The NHL is expanding to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season with the inclusion of the Vegas Golden Knights. This will mark the first time since 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild were added to the league, that the NHL will hold an expansion draft. Scheduled to play in the recently opened T-Mobile Arena in the heart of Las Vegas, it is expected that George McPhee and the Golden Knights will have a plethora of quality and young players to choose from on June 21, 2017. The protection rules for this expansion draft differs from previous, as teams are now only allowed to protect either 11 or 9 players depending on their respective circumstances. So what does this mean for the Montreal Canadiens? Let’s first take a look at the rules and requirements via NHL.com
Protected Lists: * Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft: a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender * All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits). * All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits). Player Exposure Requirements: * All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft: i) 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. ii) 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. iii) 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. * Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a club's player exposure requirements, unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection by the League.
It is expected that Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens will go with Option A, and protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender. With certain players exempted from the draft and pending unrestricted free agents, here is a projected list of players that should be protected, and who would be left available for the Golden Knights on expansion day.
A strategy that Bergevin could be risking is leaving pending unrestricted free agents, the likes of Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov, unsigned until after the expansion draft, thus not using up a protection spot for them. This however is a risk, as the Golden Knights have an exclusive 48 hour window to talk to any upcoming UFA. With Markov’s age though, I highly doubt George McPhee will use his selection on a 39 year old defenseman. Radulov on the other hand, could very well sign for the bigger money and longer term but it’s a risk Bergevin may have to take to avoid losing highly touted prospect Charles Hudon. There are also other players that the Canadiens could potentially lose in the expansion draft including, long-time Habs (and potential Golden Knight’s Captain if selected) Tomas Plekanec, young defensive center Jacob De la Rose, and defensemen Alexei Emelin, Jordie Benn and Brendan Davidson. The ideal scenario here would be to have Plekanec and his 6 million cap hit or Emelin and his 4.1 million cap hit off the books, leaving a huge junk of money available for the resigning of Carey Price and RFA Alex Galchenyuk. To excite the Golden Knights, Bergevin may have to offer a 2nd round as compensation for them to select either savvy veterans. However, as many expansion teams before them have done in the past, the Golden Knights could also go for youth and build a strong core for the future, in which case a guy like Jacob De la Rose could be snapped up. June 21 shows sign of an exciting day for the NHL, time will tell who the Canadiens will lose to expansion.