The Blue Jackets were the biggest goats in the Vegas expansion draft in 2017. Hoping to get rid of a bad contract and fearful of losing the players they liked best, they struck a deal with the Knights. David Clarkson’s draft picks and contract went to Vegas, and as part of the deal, the Golden Knights picked 24-year-old forward William Karlsson.
At the time, Karlsson was a disappointing forward who had been brought up in his draft (53rd overall) but hadn’t done much at the NHL level. With 47 points in 165 games for Columbus, he was an easy enough player for the Blue Jackets to say goodbye to him.
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Karlsson arrived in Vegas and burst in, scoring 43 goals in the club’s first season, followed by 24 goals the following year. Leaving him exposed was a disaster for the Blue Jackets.
So, in the days leading up to next Wednesday, every team should carefully review their protected rosters and make sure they don’t leave William Karlsson from this expansion draft exposed.
The Bruins may have two candidates to be the next William Karlsson: Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase. The latter probably wouldn’t be chosen in the first place, so the B’s could probably get away with leaving it exposed.
DeBrusk is a more difficult choice, but the short answer is the Bruins should protect him. Take the time you need to deal with how frustrating it might be, but it’s the best course of action for the Bruins.
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Think of it as more asset management than DeBrusk being a core member of the Bruins. They should definitely try to move it this offseason; they just shouldn’t be getting rid of him for nothing.
The Bruins will likely protect seven forwards under the option seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. Five of them should be set in stone (Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith). Trent Frederic also seems a decent bet to protect.
The decision for last place could lie with DeBrusk and restricted free agent Nick Ritchie. DeBrusk scored 27 goals in just 68 games during the 2018-19 campaign. He only scored five goals in 41 games last season. Ritchie, meanwhile, has played at a 22-goal pace (15 goals in 56 games), albeit thanks to a career-record shooting percentage.
Both are first-round picks in their mid-20s. DeBrusk is the most talented player, although he really needs a change of scenery. This second part probably won’t mean much to Seattle, given that they would be his new team. They would probably be happy the Bruins left the most talented player with better career numbers on display.
There’s a chance Seattle won’t take Ritchie anyway. Depending on the other defenders they are able to recruit in the expansion draft, a young defenseman like Jeremy Lauzon or Connor Clifton might be more appetizing for the expansion franchise.
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A look back at DeBrusk and his future with the Bruins. He’s been dazzling throughout his career and last season has been treacherous, but he should still be a decent commercial piece. In addition to the aforementioned 27 goals a few seasons ago, his 19 goals in the 2019-2020 season shortened by COVID were a 22-goal pace.
With one year off a $ 3.67 million cap before becoming a restricted free agent, DeBrusk may be seen by other teams as a proven (but unreliable) goalscorer who could turn into a mid-six game. This is why Seattle would probably be interested in taking it for free, but also why trading partners might see it as a useful coin at a low price.
So the Bruins should be using DeBrusk as a chip to fill a need – the middle defense or wing, the latter which Boston can’t be trusted but could be elsewhere. While things probably took their course for him with the B’s, just giving DeBrusk would be reckless now and potentially embarrassing in the future.