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SB Nation mock expansion draft: Our protected list and justifications

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For SB Nation's mock expansion draft, the Tampa ay Lightning (Raw Charge) selected the following 15 players for our protected list, and we highlight some of the names who are exposed:

Protected

Goalie - Dan Ellis
Forward - Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, Sean Bergenheim, Nate Thompson, Dominic Moore
Defense - Pavel Kubina, Victor Hedman, Mike Lundin, Brett Clark, Randy Jones

Exposed:

Goalie - Mike Smith
Forwards - Paul Szczechura, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Chris Durno, Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Defense - Paul Ranger, Mattias Ohlund, Matt Smaby

Exempt

James Wright, Johan Harju, Niklas Persson (two European players with no NHL experience and one player who does not meet criteria for protection)

"How.... what... Why....??!" Below he jump, I'll answer that.

I figure the first and foremost question on this list of protected players presented is why Vincent Lecavalier and his ginormous contract is not on the exposed list. Quebec City or Winnipeg (lets face it, it'd be Quebec City for marketing reasons) would be doing us a favor by taking that contract off our hands. That's at least how people have talked to me in private about this.

The contract was the most obvious reason to do it -- why not to do it was pretty clear too. Remove Vincent Lecavalier from the lineup and tell me who the Lightning would promote to #2 center?

You can't. There are a number of centers in the Lightning system and none of them have forced their way into the mix in Tampa. Why else has GM Steve Yzerman gone out of his way to fill the lower lines with new additions?

Because the organization has lacked players ready to step in, or step up.

There were plenty of no-brainer protections though. Even with a large cap hit and being at 35 -- I'd rather keep Marty than expose him. Simon Gagne is a key cog. Steve Downie can't justifiably be exposed, while some of those new additions are people I certainly want to keep around (Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim).

From our earlier conversations in the Raw Charge community, during the Tomas Kaberle affair, it basically made it easier to decide to expose Ryan Malone. For what he brings to the game (and he does bring a solid contribution in the locker room and on ice), his cost, and the idea he could be demoted to the third line didn't justify protection. Meanwhile, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Chris Durno are odd-men-out of the new editions. They were brought in for depth and role-playing.. Odds are neither will be touched in the draft, so that was a risk worth taking.

The blue-line was a complication, however. I found three names to be locks. I assumed a fourth was a lock before doing more thinking -- and remembering TBL Fat Tony's talking points. Kubina, Hedman and Lundin were no brainers. Mattias Ohlund seemed like a lock to be #4...

Does he have the wheels to play within the Guy Boucher system? I know he can hit, and is a leader... But with his cap hit, coupled with his age, it made him expendable.

Does that mean I want him gone? Hell no, it's a risk. The same stands for Matt Smaby. I want him around -- really, I do... But it came down to thinking about the system they will be playing under.

Lastly, lets add those two no-brainer exposures: Paul Ranger and Mike Smith. Ranger won't be taken simply because he's a riddle wrapped in an enigma. If he wanted out of Tampa Bay, the previous or current regime's would have obliged him and either traded him or let him leave via free agency. An expansion club selecting him without knowing if he will play or not making a sound selection for their club's future.

Mike Smith, on the other hand, has a lot to prove this season and could be seen as a sound pick...

Could. Not necessarily will.