Expansion Draft’s Effect Upon the 2016-17 NHL Trade Market

by | Jan 1, 2017 | Soapbox | 12 comments

This summer’s NHL expansion draft could force the Minnesota Wild to make some difficult player movement decisions.

At the dawn of a brand new year, NHL scribes such as myself usually make predictions over how we see events unfolding over the remainder of his season and into the next. This year, I predict the expansion draft in June will have a significant effect upon the NHL trade market.

Though the expansion draft is slated for June 21, it will play a substantial role in any major trades leading up to the March 1 trade deadline. It could also affect offseason deals up until June 17, when the current 30 teams must submit their lists of protected players to the league.

Under the draft rules, teams can either protect 11 players (seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender) or eight skaters (four forwards and four blueliners) plus a goalie. Any team acquiring a forward, defenseman or goaltender signed beyond this season must ensure they can protect those acquisitions in the expansion draft.

For example, let’s assume the Toronto Maple Leafs trade left wing James van Riemsdyk to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Cam Fowler before the March 1, 2017 trade deadline.

Because of van Riemsdyk’s age (26), current salary ($4.5 million), offensive prowess and eligibility for unrestricted free agency in 2018, some observers consider him the Leafs’ best trade bait to acquire a top-four blueliner. The Ducks are deep in young defensemen under contract beyond this season and need a skilled scoring left winger.

While in-season “hockey trades” are rare in today’s salary-cap world, such moves still occasionally take place. Last January, the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for rearguard Seth Jones.

Adding Fowler certainly addresses the Leafs need for another top-four defenseman. However, it would affect the number of blueliners they can protect from the expansion draft.

Currently, the Leafs would protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and promising Connor Carrick. Adding Fowler to the mix means they must adopt the eight-skater protection route to keep him plus Rielly, Gardiner and Carrick.

Going that route puts the Leafs at risk of losing a forward such as Connor Brown, Leo Komarov or Matt Martin in the expansion draft. While that might not seem like a great loss, they are significant role players for the Leafs. Management could be unwilling to leave any of them exposed.

Instead of considering a swap of van Riemsdyk for Fowler before the March 1 trade deadline, the Leafs might be better off waiting until after the expansion draft. That would allow them to use the 11-player protection option to protect more key players.

Some teams, such as the Minnesota Wild, risk losing a good young player in the expansion draft regardless of which protection option they choose.

The Wild could use the eight-skater plan to protect four blueliners. Ryan Suter is automatically exempt from the draft because of his no-movement clause. Assuming they protect Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, they risk losing a good young forward such as Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Jeff Zucker or Mikael Granlund. Should the Wild opt to protect three defensemen, Spurgeon, Brodin or Dumba could be the odd man out.

Rather than risk losing a young forward or defenseman to the expansion draft for nothing, Wild management could put one on the trade block for either a draft-ineligible player, a quality draft pick or a good prospect. Given the Wild’s current strong play, that move probably won’t happen until the playoffs have ended. 

Teams carrying depth in goaltenders could also decide to trade one of them, rather than leave them exposed in the draft. Such is the case with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Long-time starter Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his role to rising star Matt Murray, who backstopped the Pens to the Stanley Cup last season. Fleury carries a no-movement clause. Under draft rules, he must be protected unless he agrees to waive it.

Since last summer, speculation suggests the Pens could ask Fleury to accept a trade. That move could come either before this season’s trade deadline or prior to the submission date for player protection lists.


  1. Not that I think it would happen, but wouldn’t it be interesting if a player gets selected by Vegas and then refuses to report?

  2. bettman blind-sided every team…any team that gave no-move or no-trade deals IN ORDER TO KEEP THEIR TEAM INTACT is now handcuffed…everyone will lose someone,while not earthshattering,is a very important part of their team or be forced to protect someone they would not have otherwise protected…if the had ANY IDEA WHATSOEVER that this would happen,then they wouldn’t have given these clauses…like someone said at the draft on tv,teams scout well,draft well,develop well,actually become good teams,then can’t keep them because the salary cap isn’t keeping up with the $$ demands of the players…anyway,HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

  3. I’m pretty curious about the plan with Raanta. We’ve hard a ton about Fleury but Raanta has starter potential and is signed for one more year at 1M. I could see Dallas making a move in the off-season to pair with one of their overpaid keepers.

    My guess:

    Bishop to Calgary UFA

    Raanta for Dallas – off season trade

    Miller to Anaheim with 2M retained for Bernier and a pick at the deadline

    If Benning was asset maximizing, acquire Lehtonen with some retention for a pick and ride the last year of that contract

    Fleury to the Islanders for Dal Colle

    Halak bought out

    Short-term LA and Ottawa are in a bind and long term there will be a post expansion scramble for NHL quality backups.

    • Fleury isn’t getting dal colle Rutherford is dealing from weakness

      • Agreed. And I doubt he stays in division. I see buffalo for a b prospect or 2nd round pick

      • Can’t see the Sabres giving up on Lehrer for MAF. I’m not sure MAF isn’t a little more difficult to get rid of than some think. Easiest thing maybe to convince him to waive leave him exposed and protect Murray. MAFs personality kinda seems like he maybe the type that’s open to the idea. No saying they would take him.

    • Why would bishop go to Calagary When he can choose a team like the Ducks

      • The ducks have no need for him?? They have Gibson

      • Probably, because John Gibson is the Ducks #1 goalie. On the other hand, Bishop would automatically be #1 in Calgary.

      • More than likely because he can see that Flames are on the rise…Ducks are on the decline. But as far as I’m concerned I don’t think Bishop will have a choice. I think he’ll be lowering his price just t get on any team he can. Which won’t be Calgary

    • Flames have too many skaters they’ll need to take care to be wasting big dollars on the much over-rated Bishop. As a matter of fact I think Bishop will be hard pressed to find a team at the $ he wants.

  4. Good synopsis of the JVR situation. Which is why I think he will be re-signed. Simply put, without him they would need a veteran scorer someone with size and net front presence to replace him. And that would be tough to find. As successful as the young kid’s debuts have been I believe it is still too early to place all of the pressure of creating offense on their shoulders. As a footnote, I think they would expose Carrick over Brown right now. I think Babcock is pretty high on his all-around game. But, bottom line, losing your 1st line LW (albeit 29 yo) and your 4th best D (via exp) for a 3rd or 4th D seems like a lateral move at best.