Only Seattle can make roster moves between now and Thursday at noon.

(Our earlier story)

The Blues’ offseason hits its first milepost Saturday when the team must submit its list of protected players to the NHL for the Seattle expansion draft.

The Blues have two ways to go in terms of their list, which must be turned in by 4 p.m. (St. Louis time). They can submit the names of seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goalie.

It seems all but a certainty that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will go with the 7-3-1 formula, which allows him to protect 11 total players as opposed to nine in the 8-1 formula.

The expansion draft takes place Wednesday night.

Assuming Armstrong does go 7-3-1, 10 of the 11 names appear to be no-brainers: Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist and Robert Thomas at forward; Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko on defense; and Jordan Binnington at goalie.

That leaves one forward spot unaccounted for. Does Armstrong protect Vladimir Tarasenko, who he’s trying to trade? Or does he expose Tarasenko, thus leaving him there for the taking by the Kraken?

It’s a complicated situation. By exposing Tarasenko, the Kraken would get their choice of Tarasenko or defenseman Vince Dunn.

Under the 7-3-1 formula, exposing Tarasenko would allow the Blues to protect another forward — most likely Ivan Barbashev or Sammy Blais.

Should Tarasenko be exposed and claimed by Seattle, the Blues would be free of his $7.5 million salary-cap hit. That’s money they could use in the free agent market.

If Armstrong is convinced he can’t find a trade partner for Tarasenko, he could even offer a sweetener to the Kraken by adding a player or draft choice to the mix. Or agreeing to retain part of Tarasenko’s cap hit in return for Seattle selecting the disgruntled forward. That would seem to be a drastic solution, and out of character for Armstrong.

In any event, if Tarasenko is exposed and taken by the Kraken under any circumstances, the Blues would get nothing in return for someone who was a perennial 30 goal-plus scorer until shoulder issues derailed his last two seasons.

Among forwards expected to be exposed by the Blues are Tyler Bozak, Mike Hoffman, Jaden Schwartz, Zach Sanford, Kyle Clifford and Mackenzie MacEachern.

Other than Dunn, defensemen expected to be exposed are Robert Bortuzzo, Niko Mikkola and Marco Scandella.

Prospects such as Dakota Joshua, Klim Kostin, Jake Neighbours and Jake Walman are exempt from the expansion draft because they don’t have enough pro experience. (In the case of Neighbours, the team’s first-round pick in the 2020 draft, he has no pro experience in terms of games played.)

There’s another wrinkle to the Seattle expansion draft. From 9 a.m. Sunday until 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Kraken can negotiate with and sign any free agents left unprotected by the other teams. If the Kraken sign a player during this period, he counts as the expansion pick from that team.

Bozak, Hoffman and Schwartz are unrestricted free agents. So if they are left unprotected, as expected by the Blues, they can negotiate and sign with the Kraken during the three-day window. The same holds for restricted free agents Dunn and Sanford, although it’s a different situation with them. As RFAs, the Kraken hold their rights merely by claiming them.

That’s not the case with unrestricted free agents — they remain eligible for free agency on July 28 if not signed by the Kraken. (So it makes no sense for the Kraken to claim an unrestricted free agent if they can’t sign him.)

Of the 30 players ultimately claimed by the Kraken — one from every team except the expansion draft-exempt Vegas Golden Knights – Seattle can end up with a maximum of 10 players who were free agents entering the negotiating window.

One last thing to keep in mind with the expansion draft. From 2 p.m. Saturday until noon on Thursday, there is a freeze on signing, trading or waiving players by the rest of the NHL teams. So if Tarasenko is not traded by 2 p.m. Saturday, he cannot be traded until Thursday afternoon. The Kraken have the playing field to themselves.

The NHL is expected to release the protected lists of all 30 teams on Sunday.

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