Expansion Draft Hypothetical: Building a Blue Line Could Be Easy

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

Sometime next month, it is expected that the NHL will announce the acceptance of the expansion bid to Las Vegas. The league has already announced the rules that would be in place if/when a new team is announced and an expansion draft is necessary. The draft that is expected to be held in June of 2017 would give the current NHL teams the choice of protecting either one goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards or a single goalie and eights skaters of any position.

To make things a little easier on teams, the league is leaving with two years of pro service exempt from the draft, meaning guys like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Shayne Gostisbehere will be exempt from the draft and wouldn’t need to be protected since their second pro year doesn’t end until June 30, 2017. It’s still unclear whether or not the league will include playing professionally in Europe or whether they are operating off of entry-level contract status. My guess would be the latter but we don’t know for certain.

Given what we know today and working of the most up to date media reports, I am going to try to get into the mind of a GM and put together the best roster possible from an expansion draft. While we don’t know for sure every detail of the expansion draft, we do have a very good outline for which to work upon. Now since this is nothing more than a fun exercise I’m going to be working on a few assumptions:

  1. Some people still believe that Quebec City will be a part of this round of expansion. All rumblings seem to be to the contrary so I will assume only one team will be added to the league.
  2. I will be using the rosters as they sit today. The expansion draft rules make it obvious that there is likely to be a ton of movement this offseason as teams prepare to compile their protection list. 
  3. When the league says 2-year pros I will be operating off of a player’s ELC. If they have burned two years of it, they are eligible for the expansion draft.
  4. The whole NMC/NTC is still up in the air but last rumblings were that a player with a no-movement clause would automatically have to be protected by his team so I will be operating under that assumption.  **All NMC information comes from GeneralFanager.com

Jared Spurgeon – Minnesota Wild – The Wild are in a tough spot, with five NMCs, the team has very limited options as to who they can protect. The 7 forwards and 3 defenders option likely works best for them meaning they will have to choose between Ryan Suter (NMC), Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba. The easy choice is that Suter, Brodin and Dumba would be protected leaving both Spurgeon and Scandella available in the draft. If he’s available, a smooth skating right-handed shot like Spurgeon would be a very good starting point for the expansion team.

Josh Manson – Anaheim Ducks – On a Ducks blueline that is loaded with young talent, Josh Manson is a player that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as he should. The 24-year old just finished an outstanding rookie season and has far exceeded any expectations we usually have for a 6th round pick. Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm are the obvious guys to be protected by the Ducks (assuming Shea Theodore is exempt), which leave Manson as the odd man out and if he’s available it’s hard to believe an expansion team wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring him on board.

Calvin de Haan – New York Islanders – Another young defender, at only 24, de Haan already as three full NHL seasons behind him. A do-everything player, de Haan would fit nicely into the second pair of what would be a very young defense group. Johnny Boychuk is safe with his no-movement clause and you’d assume Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic would be the next two protected by the Islanders. Sure Hamonic has requested a trade but there is growing speculation that he will be moved in a deal to land Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg, in which case they cancel each other out in terms of the expansion draft.

Trevor van Riemsdyk – Chicago Blackhawks – Yet another 24-year old and yet another right-handed shot. Trevor van Riemsdyk went from being in an out of the Blackhawks lineup two years ago to being an integral part of the team this past season. He won’t ever be a top-pairing guy but a young team starting out can do a lot worse than having van Riemsdyk as their 5/6th guy. With MNCs for Seabrook, Keith and Hjalmarsson, there is no question who Chicago will be protecting in the draft.

Kevin Klein – New York Rangers – The old man of the group. At 31-years old, Klein would be a veteran presence the team would desperately need. The versatile defender would likely be a minutes eater that will be relied upon by the coach to handle a lot of hard minutes. He’s not going to be a top pairing guy on a good team but on a young expansion team, Klein would bring a lot of value, in particular to the coaching staff. He would be left exposed because Staal and Girardi both have no-movement clauses and protecting Ryan McDonagh is a no brainer.

David Savard – Columbus Blue Jackets – Playing more than 23 minutes a game, if nothing else David Savard is a solid NHL defenseman. He is good at moving the puck and ca contribute on a power play while not being a liability in his own end. He doesn’t necessarily do anything exceptionally but he does most things well and for a team that might go through some growing pains that will be a welcome thing. The contract situation in Columbus is a disaster, they are going to scrape and claw just to find a way to protect guys like Ryan Murray and Alex Wennberg. Savard will certainly be exposed in the expansion draft.

Bonus that I will get skewered for:

Shea Weber – Nashville Predators – The best thing that has happened to the Philadelphia Flyers in the past decade was the Predators matching the ridiculous offer sheet they gave Shea Weber. Sure it was front loaded but, the contract will count as $7.86m against the salary cap until 2026. To put that in perspective Young Tyler Bozak will be 40-years old before Weber’s contract expires. Sure Shea Weber is the face of the Predators, but that is an atrocious contract and being able to get out from under it would be huge. That said, despite the nature of the contract, Las Vegas would jump at the chance to bring in the star power. They’d slap the ‘C’ on Weber and center all marketing for the new team around him.

Now maybe it’s far-fetched to think David Poile would leave his captain exposed, but to protect him it would almost certainly cost them one of Matthias Ekholm or Craig Smith and losing one of those two might leave the team worse off in the long term.

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