Three things are certain with regard to the upcoming Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft: each of the 30 NHL teams will lose one player in the draft, each team will make its best efforts to minimize the impact of the player that is lost, and general manager Ron Francis will be on the lookout for ways to take advantage of unique circumstances to improve the Hurricanes’ roster.
We’ve previously discussed how the expansion draft might affect the Canes:
- December 2016 - Expansion Draft Primer and Early Canes Roster Projections
- February 2017 - Updated Predictions for Hurricanes Roster Impact
- March 2017 - Examining What If Scenarios
Before diving into the latest projections, here are a few critical dates to keep in mind for the weeks leading up to and following the expansion draft.
March 1 Opening day for the Vegas Golden Knights and the date they became eligible to acquire players and hold trade discussions; relevant to expansion discussion because ahead of the draft, teams will be allowed to offer assets to Vegas (prospects, draft picks) in exchange for Vegas agreeing not to draft a certain player to their expansion roster.
April 29 Entry Draft Lottery to determine order of selection for the first 15 picks of the entry draft with lottery drawings for first, second, and third overall (NHL.com has broadcast listings and lottery odds).
June 15-30 NHL buyout window begins. Teams will have an option to buy out contracts of players with no-movement clauses prior to the deadline for submitting their protected players list to the NHL.
June 17 All 30 teams must submit their list of expansion draft protected players to the league office by 5:00 pm ET. At that time Vegas will have a 72-hour window in which to speak with all unprotected Unrestricted and Restricted Free Agents. If Vegas and a player come to terms on a contract, that player will be considered as the one required expansion draft selection from the player’s previous club.
June 20 Vegas must send their expansion draft list to the league office by no later than 5:00 pm ET.
June 21 The league will unveil the Vegas Golden Knights roster in conjunction with the televised NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena.
June 23-24 2017 NHL Draft at United Center in Chicago.
June 25 Unrestricted Free Agents may begin interviewing with prospective new teams (though not eligible to sign a contract until July 1).
June 26 All teams must submit qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents by 5:00 pm ET, otherwise the players become eligible to begin interviewing with prospective new teams the following day (though not eligible to sign a contract until July 1).
July 1 Free agency begins.
CapFriendly provided a nice visual of the order of events between June 15 and 21:
Hurricanes Current Roster Expansion Draft Status
Here’s a quick refresher on the rules for protecting and exposing players in the Expansion Draft.
The Canes have two options for players they wish to protect in the draft, either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender (11 total) or eight skaters and one goaltender (9 total). Players with no-movement clauses are required to be included on the protected list unless they agree to waive that provision.
Additionally, the Canes are required to expose players at each position that meet the following criteria:
- Two forwards under contract in 2017-18 who played in either 40 or more NHL games in 2016-17 OR played in 70 or more NHL games over the prior two seasons.
- One defenseman under contract in 2017-18 who played in 40 or more NHL games in 2016-17 OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
- One goaltender either under contract in 2017-18 or a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer for 2017-18.
Players in their first or second year of their pro contracts are exempt from draft selection, as are players classified as having long-term or career-threatening injuries.
The Hurricanes have an embarrassment of riches making up their exempt list. Almost half of the players currently under contract (25 out of 53) are draft exempt, including five full-time members of last season’s roster, and five more who served well when called up in limited duty from the Charlotte Checkers. This unique circumstance will allow the Canes to exploit the number of valuable roster players they can retain.
Six forwards (two required), two defensemen (one required), and two goaltenders (one required) meet the minimum criteria for expansion draft exposure.
Here’s a quick snapshot.
Based on what we know today, let’s take a look at the most likely expansion draft scenarios and considerations at each position.
Expansion Draft Considerations - Forwards
- Expected Protected List (7): Phil Di Giuseppe (pending RFA), Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn (pending RFA), Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen (pending RFA)
- Expected mandatory exposed players (2): Joakim Nordstrom, Lee Stempniak
Other than the loss of Viktor Stalberg at the trade deadline, the status for the forwards hasn’t changed since our early draft projections.
Lee Stempniak appears to be the consensus Canes pick to be selected by Vegas. He provides a veteran presence with proven goal-scoring and easily fits anywhere within a lineup. Coincidentally, those are the same reasons the Hurricanes might be interested in keeping him; losing a player who contributed 40 points last season and is signed to a reasonable contract is not easy to absorb for a team in need of more offense.
If the Canes do want to keep Stempniak, they have a couple of options. The first would be to accelerate signing one of the pending RFAs (probably Di Giuseppe or McGinn) to expose instead. The second option, perhaps more likely, would be to leverage an abundance of draft picks to offer a deal to Vegas in exchange for selecting someone besides Stempniak. In his post-season press conference, Francis alluded to exchanging draft picks for roster players. This is a scenario where he may employ that tactic to keep a roster player.
Expansion Draft Considerations - Defensemen
- Expected Protected List (3): Trevor Carrick (pending RFA), Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy
- Expected mandatory exposed player (1): Klas Dahlbeck
When the Canes inked Dahlbeck to a one-year extension last week, it put to rest any concerns that Justin Faulk might have to be exposed as the only defenseman meeting the mandatory requirements. With three of the Hurricanes’ top four defensemen exempt from draft eligibility, this becomes a position of strength. The Canes could afford to replace either Carrick or Murphy on their protected list with another defenseman.
Several teams are not so fortunate. In fact, almost every NHL team not named Carolina could be at risk of losing a fourth or fifth defenseman (too many to list here but the Ducks, Wild, Predators and Blues all come to mind). Rather than lose one for nothing, this is another area where Francis may be able to dip into draft picks or his prospect pool to swing a trade to bring in an established player to round out the defensive pairings.
Expansion Draft Considerations - Goaltenders
- Protected List (1): Cam Ward (or Eddie Lack)
- Expected mandatory exposed player (1): Eddie Lack (or Cam Ward)
Not to be flippant in speculating who gets protected and who doesn’t, but in his post-season press conference Ron Francis was adamant that goaltending needs to be addressed in the off-season. At this point, based on their collective performances last season, the Canes would be wise to explore options for either netminder. Having both exposure eligible and on contracts that expire in 2017-18 is a benefit.
A position of weakness on the current roster could turn into a position of strength in negotiating a trade with another team that could lose a fine goaltending asset for nothing in the expansion draft. The most widely publicized situation is the one in Pittsburgh. Matt Murray is their goaltender of the future, but Marc-Andre Fleury has a no-move clause and at this point must be protected in the expansion draft, leaving Murray vulnerable.
A draft pick or prospect plus one of Ward/Lack in exchange for Fleury could net a return for the Penguins and give them an exposure-eligible goaltender, allowing them to protect Murray. This is obviously contingent on Fleury agreeing to waive his no-move clause and perhaps not stealing a playoff series and pricing himself out of the Canes budget. But there are other similar scenarios where a team is positioned to lose a very good goaltender, and the Canes may be able to leverage the situation to gain an upgrade in net.
We’ll explore additional specific scenarios and trade options in future articles as we near the expansion draft, but for now, the Hurricanes remain in a strong position in terms of their ability to weather the impact of a roster player lost to the draft. As well, if Ron Francis can find a willing trade partner or two, he may have opportunities to improve the roster while helping other teams minimize expansion draft losses, setting the Canes off on the right foot for the off-season ahead.