Reported roster exemption list sets the table for Vegas expansion draft

Armchair GMs — along with Vegas’ George McPhee — can get a better look at what could be available to the Golden Knights at the expansion draft now that a reported list of exempt players has been released.

George McPhee and the rest of the Golden Knights’ front office are still months away from drafting their team by plucking away players from each of the league’s other 30 teams, and they’ll now reportedly know exactly who will and won’t be protected under league rules

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the league has officially distributed the list of the 66 players who will be exempt from the June expansion draft, leaving behind any question of who would and wouldn’t be available when Vegas goes to select their roster. 

However, the list is absolutely subject to change, with the possibility for players to sign news deals that contain no-movement clauses or protection from the expansion draft, and there’s also a very real possibility that several of the players on the exempt list choose to waive their no-movement clause, thus making them eligible for the draft.

The team with the most automatic, must-protect players is the Chicago Blackhawks, who will be “forced” to protect almost their entire core. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford all hold NMCs. 

The eight NMCs means if Chicago chooses to protect another defenseman — say Ville Pokka or Trevor van Riemsdyk — that the Blackhawks will have no more room to protect another forward. If Chicago chooses the alternate route, though, with seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, there are still three selections available for protection up front. And, thankfully for Chicago, Artemi Panarin won’t be one of the players available in the draft, as he’s automatically exempt because he’s playing in just his second season in the league.

After the Blackhawks, it’s the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins who have the next-most NMC-exempt players with five apiece. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are all automatically exempt due to NMCs, while Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, David Clarkson and Sergei Bobrovsky. For both teams, there’s a chance for a waived clause there or trade to come before the end of the campaign.

The Penguins are currently in the midst of undergoing a changing of guard in goal, with rookie Matt Murray as the clearcut future in Pittsburgh’s crease. That has left a number of questions about Fleury’s future, and it doesn’t appear to be in Pittsburgh, especially with Murray potentially available for acquisition through the expansion draft. A trade is almost certainly coming, or a waiving of Fleury’s NMC, before June.

As for Columbus, the news they’ll have to protect David Clarkson comes as somewhat of a blow to Blue Jackets armchair GMs — and possibly as an eye-opener to Jarmo Kekalainen, their actual GM. CapFriendly and other similar sites had projected that Clarkson’s NMC would be covered under an injury exemption, but it appears he’ll be exempt as a roster player. That might make for one less spot for the Blue Jackets to use on their active roster, unless Clarkson waives his NMC. Clarkson waiving the clause seems a near certainty if it’s asked of him, though, especially given there’s almost no chance the Golden Knights select him with his injury history.

Clarkson’s not the only player in that boat. The New Jersey Devils are also technically required to protect Ryane Clowe, who is working with the team as an assistant coach, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have to protect Nathan Horton, who is all but retired despite having three seasons remaining on his contract following 2016-17. Like Clarkson, it’s hard to see either player having any qualms with waiving their clause, because Vegas will want healthy bodies.

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It’s interesting to note that four players who have NMCs — either currently or beginning next season — in their contract are eligible to be exposed. Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie and Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner each have their NMCs kicking in come 2017-18, and, as Johnston outlined, Bobby Ryan could be exposed because his NMC is only effective in keeping him out of the AHL.

The likelihood any of them are left unprotected is slim, but it’s a potentially tough break for players who’ve worked that into their contract.

Johnston also noted four surprises on the list, both inclusions and exclusions. 

New York Rangers winger Rick Nash was considered a potential player to be left exposed in part because of his cap hit, but Nash will be exempt unless he waives his NMC. The Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal has an NMC that most were unaware of, leaving him protected. 

Meanwhile the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask and Anaheim Ducks’ Antoine Vermette both have their NMCs expire days before the draft, leaving them eligible if their respective teams decide to allow for that. For Vermette, there’s potential for that to come to fruition, but not even Lloyd Christmas would think there’s a chance Rask gets exposed by the Bruins.

The complete list, per Johnston, of exempt players can be found below. Note that the Flames, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals have no players exempt from the expansion draft. No, that doesn’t mean Alex Ovechkin is going to wind up in Vegas.

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry


BOSTON BRUINS: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci



CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Artem Anisimov, Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Francois Beauchemin, Erik Johnson

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: Sergei Bobrovsky, David Clarkson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell

DALLAS STARS: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza


EDMONTON OILERS: Milan Lucic, Andrej Sekera, Cam Talbot



MINNESOTA WILD: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter

MONTREAL CANADIENS: Jeff Petry, Carey Price



NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd, John Tavares

NEW YORK RANGERS: Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Marc Staal



PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos


VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin

WINNIPEG JETS: Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom

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