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There has been a lot of expansion talk the past few days around the NHL and that should come as no surprise. There will be huge money in expansion fees for the league and they have markets that are hungry for the product.
There have been whispers of a 4 team expansion (not all at once) but I don’t buy into that.
I believe the NHL would like four equal sized divisions in an effort to form some symmetry, adding four teams doesn’t accomplish that and they won’t contract teams.
We can argue about which cities are best of expansion but that is not my goal for today. Today I want to take a look at the kind of players that teams are would want to protect from an expansion draft and what players would be left exposed. Today my focus is going to be on the Metropolitan Division. Here are the rules of the NHL expansion draft from the last time around:
First- and second-year pros were exempt from being selected in the draft. Franchises in the league were allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards.
For teams protecting only one goaltender, there was no experience requirement for those left unprotected. For teams protecting two goaltenders, each goaltender left unprotected must have appeared in either 10 NHL games in the 1999–2000 season or 25 games in the 1998–99 season and 1999–2000 seasons combined. A goaltender had to be in net for at least 31 minutes in each game for the game to be counted against these totals.
At least one defenceman left unprotected by each team had to have appeared in at least 40 games in the 1999–2000 season or 70 games in the 1998–99 season and 1999–2000 seasons combined. At least two forwards left unprotected by each team had to have met the same requirements.
52 players were chosen in the draft, two from each participating franchise. Only one goaltender or one defenseman could be selected from each franchise
The exemption of first and second year professionals is going to get a lot of teams off the hook from needing to waste a spot on an extremely talented player, which is how it should be.
For this hypothetical exercise the expansion draft is going to happen before the start of the 2014-15 season. Obviously there is no expansion team this year but this exercise is to highlight to the kinds of choices each team could/would have to make with their protection.
OK with that said let’s go through the teams Carolina
Forwards (9): Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Jeff Skinner, Juri Tlusty, Nathan Gerbe, Riley Nash, Patrick Dwyer, and Brad Malone.
Andrei Loktionov would be a prime candidate but he is still currently a UFA and the Hurricanes have not come to an agreement with him yet.
Defense (5): Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles, Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey, Jay Harrison
Just not a really deep blue line in Carolina. Much like the forwards above you would Ideally like to have better guys to retain but not needing to protect a stud like Hadyn Fleury helps. Also Joni Pitkanen is technically a UFA but he may have a career ending heel injury, unfortunately.
Goalie (1): Anton Khudobin.
An expansion team taking Cam Ward’s contract would be a blessing. Ward is a luxury item for a team that won’t be that great in the near future. Khudobin is cheaper and better. Columbus
Forwards (9): Nathan Horton, Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johanesen, Nick Foligno, Simon Hjalmarsson, and Matt Calvert.
I can’t lie I don’t know much about Hjalmarsson but he is 25 years old and had 57 points in 55 games in the Swedish Hockey League which was good for 4th overall in 2013-14.
Boone Jenner has only one full season as a pro and thus does not need to be protected.
Defense (5): James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, Tim Erixon, and Dalton Prout.
Ryan Murray does not need protection.
Goalie(1): Sergei Bobrovsky
A couple players worth noting that have been left exposed include Mark Letestu and Brian Gibbons. I went with Calvert over Letestu based on the fact he is an RFA coming up and team has more contractual control over him. New Jersey
Forwards (9): Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Tuomo Ruutu, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, Dainius Zubrus, Damien Brunner
Stefan Matteau does not need protection
Defense (5): Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Adam Larsson, and Peter Harrold.
Jon Merril does not need protection
Goalie (1): Cory Schneider
Significant players left exposed include Ryan Clowe and Martin Havlat. The hope here is that somebody takes that Ryan Clowe contract off the Devils hands. The final forward choice came down to Damien Brunner and Martin Havlat. Ultimately I chose Brunner. Havlat just has too many question marks with his health. New York Islanders
Forwards (9): John Tavares, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Neilsen, Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck
Ryan Strome does not need protection
Defense (5): Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, and Matt Donovan.
Griffin Reinhart does not need protection
Goalie (1): Jaro Halak
I came extremely close to keeping two goalies and only 7 forwards/3 defense with the Islanders. Ultimately I decided to hang on to Cal Clutterbuck and Brock Nelson. I feel that goaltending is one of the key reasons why the Islanders have struggled since almost beating Pittsburgh in the 2013 playoffs and I think Jaro Halak and Chad Johnson are a really solid duo. Johnson is a great backup option. Since I have left Johnson exposed it is almost a guarantee that he gets selected in the expansion draft. The Islanders defense corp. is not anything to write home about so leaving two extra players exposed really isn’t that damning.
