The NHL general managers concluded their meetings in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday. The GMs were delivered a framework of rules if the league decides to add at least one team. Las Vegas and Quebec City have filed formal applications to be considered for expansion franchises. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league will do their due diligence.
As we have said all along, we wouldn’t expand before the [2017-18] season, which means if we are going to expand for ’17-’18 we’ve got to do something by June at the latest for ’17-’18, but there is no requirement to adhere to any timetable, let alone that one
If expansion takes place, each team will lose up to one player if the league expands by one team, up to two players if the league expands by two teams. They will have the option of either protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie in total; or go with the option of protecting eight skaters (whether they’re defensemen or forwards) and one goalie. Teams were allowed to protect two goaltenders in the 2000 expansion draft, this time it will be just one.
Who could the New York Islanders lose in a potential NHL draft? It will be a far cry from the last expansion draft in 2000 when New York lost defenseman Ian Herbers to the Minnesota Wild and forward Ted Drury to Columbus Blue Jackets.
Think about it for a second, Halak will be 32 during the 2017-18 season and in the final season of his 4-year, $18 million dollar contract signed in May 2015. He has never been durable. He is currently on the injured reserve for the third time this season. Thomas Greiss has taken over the reigns and could do something that hasn’t happened in 23 years, lead the Islanders into the second round of the playoffs. If that happens, it will be hard for Halak to get back into the lineup. Greiss could prove to be a legitmate number one goaltender, something that he has never gotten the chance to be. His contract runs through the 2016-17 season. The Islanders could re-sign Greiss following the expansion draft. Don’t forget, the Islanders also have Jean-Francois Berube, who is 24-years old. Berube has played well in his limited time with the team and has given the team confidence to send him out during the final stretch of the season. They could protect him over Halak. New York also has a young goaltending core. Eamon McAdam, selected in the third round of the 2013 draft has had a strong season for Penn State. The Isles also have prospects overseas. Ilya Sorokin is tearing up the KHL. The 20-year-old is 17-7-4 with .953 save percentage and 10 shutouts. 19-year-old Linus Soderstrom was named the best goaltender in this year’s World Juniors for Team Sweden. They have two goaltenders, 2013 fourth round draft pick Stephon Williams and Christopher Gibson, acquired in the Michael Grabner trade, playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. Both of which would likely be left unprotected.
Calvin de Haan
If the Islanders go with the option of protecting seven forwards (John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, Frans Nielsen if re-signed and perhaps a Shane Prince) and three defensemen (Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock) they will be a few available defensemen ripe for the taking. Lets start with de Haan, the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft pick. de Haan has really come into his own following an up and down 2014-15 season. While the offense is not there, de Haan provides stability on the blue line. He will be a restricted free agent following next season, when a potential expansion draft would take place. The Isles could look to get something done similar to the contract that Travis Hamonic has, a seven-year deal worth $28 million dollars. The likely scenario would to be see if he gets selected before negotiating a contract.
The Islanders claimed Hickey off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings back in 2013. Hickey has provided stability to the Isles third-pairing. He is one of the most underrated players on the team. He holds his own physically and doesn’t back down. Hickey’s possession metrics have been solid this year, coming in at third among the Isles’ defensemen in Individual Fenwick and Corsi per 60 minutes. He is also getting involved more offensively by jumping into the zone and getting his shot off. An expansion team could claim Hickey for one reason, an expiring contract. Hickey would be in the final year of his three-year deal worth $6.6 million dollars in 2017-18. The expansion team could flip him at the deadline for a draft pick.
Perhaps the most likely to be claimed, Pelech came out of nowhere this season to earn a call up. Pelech, who has been out with an upper-body injury since January 14th, could be ready to return by April. His exact injury or illness has never been disclosed, but it was a serious issue. Pelech surprised everyone in his seven games with the team. The 21-year-old showed poise and held his own in the defensive zone. His is still on his entry-level deal and would be very attractive to Las Vegas or Quebec City.
First and second year pros would be exempt from the draft. Once they sign their ELC and suit up in either the AHL or NHL the clock is ticking. Islanders fans can rest easy that all of their four first-round forwards (Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier) are safe. Some of the following forwards potentially are not.
The 2008 first-round pick has long been a whipping boy for Isles fans. Garth Snow’s 1st first-round pick of the rebuild, Bailey has failed to put up first-line stats, even though he consistently plays on the Islanders first line. Like Hickey, he would be an expiring contract for an expansion team. His $3.3M AAV would help the team towards reaching the cap floor.
Mikhail Grabovski/Nikolai Kulemin
The Russian duo were brought in together and almost certainly be left unprotected together. Both were brought in to provide offense and both have been disappointing since joining the Islanders in July 2015. Kulemin, who has played 150 consecutive games for the Islanders, failed to regain the 30-goal scorer’s touch he had back in 2010-11 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While he hasn’t provided any offense, Kulemin has been one of the Isles’ best defensive forwards. Grabovski has struggled to stay healthy. Lack of production and a high AAV, $5M for Grabovski and $4.25M for Kulemin make them ideal candidates. Both would be on expiring contracts.
There has not been a decision on whether players with no-move clauses can be taken in the expansion draft. Johnny Boychuk would be the only Islander as of now to have a no-move clause.
Bottom line on expansion draft as a few GMs said: each team has potential to lose either a No. 4 or No. 5 D, or a No. 6 or No. 7 F or a G
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 16, 2016
Photo courtesy of Amy Irvin (The Hockey Writers)
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19