This offseason is expected to be a busy one across the league, as Vegas expansion looms large. Every team will lose one player to Vegas in the expansion draft, and with the rules set, teams are going to be making moves to ensure they are able to keep the guys they want. Expect a flurry of trades with Vegas and across the league. But the big question remains: Who will the Rangers expose and lose?
Before getting into that, it’s important to understand the rules of the draft. The rules are somewhat simple, but have some delicate intricacies that could make things more interesting. In addition to the rules of the draft, Vegas is allowed to make trades that could impact who they select in the draft.
- Each team must protect either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie, OR eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.
- Any player with a no-movement clause must be protected in the draft and counts towards one of the protection slots. No-trade clauses are not included.
- First and second year pros (in the NHL or the AHL) as of June 30 are exempt. Everyone else is fair game.
- Unsigned draft picks are exempt.
- Each team can only lose one player to expansion.
- Free agents (restricted and unrestricted) are fair game, although it doesn’t really make sense for Vegas to draft a UFA.
So right off the bat, we know the Rangers –at the current moment– must protect Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Rick Nash, and Henrik Lundqvist due to their no-move clauses. Brady Skjei, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich are exempt. From Hartford, the only player of consequence that will be exposed is Mackenzie Skapski. I believe the rest of the major names are exempt.
That’s it for the major rules, but there are two additional complications.
- Teams must expose one defenseman signed through next season and has played either 40 games last season or 70 games the last two seasons.
- Teams must expose two forwards who meet the same criteria.
- Las Vegas cannot buyout any player selected in the expansion draft.
The second bullet point is what impacts the Rangers. Assuming the Rangers go the 7/3/1 route, they will likely be looking to protect Nash, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, JT Miller, and Mika Zibanejad (RFA) up front. On defense, it would be Staal, Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh. Obviously they are protecting Lundqvist.
That means the players exposed will be Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast (RFA), Oscar Lindberg (RFA), Brandon Pirri (RFA), and Matt Puempel (RFA) up front. But if you look at that second bullet point, the Rangers would only be exposing one forward signed through next season. That poses a slight problem, but it can be resolved as long as Jeff Gorton inks one of the RFA forwards to a deal before the draft. If not, then the Rangers need to expose one of expected forwards to be protected (Nash can’t be exposed).
Buyouts and No Move Clauses
This is another interesting aspect of the draft. Using our previous Anaheim example, perhaps they buyout Kevin Bieksa, who has a no-move clause, so that they can protect Josh Manson. In this scenario, they can trade Sami Vatanen as well, and get the most from their assets.
Another option: Simply asking Bieksa to waive his no-move clause for the sake of exposure. It enables Anaheim to again protect someone else over him.
This is an interesting wrinkle. Any player taken by Vegas in the expansion draft is going to have to pass through waivers before being sent to the AHL to start the season. And they will be forced to send at least seven players to the AHL via this method (they are selecting 30 players, only 23 roster spots available). This doesn’t even include any players they sign in free agency or acquire via trade after the expansion draft.
This is where all of the excitement is. Even before we get to the expansion draft, teams are going to be looking to move players to get under the expansion exposure requirements. Anaheim is a team that comes to mind, with possibly five defensemen to protect, but only six forwards that warrant protecting. They will lose either Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson to expansion. Why not trade one for a forward, and protect that forward? It’s a win-win for them.
Nashville is in a similar situation, but they may go a different route than the Ducks. They will likely protect eight skaters (four defensemen) and one goalie. Unfortunately for them, it means they will likely need to expose all three of Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, and Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok is far and away the best of the trio, and on the best deal. Perhaps they send a draft pick to Vegas to ensure they don’t take Jarnkrok? Those deals are on the table as well.
Perhaps Dallas simply bribes with a draft pick to take one of their exposed goaltenders (Antti Niemi, Kari Lehtonen). They just acquired Ben Bishop and need the cap space, and Vegas has oodles of space to burn.
Or, perhaps the Rangers send Nick Holden to Vegas for future considerations. To fulfill those considerations, Vegas selects Sami Vatanen from Anaheim and simply flips him to the Rangers for a few draft picks.
Heck, let’s get crazy here. Perhaps the Rangers, desperate to shed money, get Staal to waive his NMC for a trade to Vegas. The Rangers send a pick and a prospect to sweeten the deal, and now are rid of that cap hit. Then Vegas, willing to eat 50% of the contract, dangles him to a team that still views him as a viable stay-at-home guy, but now worth it at $2.85 million instead of $5.7 million.
What does it all mean?
Buckle up. This is going to be a wild ride."Preparing for the expansion draft",