Alongside the trade deadline, the other thorn in the side of NHL GMs this season is the upcoming expansion draft which will put together the new Vegas Golden Knights. Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will have an easier time with his decisions of who to protect/expose, but there are a few snags that keep this from being an ideal situation.
Our Jamie Kellner wrote a very helpful piece on the draft and some early projections for the Hurricanes’ part in it back in December, but here’s a refresher on the rules:
Teams can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender or eight forwards/defensemen total and one goaltender.
Players with continuing "No Movement" clauses who decline to waive said clauses must be protected, and will be counted among their team’s protected players.
First and second-year professional players, and unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from the draft and not counted among their team’s protected players.
One defenseman who remains under contract in 2017-18 and played in 40 or more NHL games in the previous season or played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons must be exposed.
The above is true for two forwards, as well.
One goaltender who remains under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent once his contract ends immediately before 2017-18. In order to use an RFA to meet this requirement, a team must submit a qualifying offer to that player.
The Hurricanes are in a similar position to the one they were in just a few months ago, but there are a few new pieces in play.
Forwards (protect 7)
- Certain to be protected: Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen
- Under contract and at 40/70 threshold: Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom
- Under contract but not at 40/70 threshold: none
- Not under contract but at 40/70 threshold: Viktor Stalberg (UFA), Jay McClement (UFA), Andrej Nestrasil (RFA), Brock McGinn (RFA) (currently at 36 GP, but getting to 40 should be a formality)
- Not under contract and not at 40/70 threshold: Bryan Bickell (UFA), Phil Di Giuseppe (RFA), Ty Rattie (RFA) (not including players in Charlotte who haven’t been called up this year)
- Exempt from Canes’ roster: Sebastian Aho, Derek Ryan
- Other exempt: Julien Gauthier, Andrew Poturalski, Aleksi Saarela, Nicolas Roy, Valentin Zykov, Clark Bishop, Lucas Wallmark, Sergey Tolchinsky
With five forwards obvious candidates to be protected, and Brock McGinn knocking on the door of being number six, the Canes have one spot (maybe two) left for protection. The prior consensus was that Andrej Nestrasil, Lee Stempniak, or Viktor Stalberg would be exposed or traded on the front end. Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom already meet the contract and games-played criteria, so one of those seems to be the most likely to be exposed.
If the Canes decide they want to keep both Stempniak and Nordstrom, they will need to extend a contract to one of the players in the not under contract section in order to expose them. Nestrasil and Stalberg (as well as McClement, who will presumably not be extended) fall into that category. Di Giuseppe is in a bit of an odd situation, with 11 games remaining to hit the 70-game level, so he could find himself in the next level up if the Canes call him up between now and April.
Rattie and Bickell do not have enough games remaining in the season to hit the 40/70 level (Rattie technically does, but he would need to play all but one game the rest of the way).
Stempniak also has the added benefit of being trade bait, similar to the Kris Versteeg situation from last year, especially to a team that could use him in the playoffs but also needs him to meet their expansion draft requirements instead of exposing another player currently on the roster. If Stempniak is traded in the next three weeks, Nordstrom becomes the odds-on favorite to be exposed to meet the 40/70 and contract stipulations.
Projected protected forwards: Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Brock McGinn, Phil Di Giuseppe
40/70 and under contract forward exposed: Joakim Nordstrom
Other under-contract forwards exposed: Lee Stempniak
Goaltenders (protect 1)
- Under contract: Cam Ward, Eddie Lack
- Not under contract: Michael Leighton (UFA), Daniel Altshuller (RFA)
- Exempt: Alex Nedeljkovic
The goaltending situation has hardly changed—both netminders meet exposure requirements. Eddie Lack seems the likely candidate to be exposed, but a trade could shake things up.
There are a few other teams around the League with a stickier situation than that of Carolina. Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Dallas could find themselves with some tough decisions to make come June.
For example, the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury seems to be on his way out of the Steel City by way of draft or trade, should he approve it. In the event that Carolina were to snag him, they would have to protect him instead of Ward. But that’s purely hypothetical at this point.
Projected protected goaltender: Cam Ward
Under-contract goaltender exposed: Eddie Lack
Defensemen (protect 3)
- Certain to be protected: Justin Faulk
- Under contract and at 40/70 threshold: none
- Under contract but not at 40/70 threshold: Ryan Murphy
- Not under contract but at 40/70 threshold: Ron Hainsey (UFA), Klas Dahlbeck (RFA)
- Not under contract and not at 40/70 threshold: Matt Tennyson (UFA) (not including players in Charlotte who haven’t been called up this year)
- Exempt from Canes’ roster: Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin
- Other exempt: Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Josh Wesley, Tyler Ganly, Jake Chelios
The struggle for Carolina, if any, remains on defense. Ryan Murphy was long thought to be the obvious candidate to be exposed to meet the draft requirements, but there’s a big monkey wrench to contend with now: Murphy is not likely to meet the minimum games required for exposure. With 31 games left, Murphy has to play 24 of those games to hit the 40/70 criteria. Given the track record so far, that seems unlikely.
So, now what? The Canes are looking at a situation where they will either need to sign someone to an extension or make a trade for a qualifying player.
If the Canes decide to extend someone, the obvious candidate is Klas Dahlbeck, who already meets the 40/70 requirements. They do have the option of going the route of extending Matt Tennyson (who needs to play 10 more games to qualify) or Ron Hainsey with the intention of exposing one of those, but those two are more likely to find themselves traded than extended.
Simply because the Canes can protect three defensemen, Tennyson or Hainsey are likely to be protected. Also likely is for the Canes to protect a Charlotte defenseman, probably Trevor Carrick.
Alternatively, the Canes could trade for a 40/70 player under contract for next season and solve their problem that way. The Sabres’ Justin Falk - and God help us all trying to differentiate him from Faulk - could do the trick. Falk has four games to go to become draft eligible, and he’s under contract through next season. The same goes for players like the Coyotes’ Luke Schenn or Kevin Connauton, the Blues’ Robert Bortuzzo, and the Kings’ Derek Forbort.
The bottom line that Ron Francis will have to decide is whether one of those players will bring more to the table than Dahlbeck. If so, he’ll likely pull the trigger to pick someone up. If not, expect Dahlbeck to sign an extension before the end of the season.
Projected protected defensemen: Justin Faulk, Trevor Carrick, Ron Hainsey
40/70 and (theoretically) under-contract defenseman exposed: Klas Dahlbeck
Other under-contract defensemen exposed: none
As the deadline for GMs to submit their protected players draws closer, the picture will become more and more clear. Watch out for seemingly odd one-year deals around the League, as well as in our own backyard, as teams try to finagle their way into keeping as many players as they possibly can.