The recent unveiling of a potential NHL expansion draft format is generating speculation over which players on the current 30 team rosters could be available if the draft is held next year.
Depending upon how many new clubs are added, existing teams could lose one or two players in an expansion draft. Las Vegas and Quebec City are the only candidates. The league is expected to make a formal announcement this June, with the expansion draft expected to be held a year later.
Under the proposed framework, each existing club could protect either one goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards or one goalie and eight skaters at any position. Players with two years or less experience on entry-level deals, along with drafted but unsigned prospects, would be exempt.
Details remain to be worked out between the league and the NHL Players Association, especially rules for players carrying no-movement and no-trade clauses. It's believed those with no-movement clauses could be exempt because they cannot be traded or waived.
Several NHL teams could see a good player plucked away in an expansion draft. USA Today's Kevin Allen suggests the Pittsburgh Penguins risk lose promising goalie Matt Murray, the Nashville Predators could give up a good young defenseman like Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm, while the Tampa Bay Lightning's “No. 8 forward” could be a notable veteran like Valtteri Filppula or Ryan Callahan.
Allen speculates teams carrying assets they risk losing via the expansion draft could trade them for returns they can keep, such as draft picks and prospects. SI.com's Allan Muir agrees, noting the fact that teams can only protect one goalie will leave several notable netminders available. He suggests several of them could be in play via the trade market.
Muir's list include Anaheim's Frederik Andersen, Colorado's Semyon Varlamov and Detroit's Jimmy Howard. He also indicates the contracts of Chicago's Scott Darling, Philadelphia's Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason and St. Louis' Brian Elliott will expire at the end of next season.
Andersen is a restricted free agent after this season and a frequent subject of trade speculation. With John Gibson entrenched as their starter, the Ducks could move Andersen this summer.
With Calvin Pickard yet to establish himself as an NHL starter, the Avalanche will probably retain Varlamov for next season. If Pickard shows improvement, they can expose Varlamov in the draft. They could also try trading him before the draft for a return they can retain.
Since last season, Howard's been a fixture in the trade rumor mill. Rather than shopping him this summer, the Red Wings could keep him for next season in order to expose him in the expansion draft. That way, they can protect Petr Mrazek and perhaps offload Howard's annual $5.29-million cap hit if he's selected in the draft.
As for Darling, Neuvirth, Mason, and Elliott, their current clubs could put off re-signing them until after the expansion draft, gambling that their UFA status makes them unattractive to an expansion club. It's risky to draft a player who could depart days later via unrestricted free agency.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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