Latest on the Oilers and Flames plus more expansion draft speculation in your NHL rumor mill. 

Highlights from Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts”.

Does Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still fit into the Oilers' long-term plans?

Does Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still fit into the Oilers’ long-term plans?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman noted Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leaving Tuesday’s game against Arizona with yet another injury. He doesn’t know if Nugent-Hopkins future is in Alberta or elsewhere but it complicates things if he finished the season injured. “I’d keep him, but it’s not only the Oilers who recognize his value,” writes Friedman, who also assumes Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the only untouchables among the Oilers forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d also add Taylor Hall to that list, though if the Oilers were offered a top-two defenseman this summer for Hall, GM Peter Chiarelli could think long and hard about that. I still believe Nugent-Hopkins could be packaged for a quality blueliner this summer. 

Friedman notes the talk about the Calgary Flames needing a goalie, suggesting they also need “to find a winger with some edge and bite.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: True enough, but the goaltending is a priority. 

Fans of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Toronto’s William Nylander need not worry about them being plucked away in an expansion draft next year. The trio will be completing the second year of their pro contracts and thus exempt from the draft, which Friedman believes will take place in June 2017.

Friedman also noted the rule that teams must expose at least 25 percent of next season’s salary-cap payroll in the expansion draft. If a team spends toward the projected cap ceiling of $74 million, they must make at least $18.5 million unprotected in the draft. He believes that won’t be easy for some teams, especially if players with no-movement clauses can’t be exposed in the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course, teams carrying declining players carrying big contracts could reach that goal easier than others by exposing those players in the draft. The LA Kings, for example, would be over halfway to the mark by exposing Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik. 

Expansion teams also likely won’t select any higher than third overall in the 2017 NHL Draft.

 

More Expansion Draft News and Speculation.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHL “hasn’t yet reached a decision on whether teams will be allowed to trade players and/or picks to an expansion team in exchange for a guarantee to not select certain unprotected players.” He points out such deals were allowed in the three previous expansion drafts between 1998 and 2000.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: And I expect those deals will be allowed this time around too. After all, those moves can work to the advantage of an expansion team, so it only makes sense to allow them that extra measure of leverage. 

Seravalli also notes there’s some questions regarding the expansion draft that need to be answered. “Do players entering the third year of their entry-level deal require protection? (Our understanding is yes.) Will players with no-move clauses be eligible to be picked? The NHL’s position on that is, yes, the CBA does not specifically mention those clauses protecting from an expansion draft. This still needs to be bargained with the NHLPA.”  NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently said those with no-movement clauses would never be exempt from the process, which Seravalli interprets as meaning each player carrying such clauses will eat up one of 10 or 11 protected slots per team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For me, the NMC issue will be the most interesting part of the expansion draft rules. Will they all be exempt? Will teams carrying multiple players with NMCs have a limit on those that could be exempted? Will they all have to take up a protected slot? 

He also speculates there could be a lot of “roster jockeying” this summer as teams attempt to trade players they risk losing to an expansion draft. He also expects free agents could receive two-year deals to “pad rosters with exposable players”. He wonders if some players with no-movement clauses could be bought out this summer. He also wonders what the rules will be for players on long-term injured reserve, like New Jersey’s Ryane Clowe.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some GMs could engage in shedding potentially unprotected players, buying out those with NMCs or adding players with short-term contracts this summer. Others could wait for next season’s trade deadline or next June before they go that route. Those on LTIR whose careers are obviously over (Clowe, Chris Pronger, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton) could be exempted from the draft.