In advance of Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft in Las Vegas, the league announced each team’s protected list Sunday morning. The Avalanche protected 11 players, including goalie Semyon Varlamov, and left the likes of goalie Calvin Pickard, forward Mikhail Grigorenko and defenseman Mark Barbario available to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Each team will lose one player to the Knights.
In alphabetical order according to position, the Avs protected forwards Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Nieto; defensemen Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov; and Varlamov in net.
Varlamov, who was traded from Washington to Colorado in 2011 by Vegas general manager George McPhee, the former Capitals’ GM, is coming off two surgeries to his groin/hip area and his save percentage has declined the past three seasons, going from .921 to .914 to .898. He is under contract for the next two seasons, at a $5.9 million cap hit.
Protecting Varlamov, 29, over Pickard, 25, could be simply a show of support for the veteran goalie, because it is believed McPhee has no interest in working with the Russian for another time in a different city. Pickard isn’t considered a bona fide NHL starting goalie, but a highly serviceable backup and outstanding teammate.
The Golden Knights also are expected to select goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury is under contract at $5.75 million over the next two seasons, and that’s another reason why Vegas won’t consider Varlamov. It is highly doubtful the Knights would choose two goalies with a combined cap hit of nearly $12 million through 2018-19.
First- and second-year players and unsigned prospects are exempt from the expansion draft. So up-and-coming Avs players Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Jost and Andrei Mironov, among others, are not in Wednesday’s picture.
Here’s a complete list of Colorado’s unprotected players: forwards Troy Bourke, Gabriel Bourque, Rene Bourque, Joe Colborne, Turner Elson, Felix Girard, Grigorenko, Samuel Henley, John Mitchell, Jim O’Brien, Brendan Ranford, Mike Sislo, Carl Soderberg; defensemen Barberio, Mat Clark, Eric Gelinas, Cody Goloubef, Duncan Siemens, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Cannata; goalies Pickard, Jeremy Smith.