Around the League

Possible expansion draft may force tough decisions

Per The Hockey Writers
Per The Hockey Writers

With Gary Bettman announcing that he hopes to have a decision on the league’s long-rumored expansion by June, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly commenting on the number of players existing teams could potentially lose in an expansion draft (one player if the league expands by one team, two players if the league expands by two), the NHL’s GMs spent the last day of their Florida meetings discussing the conditions and parameters of a potential expansion draft. The stated intent of the meeting was to make any potential expansion draft one of the deeper ones in league history, so as to make any expansion team competitive from the get-go.

The league’s rules for the expansion draft are as follows: first or second year pros would be exempt, and unsigned or drafted players would be exempt for two years after they were drafted. From there teams would be allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender or simply eight skaters and one goaltender. Additionally, the combined salary for protected players would be required to be at least 25 percent of a team’s total payroll.

One interesting question however is the question of no-trade and no-movement clauses, which may mean big decisions ahead for the Rangers. While it’s still ambiguous as to the way in which NTCs/NMCs would work in any expansion draft, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period had this to say on Twitter:

Broadly speaking any expansion draft scenario would represent a critical juncture for the Rangers, given their considerable forward depth and the overarching direction of the team as Jeff Gorton looks towards the future while trying to optimize the present. Further beyond that however, is the issue of the Rangers’ defense, given that Dylan McIlrath would potentially be eligible for the expansion draft (I’m not 100% clear on how the “second year pro” rule works), Dan Girardi’s contract carries a full NMC until 2016 before becoming a modified NTC , and Marc Staal’s contract has a full NMC until 2017 before becoming a modified NTC.

It’s generally understood that expansion drafts are an opportunity for teams to rid themselves of bad contracts, but given the league’s intent to make this a particularly deep expansion draft it wouldn’t be shocking if players with NMCs or NTCs were automatically protected as a part of a teams list. This would hamstring teams like the Rangers, who have multiple NMCs/NTCs on their roster, including those of the two aforementioned veteran defensemen.

If that’s the case then it may be incumbent on the Rangers’ management to look into trading one or both of Staal and Girardi sooner rather than later, in order to rid themselves of those contracts before the expansion draft chains them to the roster. Whether you’re a fan of Girardi and Staal or not, those contracts are massive and it would be a detriment to the team to potentially lose young talent like McIlrath while being stuck with two players plainly in decline. Of course these kinds of events don’t take place in a vacuum, and the looming threat of an expansion draft might make other GMs wary of trading for such large contracts.

Still though, if they’re valued as defensemen elsewhere in the league (and I find it hard to believe that there isn’t some team that would want Girardi and/or Staal) and a trade can be engineered, it may be prudent to move one or both of the veteran d-men in the event of an expansion draft going down. With the limitation on the amount of players a team can protect every spot counts, and with an eye to the future the Rangers may want to get the most out of those protected spots. That may mean some tough, but necessary, decisions.


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  • And we thought we could unload these contracts in the draft, what a bummer!!!

    I’d hate to loose a kid due to these contracts, let’s hope Jeff has brains enough to rid one, if not both of these guys ??????????????

  • i dont get what the hype for mcilrath is about. i think we just need to cut bait w him. would not use one of the 3 on him.

  • I watched a segment on ESPN on the NE Patriot way of doing business. They don’t overpay for anybody. They have a price they want to pay a player regardless of what other teams are doing. If a player is approaching FA and doesn’t fit in their budget or the price they have him at they trade them. The great Branch Rickey said trade them a year better than trading them a year late. You have to draft well and develop players and sign key FA. You should never overpay guys. Danny G,Staal and Stepan should have been traded for assets. Now we are stuck with these massive contracts.which we will get little in return for. Think NE cut the cord early and often.

    • if i’m not mistaken, the contracts handed to G and Staal were not terrible deals at the time, that was the going rate for high pairing defensemen, and they had truly yet to begin their declines, its just happening a few (2 or so) years before anyone thought it would…those two still do have value though, see some of the other aging d men moved this season.
      Stepan got a fair contract, and the rangers still have time to cut bait and trade him if they want too.

