Now that the Colorado Avalanche have finally finished the 2016-2017 season (which shall become known as the season that shall not be named) it is time for the Avalanche to look ahead to the NHL Expansion Draft. The expansion draft will be the first step for all teams to shape their roster for the following season.
The new Las Vegas Golden Knights will be selecting one player from each NHL team, with each team being allowed to protect a certain number of players. So how will this all shake out? To fully be able to predict this, we have to take a look at the rules first.
Las Vegas is only allowed to select one player from each of the existing NHL teams, and they must select one player from each of the existing teams. They must select 14 forwards, 9 defensemen, and 3 goalies. There are more rules regarding contracts and salary cap numbers, but I’m not going to cover all that here.
Each NHL team is allowed to submit a list of players to protect, which will prevent them from being selected to Vegas. Teams may do this in two ways: 1) Provide a list of seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or; 2) Eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie. Different teams will have different preferences on this, but some teams may also be forced to go one way or another based on the exposure requirements.
Each NHL team must expose the following players. I’m quoting this directly from the NHL.com expansion rules site.
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.
Teams do not have to expose any players that are first or second year pros, or unsigned draft picks. So the likes of Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen will automatically be protected without counting against the total number of players the team submits.
On the other side of this, players with no-movement clauses in their contract must be protected, unless they agree to waive this, and will automatically count against the team’s protected list.
One other thing teams have to consider is whether or not they wish to protect any pending free agents, either UFA or RFA. Vegas is only required to select 20 players with contracts for the 2017-2018 season and, according to Pierre LeBrun, Vegas can negotiate with UFAs and RFAs that are not protected by their teams in a 48 hour window before the expansion draft.
…the Vegas organization will have a 48-hour window ahead of the expansion draft in June to speak with and sign any pending unrestricted or restricted free agents whom the 30 teams left unprotected for the expansion draft.
…Another important detail: If any of the 30 teams loses a free agent to Vegas during this 48-hour window, it no longer can lose anyone in the expansion draft. In other words, that free agent lost counts as the one player lost in the expansion draft.
Still with me?
Who Do The Avs Protect?
Here’s where things start to get a bit tricky as the Avalanche have a slew of free agents coming up and also have some areas where their exposure requirements may push them in one direction or another. For the Avalanche, though it takes some massaging, the best option seems to be the 7-3-1 option.
The goaltender you protect right now is pretty obvious, in my opinion. You protect Calvin Pickard. It’s true that the Avalanche are hurting for goalie depth right now, especially if Semyon Varalmov is taken, but this is a gamble worth taking. Varlamov is not really an appealing option for Vegas due to his injury history and poor overall play the past two seasons. True, if he’s 100% and on his game, he’s a game changer, but that would be a huge gamble to take and there will likely be better goaltending options available.
Defense is a little bit tricky for the Avs as they have four total defensemen that are under contract next season. Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin both have NMCs on their contracts and must be protected. This leaves a choice between Tyson Barrie and Mark Barberio. This seems pretty straight forward, but here’s the thing, Barberio does not meet the games played requirement for exposure. Additionally, I can guarantee you that the Avalanche are also going to want to protect Nikita Zadorov, who will be a restricted free agent. So the Avalanche will have to do their best to get Beauchemin to waive his NMC so the Avs can protect EJ, Barrie, and Zadorov, otherwise the Avalanche stand a very good chance of losing Barrie for nothing.
For forwards, the Avalanche have options. There are a few RFAs that the Avalanche will likely want to protect over some of their veterans, and they might have to in order to meet the exposure requirements. The choice of players to expose here is very simple and really will depend on which player the Avs feel still has some kind of place with the team. The three I would possibly choose from are Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, and Joe Colborne. So my seven forwards are: Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Sven Andrighetto (RFA), Matt Nieto (RFA), Mikhail Grigorenko (RFA), and Carl Soderberg. This exposes Colborne and Comeau who both meet the exposure requirements.