The NHL and its General Mangers met up to discuss potential rule changes and the league’s future. One of the discussions revolved around the possibility of league expansion by one or two teams and how the league would implement a draft lottery should that situation arise.
Let’s take a quick peek on how this would potentially impact the Winnipeg Jets.
It’s still pretty early. We have no idea whether there will be expansion and when that would take place, let alone whether or not it will be one or two teams being added to the league. There are hints though that the league is serious for expansion and we could see an expansion draft as early as the summer of 2017, provided there is an announcement this summer on the new team(s).
What we do know is that the league is looking to make teams more vulnerable to losing their quality players and not just ship away fourth-line players on poor contracts.
Previously teams could protect one goaltender, five defencemen, and nine forwards, or two goaltenders, three defencemen, and seven forwards. The league has hinted though that this draft would likely aone goaltender, three defencemen, and seven forwards, or one goaltender and eight skaters of any position.
Another potential change is players entering their third year of their entry level contract needing protection. In the last draft, all players on entry level contracts were protected automatically and did not count to the list.
The Exempt Players
Any players finishing their first or second year of their Entry Level Contract would be exempt. This would be any player who was a rookie either this season or next. In addition, any prospect not yet at the pro-level would also be exempt from needing protection.
Forwards: Nikolaj Ehlers, Nicolas Petan, Chase De Leo, Jimmy Lodge, Axel Blomqvist, Brendan Lemieux, Kyle Connor, Jansen Harkins, Jack Roslovic, Michael Spacek, Pavel Kraskovsky, Mason Appleton, Matteo Gennaro, C.J. Franklin, Erik Foley, Matt Ustaski
Defenders: Joshua Morrissey, Jan Kostalek, Sami Niku, Nelson Nogier, Jack Glover, Tucker Poolman
Goaltenders: Eric Comrie, Jamie Phillips
The (Potentially) Exposed Players
Every other player is potentially exposed to the draft and the Jets would have to decide which ones they want to protect. Of course, any player that is falling to free would only need protection if the Jets were to extend their contracts:
Forwards: Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Drew Stafford, Matthieu Perreault, Alexander Burmistrov, Chris Thorburn, Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, Joel Armia, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Matt Halischuk, Scott Kosmachuk, Anthony Peluso, JC Lipon, Patrice Cormier, Austen Brassard, Ryan Olsen
Defenders: Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouba, Paul Postma, Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori, Andrew MacWilliam
Goaltenders: Michael Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck, Ondrej Pavelec
All players in italics are pending free agents either summer 2016 or 2016 and only requiring protection provided their contract is extended.
Who The Jets Should Protect
There is one caveat that may complicate the situation further: No Movement Clauses may be acknowledged and force a team to put the player on the protected list regardless of the team’s preference.
The Winnipeg Jets have extended No Movement Clauses to Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom, so they would automatically be two of the Jets three defenders. Tyler Myers, however, is an unknown. Myers had a No Movement Clause placed into his contract he signed with the Buffalo Sabres that activates next season, but the Jets would have been given the choice whether or not to accept that portion of Myers contract when he was traded.
There is also a strategy in who a team should protect, as each team will only lose as many players as there are teams with the expansion. So, if the league expands by one player, the Jets would only lose one exposed player. An older top-six veteran will be more tempting to the expansion team than a bottom-six young player with little potential upside.
Forwards (7): Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Marko Dano, Joel Armia, Adam Lowry, Matthieu Perreault
The forwards are a bit difficult to decide upon.
The Jets have quite a few younger NHL players where there are a lot of unknowns on how good they will get with Dano, Joel Armia, Adam Lowry, Alexander Burmistrov, and Andrew Copp. Burmistrov’s potential extension status is largely unknown and his performance has had huge swings this season. Copp meanwhile seems like a player that would likely slip through the cracks if a top-nine player or Tyler Myers was exposed.
The Jets may want to extend Drew Stafford, simply because he would likely be a tempting veteran player a building expansion team would go after.
This scenario is contingent on extending Mattheiu Perreault who is a pending UFA in 2017. If he were not extended or protected, his spot would likely go to Copp.
Defenders (3): Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers / Jacob Trouba
The Jets defenders are a lot easier to decide upon. Byfuglien’s and Enstrom’s NMCs make the decision already for the first two spots. The interesting part comes with the third roster spot.
If Myers’ NMC did not transfer to the Jets, it would be best the Jets protected Trouba. If Myers is left exposed, he would be a prime candidate to be picked up by the expansion team(s).
Goaltenders (1): Connor Hellebuyck
The Jets are unlikely to extend Pavelec with the Jets’ long term solution in net, Hellebuyck, pushing for a full time roster spot already. This decision was quite easy.
I would like to extend one reminder that just because a player is not protected, it does not mean the team will automatically lose them. Each team will likely only lose the number of players that there are expansion teams. If the league expands by one team, the Jets would only lose one unprotected player.
The last reminder is to point out that these rules are not written in stone yet. Things could change. For example, the Non Movement Clauses may not be honored as the CBA does not explicitly define expansion drafts in the section regarding NMCs.