      • They were bad contracts to begin with. How can you pay Stepan more than Zuccarello. There’s a hard cap in the NHL. You can’t overpay guys and give them long term deals. You idenifty your core and fill in players year after year. See in the NFL you can cut guys not so in the NHL. You have to trade guys early see the Blackhawks.

        • You can’t fault Stepan because Zucarello decided to sign below market. It makes Zuc a hero, but not Stepan a villain.

          Look at Travis Zajac, Brandon Dubinsky and a few other comparables. Stat lines, ages and pedigree….then write down what you think of the Stepan contract. It isn’t an egregious number.

          • You fail to realize that he is being paid fair market value. People hate him because he isn’t Toews or Kopitar.

            News flash- he isn’t paid to be either of them. He makes 6.5 mil. They make 10/10.5 mil.

          • I fault management for overpaying him. just because someone overpays Zajac dosent mean i have to overpay Stepan. That’s the NE way. Blackhawks let Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy both young players that have RINGS. Where’s Stepans?

          • 5 years ago, yes I’d probably consider him over paid but not in today’s cap environment. 6.5 mil constitutes 9.15% of a 71m cap and 8.78% of a 74m cap. That is not a big number for your 1A/1B centerman. He puts up less offense than his counterpart Brassard but is more versatile and responsible in all 3 zones. He sees minutes on the PP and PK.

            Brassard is everyone’s darling but last year put up .75 ppg to Stepan’s .80. I like Brassard more as well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like Stepan. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. This year, after a brutal start and unfortunate injury Stepan is rounding into form. Over the past 30 days Stepan has 4goals 7assists, minus3 with 46sog. Brassard is 6goals, 3assists, minus6 with 26sog.

            I won’t even address the Rings statement. If you don’t think Chicago would have chosen Stepan over ANY centerman to play behind Toews over the past 6 seasons (3 cups won) then you are wrong. Unfortunately he is a classic example of ‘taken for granted’.

            /end rant

    • You are soooooooooooooooo right on this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      There are plenty who would argue that we made good deals for these two, Girardi was showing signs of decline in his contract year. The only reason we did the deal in the first place was we lost Callie, and the PR would have been a disaster, to say the least…………..

  • I’m pretty excited for any expansion draft, should it go down. Last time around I was too young to see the process through and am pretty fascinated by the general idea. Hopefully NMCs and NTCs will be on the table, ESPECIALLY if those players would count against the teams protected list instead of in addition to that list.

    At first glance, here’s my ‘leave-alone’ list (NMC/NTC verdict aside):

    Zuc, Brass, Nash, Miller, Stepan, Kreider, Hayes
    McDonagh, Yandle, Klein

    ^jk on the Raanta thing

  • It looks like 2nd year pros would be protected. I’m sure teams like Fla, Edm, Buf, and Wpg trying to build a young roster thru the draft will start yapping at Daly and Bettman about protecting their young players.
    You should be able to keep a % of you NTC/NMC contracts. That would kill the Rangers.

  • Everything I’m reading is that the clock starts from the moment you sign a pro contract(including time in minors) so Skjei would be under the wire for exemption for 2017-18 expansion draft. The NHLPA is vociferous about NMC being valid, I’m thinking the league is going along so they don’t waste a year in court and delay expansion.

    The scope of deal making off this model is tremendous: teams could do deals to cripple rivals, trade prospects & picks for players they want gone, destroy development curves, you name it.

  • Only players I’m wedded to going forward:




    Last three exposed depending on NMC/NTC:

    • The reason I expose Zuccarello is the team has depth in the pipeline so they can afford to let him go. He will also be 30 at the start of the 2017-18 season. You can expose him and he likely won’t be taken.

  • I don’t think the league’s GMs are gonna take this lying down. One reason why some have salivated for expansion is the chance to let go of bad deals in the first place. I’ve no way of knowing, but I’m willing to bet that there’s some sort of compromise with the NHLPA – NTC are able to be picked in exchange for NMC being safe, for example.

    • I don’t see why NTCs would be applicable to the expansion draft. The expansion draft isn’t a trade. Players with NTCs can be waived/released/sent to the minors, I assume being unprotected for an expansion draft fits in with waived/released/sent to the minors.

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