The 2017 NHL expansion draft takes place over seven four months from now (I started this post a long time ago), but that hasn’t stopped Canes fans from attempting to guess how their team will be affected by it. Every transaction from a waiver pickup to a contract extension becomes scrutinized not just for the actual acquisition, but how it affects the players that the team retains (and exposes) for the draft.

But who actually is eligible, and who shouldn’t you get too attached to come late June? First, let’s take a look at the rules. Basically, there are two rules for the 30 already existing teams going into the draft – one limiting how many players can be protected (you have to let the expansion team be able to draft someone), and one requiring a certain amount of players to be eligible to be drafted (so that they don’t suck too TOO bad.)

Protecting Players

The Canes (as well as the other 29 NHL teams) will have two options in protecting their best players from being drafted away to Las Vegas. They can either:

  • Protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goaltender

or

  • Protect 8 skaters (forwards AND defensemen) and 1 goaltender

The first method allows for more protected players, but doesn’t give the flexibility that the second method does. It’s the combo plate versus the a la carte menu – you get more in the combo plate, but you’re restricted in what you can choose from.

There are other caveats to this as well. If a player has a player has a “no movement” clause in their contract, and refuses to waive it, they must be protected, and it will count against the number of protected players. Keep in mind that a “no movement” clause is not the same as a “no trade” clause, so guys like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner (who have no trade clauses in their contracts) could be exposed for the expansion draft, but why would we do that?

The other caveat applies more to the Canes – if a player is in the first or second year of their original contract, they are not eligible for the draft and do not need to be protected. So, let’s say you were a young team that had several young defensemen make their NHL debuts last season, they wouldn’t need to be protected.

Required Player Exposure

Did somebody say “player exposure”?

Since the NHL doesn’t want another early 90s Ottawa Senators on their hands (RIP Peter Sidorkiewicz‘s career), the league is making teams expose players that actually played in the NHL at some point and time. Every team must make available:

  • One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

So, where does this leave the Canes?

The Canes currently have 51 players under contract (technically 48, because we don’t count players under contract who have been returned to their junior team or overseas). So let’s focus on those 51, because players who are drafted by the Canes but haven’t been signed wouldn’t count in the first place.

Take away from that players who are in their first or second year of their first pro contract (“entry level contract”, or “ELC”). While this eliminates a chunk of AHL players from draft eligibility, in the Canes case, it’s quite helpful to the current roster. With half of the team’s starting defensemen ineligible for the draft, the Canes can afford to focus on protecting other positions.

Players on their 1st or 2nd year of their ELC (INELIGIBLE FOR DRAFT):

FORWARDS:

DEFENSEMEN:

GOALKEEPERS:

OK, so that’s 19 off the list, which leaves teams 32 players to pick from on the Canes. Let’s first look at the forwards.

FORWARDS (PROTECT 7):

I’m using 7 as the number of forwards to protect because regardless of whether or not the Canes elect the “7 forwards/3 defensemen” protection option or the “8 skaters” option, the Canes will likely protect 7 forwards either way. Of the 19 forwards listed above, only one – Jordan Staal – must be protected, due to a “no movement clause” in his contract. That leaves six. One would think that Skinner, Rask, Lindholm, and Teravainen are no-brainers, being productive everyday players with major roles. That leaves two protection slots between the remaining 14 players.

Of the remaining 14, only two – Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom – fit the qualification for the league’s requirement for player exposure for forwards. Others could qualify after a few more NHL games – McGinn should qualify before the trade deadline hits, while PDG needs a dozen or so games. Unless the Canes acquire a player via trade or waivers, at least two of those guys will need to be exposed to the draft – and Stempniak and Nordstrom are the most likely candidates (unless Ron Francis can convince Andrej Nestrasil to sign a one-year extension before the draft).

  • PROTECTED (Maximum 7)
    • Jordan Staal
    • Jeff Skinner
    • Victor Rask
    • Elias Lindholm
    • Teuvo Teravainen
  • REQUIRED EXPOSED (Need 2)
    • Lee Stempniak
    • Joakim Nordstrom
  • REMAINING ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
    • Bryan Bickell (UFA)
    • Viktor Stalberg (UFA)
    • Jay McClement (UFA)
    • Andrej Nestrasil (RFA)
    • Phil Di Giuseppe (RFA)
    • Brock McGinn (RFA)
    • Erik Karlsson (RFA)
    • Andrew Miller (UFA)
    • Ty Rattie (RFA)
    • Connor Brickley (RFA)
    • Patrick Brown (RFA)
    • Brendan Woods (RFA)

So, that still leaves two protected slots. I’d assume one would go to McGinn, just due to his recent play and status with the team. The other, at this point right now, would likely be Di Giuseppe, however if the team elects to re-sign Stalberg, he could take that protected slot from PDG.

OK, now the defensemen are an interesting story. The team only needs to expose one. However, the only one that fits the exposure requirement is Justin Faulk.

[cue overreaction]

It’s not going to be Faulk. First off, let’s see who’s even eligible:

DEFENSEMEN (PROTECT 1… OR 3):

Since the Canes can either do the “7 forwards/3 defensemen” or “8 skaters” option and all signs point to them protecting 7 forwards, the team could protect three defensemen if they wanted to. The question is – would they want to? Would they need to?

Sorry, JC, this ain’t happening.

