The NHL has made it official and announced that the city of Las Vegas will have a NHL team starting at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. The NHL will be the first major sports league to have a team based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Though expansion is obviously exciting, not everything that goes along with it is. In June 2017, teams must provide a list of players that they will protect. And the players that they choose not to protect (which for a lot of teams means losing key players) will be left for the new Las Vegas team to select in the expansion draft.
There are a lot of rules for the expansion draft (it can be viewed at https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-expansion-draft-rules/c-281010592) but here are some of the key rules:
- Clubs will have two options for players they choose to protect. i) 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie or ii) 8 skaters, 1 goalie. They can obviously only pick one option.
- Players who have No Movement clauses in their contract at the time of the expansion draft must be protected and will count toward their protection limits (unless the player or players agree to waive it).
- All first and second year professionals as well as unsigned prospects will be exempt from the expansion draft (and will not count toward teams’ protection limits).
- Las Vegas will make 30 selections, one from each team. They must select at least 14 forwards, 9 defensemen and 3 goalies. Out of those selections, at least 20 of them must have contracts for the 2017-18 season.
So looking at those rules, the Colorado Avalanche have some choices and decisions to make come next June. Will they choose option A or option B? For the sake of it, let’s take a look at who the Avs would choose to protect using both options.
Obviously keep in mind the Avs roster could be drastically different come next June. These protection lists are only based on who the Avs currently have.
Option A: 7 Forwards, 3 Defensemen, 1 Goalie
7 Forwards – Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikhail Grigorenko, Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, Mikkel Boedker.
The first 5 are obvious as that is the Avs forward core. Blake Comeau is a solid 3rd liner and it’s very possible Mikkel Boedker is not even part of the Avs come September 2016, let alone June 2017. This is only the case if Boedker, who is a pending UFA re-signs with the Avs. But it’s clear, the Avs don’t really have 7 forwards worth protecting (who need protecting).
3 Defensemen – Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin.
The first two are obvious as they are the Avs two best defensemen. Francois Beauchemin is the only player on the Avs who has a No Movement clause. If Avs can’t get Beauchemin to waive his No Movement clause then this would be a fatal blow as that would leave young stud Nikita Zadorov unprotected.
1 Goalie – Semyon Varlamov.
This is an extremely tough call here. Do the Avs protect their # 1 goalie of the last 5 years (who so happens to be the best goalie the Avs have had since Patrick Roy retired in 2013) or younger goalie Calvin Pickard who has shown tons of promise in his limited NHL experience. At this point, you protect Semyon Varlamov. With tons of other great goalies in risk of getting drafted, there’s a better chance of Varlamov getting taken in an expansion draft than Pickard. Protecting Varlamov, there’s a good chance Avs keep both Varlamov and Pickard. Protecting Pickard, ir’s almost guaranteed Varlamov gets selected by Las Vegas. However, it all depends on this season. If Pickard continues trending upward and Varlamov has another inconsistent year, Pickard may be the Avs new # 1 goaltender.
Option B: 8 Skaters, 1 Goalie
8 Skaters – Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Francois Beauchemin.
Again, Francois Beauchemin is on the protected list because he has a No Movement clause. It he didn’t have one, he would not be protected. But this is assuming he won’t waive his No Move. If he does waive his no move, the Avs would protect Carl Soderberg (in my opinion, although the Avs may choose to protect Soderberg over Grigorenko first).
One thing I’m fuzzy about is Chris Bigras. The 21 year old d-man just finished his first full season of pro hockey. However he signed an ATO to play for the Avs minor affiliate at the end of the 2014-15 season. Does this count towards a year of pro-hockey? I don’t think so but if it does that means he will be eligible for the expansion draft. And if Chris Bigras is eligible for the draft, the Avs will have to protect him.
1 Goalie – Semyon Varlamov.
Reasons stated above.
So will the Avs go with option A or option B? To me it’s clear the Avs will go with option B. The Colorado Avalanche don’t have a lot of forwards that make it worth their while to choose option A. And with the Avs finally building a blueline of significance, it’s in their best interest to protect what’s taken them so very long to build.