Cory Conacher and Matt Martin of forwards of note who are not protected. New York Rangers
Forwards (9): Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, Lee Stempniak, and JT Miller
Defense (5): Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, Marc Staal, and John Moore
Player of note here is Raphael Diaz who is currently a UFA, if he was under contract at the time of this blog I would have kept him over John Moore
Goalie (1): Henrik Lundqvist
Players of note who I left exposed include Dominic Moore, Matthew Lombardi, Cam Talbot, and Tanner Glass.
The last spot amongst forwards came down to Moore and Stempniak for me and I just think that Stempniak is the better player. Matthew Lombardi is a casualty of the numbers game.
Cam Talbot had a decent season last year backing up Lundqvist and he would certainly be a candidate for one of the expansion teams to select.
Finally Tanner Glass is one of the worst players in the NHL, the Rangers would be lucky to have an expansion team take him off their hands. Glass was one of the more head scratching signings of this past offseason. Philadelphia
Forwards (9): Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Vincent Lecavalier, RJ Umberger, and Michael Raffl
Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton do not need protection.
Defense (5): Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman, Luke Schenn, and Michael Del Zotto
Shayne Gostisbehere does not need protecting
Goalie (1): Steve Mason
Notable players I left exposed were Kimmo Timonen, Andrew Macdonald, Ray Emery and Nick Schultz.
I think the Andrew MacDonald contract is terrible and if the Flyers could get out from under it that would be a big benefit to them. MacDonald is a nightmare from an analytical standpoint.
I didn’t find the need to protect Kimmo Timonen because of his health condition. If it is anything like what Tomas Vokoun went through he won’t be ready to play until the very end of the year and I can’t see an expansion team considering him. Pittsburgh
Forwards (9): Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter, Marcel Goc, Beau Bennett, and Steve Downie
Kasperi Kapanen does not need protection
Defense (5): Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Simon Despres, and Brian Dumoulin
Olli Maata, Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington do not need protection
Goalie (1): Marc Andre Fleury
Players of note that are exposed in include Robert Bortuzzo, Nick Spaling, Craig Adams, Blake Comeau, Jayson Megna, Rob Scuderi, Thomas Greiss, and Jeff Zatkoff.
I chose Brian Dumoulin over Robert Bortuzzo because I think there is a higher upside to Dumoulin and I believe he is about ready for consistent NHL action. Bortuzzo would be a very likely candidate to be scooped up by an expansion team.
Nick Spaling was one of two pieces that came over in the James Neal trade, but the fact is I find more value in Steve Downie.
Rob Scuderi and Craig Adams being taken would be most Penguins fans dream.
I really wrestled with the decision to keep Fleury over Greiss. Ultimately I made the assessment that Greiss’ sample size was too small and Fleury is on an expiring contract. If Fleury had two or three more years on his contract I would have left him exposed and kept Greiss. There is a good chance Greiss will be selected and the Penguins will have same goalie tandem they did last year with Fleury/Zatkoff. Washington
Forwards (9): Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr, and Chris Brown
Chris Brown has yet to make a dent in the NHL but he did have 35 points in 51 games for the Hershey Bears last season which makes him more appealing to me than a Jay Beagle type.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson do not need protection.
Defense (5): Mike Green, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Dmitry Orlov
Goalie (1): Braden Holtby
Players of note that were left exposed include Brooks Orpik, Jay Beagle, John Erskine, Justin Peters, and Jack Hillen
The big one here is Orpik. He is a very overrated player on a ludicrous contract. He never thrived in a shutdown role in Pittsburgh and he is not the same skater/player he was a few years back. This is a disaster contract. Capitals would benefit from an expansion team looking for “leadership”. Otherwise they will have 5.5M in dead money for the next 4-5 years.
Well that is my hypothetical list of players that teams should protect if there were to be an expansion draft held at this moment. For the most part I don’t think there are too many key players that were left exposed.
My hope is to cover the other divisions as well while we continue to kill time in the summer waiting for meaningful hockey to start.
Thanks for reading!
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This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.