Expansion is an exciting subject for National Hockey League fans as Las Vegas, Nevada has been awarded an NHL expansion team for the 2017-2018 NHL regular season.
With expansion comes an expansion draft, where teams have to allow the expansion team to pick one player from their club to add with no strings attached. The clubs have to be careful in who they leave available. Last year I discussed previous expansion drafts and how the right choices by a club could lead to a team selecting quality players to make them better for the long run. With the new rules on no movement clauses meaning automatic protection, as well as teams trying to get out of a tight cap situation leaving a superstar unprotected, just what kind of players could we see made available?
For those wondering the current expansion rules:
- Teams protect either seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie or eight skaters (forward/defenceman) and a goalie
- Any player at the time of the expansion draft with a no movement clause that refuses to waive it is immediately protected by the team and automatically counts to their protection list
- All first and second year pros as well as unsigned draft choices are exempt. Pro includes the NHL and AHL.
- Clubs must leave exposed for selection one defenceman under contract that either played 40 games in the prior season or 70 or more games in the past two seasons, two forwards under contract with the same amount of games (40 for one season, 70 combined for two) and one goaltender either under contract or RFA.
- Las Vegas must select 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders.
More importantly, who would the Montreal Canadiens leave available?
The Montreal Canadiens and the Expansion Draft
Right off the bat, the Canadiens must protect P.K. Subban and Jeff Petry, who both have no movement clauses on their contracts come expansion draft time. After that, the Canadiens have these players signed to contracts heading into that season
Of course, by next year, some of these players could be gone via trade. But by this list, we could get an idea of who should and shouldn’t be protected.
Let’s say the Canadiens protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender in P.K. Subban, Jeff Petry, Nathan Beaulieu, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and a forward they sign in this years free agency. This might sound like an unfair cop out to leave a player or two unprotected, but it seems pretty clear that the Canadiens plan to spend some cap space and sign a top six forward. That leaves two open forward spots. The Canadiens will likely use one on Charles Hudon. By the time the draft roles around he will have three years of pro experience and will need to be protected. Two solid AHL seasons make him and up and coming prospect, and one the Canadiens will not want to lose. This leaves one spot. The Canadiens could make a second free-agent or trade pickup; or they could use it on one of the players listed below.
The goalie protected is of course Charlie Lindgren. Oh, they can’t? Carey Price then. I hear he’s good too.
So what about the unprotected players? Who is most likely to be taken by an expansion Las Vegas team from those left unprotected?
Potential Unprotected Players
Daniel Carr: He was a pleasant surprise for the Canadiens in 2014-15; picking up six goals and nine points in 23 games. Carr scored most of his goals by going to the front of the net. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him out of the lineup for a significant period in the second half of the season. He is 24-years-old; so the time to produce is now. If Carr has another strong campaign, he will likely end up as the seventh protected forward.
Lars Eller: I’ll be surprised to see Lars Eller make it out of the year still wearing the CH, but if he does? Las Vegas is a great location for him. Finally, Habs fans can see if their predictions were true and that Lars Eller can be a top six centre in the league. He’d be in a perfect spot to shock in their inaugural season and get a big fat contract the following year. If Lars is still a Hab, he’ll be good as gone in the expansion draft.
Paul Byron: Byron was signed to a three year deal by the Canadiens after being a waiver pick-up, and the small speedster has worked well for the Canadiens. That said, Las Vegas would love to have a guy with his speed tearing up the T-Mobile Arena on penalty kill.
Torrey Mitchell: He’s been a solid contributor to the Canadiens fourth line since coming from a trade by Buffalo, as a local boy doing good. But at $1.2 million, the Canadiens would have no problem putting him out in the expansion draft to be picked up. Mitchell provides some solid veteran leadership, good faceoff ability and enough ability to be a fan favourite in Las Vegas in the waning years of his career.
Sven Andrighetto: Andrighetto could be a good candidate along with Carr to be the eighth man protected, but it would take an amazing year. If he doesn’t have it, he’s more likely to get a standard one to two year by the Habs and get left unprotected to be picked by Las Vegas. Andrighetto has a lot of skill, but if the Canadiens pick up a right winger in free agency, it’ll be near impossible for him to crack the top six. In Las Vegas, he has a shot at first line minutes.
Phillip Danault: Picked up in the trade with Chicago and highly valued by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, Danault didn’t do enough to impress Habs fans that he was a highly sought after prospect in the games he played post trade deadline. This year could be different, and Danault could force the Canadiens hand in making space for him. If he doesn’t, he’s up for adoption. The young kid looks best suited for a bottom six position.
Mark Barberio: Barberio went from quiet UFA pickup to pushing into some serious minutes with the Canadiens blueline after P.K. Subban went down for injury. Barberio should play third pairing minutes but could maybe see a game or two on the powerplay if Andrei Markov struggles. Barberio could be the kind of fast, skilled offensive defenceman a young Las Vegas team would covet.
Greg Pateryn: Barberio’s likely third pairing partner doesn’t bring the offence like Barberio but his strong frame and safe defensive plays could intrigue the state of Nevada for taking a flyer on him. I get the feeling his job is safe in Montreal.
Alexei Emelin: If Emelin makes it to the expansion draft still wearing the CH I’m going to kick a lot of trash cans and shake my Shelbyville fist at the Internet. If Las Vegas wants to add to their cap space to make it to the cap floor and add a defenceman with top four experience and big bodychecks, Emelin is the way to go. His no trade clause can’t save him now!
Mike Condon: The Las Vegas team will likely have three better goalie options to choose. However, the Canadiens must list a goalie with at least two years experience. That could be Condon. If they bring in a veteran to back-up Price, a move I’ve said is best for the club, That veteran could become exposed in the expansion draft.