First, let’s get this out of the way – despite what SOME members of the 328 staff would imply, Justin Faulk isn’t going to Las Vegas. He’s the defenseman being protected. That leaves the team with only three other players who could potentially fulfill eligibility requirements for exposure – Ron Hainsey, Klas Dahlbeck, and Matt Tennyson. Theoretically, Ryan Murphy would also be eligible if he plays in 24 of the 29 remaining games, but we all know the likelihood of that.

Here’s the problem with those three players mentioned – none of them are signed for next season, and two of them – Hainsey and Tennyson – are unrestricted free agents. Hainsey is more likely to be on another team’s roster after the trade deadline than signing an extension (but then again, I said that about Jay McClement two years ago AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED), so it comes down to Dahlbeck or Tennyson. My belief was that Dahlbeck was claimed off of waivers with the full intention that he would be used for exposure requirements for the expansion draft, so I think it’s just a matter of time before he signs an extension… assuming that a deal isn’t done come trade deadline time.

If the Canes end up doing a deal where they have to take on a bad contract player in order to get some sweet sweet talent, they won’t want to clog up their defensive prospect pipeline by having multiple 6th/7th defensemen types sitting under contract.

  • PROTECTED (Maximum 3)
    • Justin Faulk
  • REQUIRED EXPOSED (Need 1)
    • Klas Dahlbeck (RFA)
  • REMAINING ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
    • Ron Hainsey (UFA)
    • Ryan Murphy
    • Keegan Lowe (RFA)
    • Trevor Carrick (RFA)
    • Matt Tennyson (UFA)
    • Dennis Robertson (RFA)

So let’s just say that the Canes elect to protect three defensemen. Of the remaining group, I could see Trevor Carrick being the best option to be protected, and I could potentially see Ryan Murphy being protected. While it seems crazy with Bill Peters not letting Murph anywhere near the ice, the fact that Murphy hasn’t been sent down and exposed to waivers means that they see at least some value to him and don’t want to lose him for nothing.

So that leaves us with the goalies.

GOALTENDERS (PROTECT 1):

OH DECISIONS, DECISIONS. To the disappointment of everyone, I’m sure, either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack will be unprotected during the expansion draft, and since both qualify for exposure requirements, there’s nothing dependent on needing to be signed going into the draft. The only real variable here (barring a trade, which is much more likely than you might think) is whether or not the team elects to protect Cam Ward, or if they decide to protect ECHL keeper Daniel Altshuller. I’m assuming that Ward gets protected, solely to prevent the team from potentially having Lack as its “veteran #1” in net next season.

There is an increasingly likely third scenario. While the Canes are in a pretty clear “take whatever you want” situation with their goaltending, not all teams are in a similar situation. Teams like the Rangers and Penguins have goaltenders who they are required to protect (due to no-movement clauses in their contracts), leaving players like Matt Murray and Antti Raanta potentially exposed. Rather than losing them for nothing, those teams will be looking to move one of their goaltenders. In the case of the Canes, the team can offer back a goaltender who qualifies for exposure requirements (as both Ward and Lack do), to go along with whatever other resources it would take to facilitate a trade with either of those teams. In that scenario, the Canes would then protect their newly acquired goaltender, and expose the other to the draft.

So, to sum up:

PROTECTED:

  • F Jordan Staal
  • F Jeff Skinner
  • F Victor Rask
  • F Elias Lindholm
  • F Teuvo Teravainen
  • F Brock McGinn
  • F Phil Di Giuseppe
  • D Justin Faulk
  • D Trevor Carrick
  • D Ryan Murphy
  • G Cam Ward

EXPOSED:

  • F Bryan Bickell (UFA)
  • F Lee Stempniak
  • F Viktor Stalberg (UFA)
  • F Joakim Nordstrom
  • F Jay McClement (UFA)
  • F Andrej Nestrasil (RFA)
  • F Erik Karlsson (RFA)
  • F Andrew Miller (UFA)
  • F Ty Rattie (RFA)
  • F Connor Brickley (RFA)
  • F Patrick Brown (RFA)
  • F Brendan Woods (RFA)
  • D Ron Hainsey (UFA)
  • D Klas Dahlbeck (RFA)
  • D Keegan Lowe (RFA)
  • D Matt Tennyson (UFA)
  • D Dennis Robertson (RFA)
  • G Eddie Lack
  • G Daniel Altshuller (RFA)
  • G Michael Leighton (UFA)

Vegas has a two day window between the time the protected lists are submitted and the time they actually have to submit their selections to negotiate with both restricted and unrestricted free agents. If Vegas reaches an agreement with one of those players, it counts as a selection and that team can’t have another player selected from its roster. So, if Vegas decided they really really wanted Jay McClement, they could sign him before the draft – before any other team would be allowed to negotiate with him (except for his current team) – and he would count as the selection from the Canes roster.

That being said, I’d have to assume Stempniak would be the most likely selection from the Canes, with Nordstrom, Nestrasil, and Lack behind him. But to be honest, it all depends on how Vegas structures it’s roster and the other players available. Unlike most other expansion drafts, Vegas isn’t competing with another team and reacting to their selections. Each selection will be carefully thought out, with salary and position availability affecting each pick.

So hold off on that Stempniak personalized jersey purchase – or at least prepare to put it next to your Kris Versteeg one.

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