The Anaheim Ducks are battling for top spot in the Pacific Division, and while the team's mentality is to compete for the Stanley Cup this season, the June 21 expansion draft is in the back of their minds.
While most teams are not overly concerned about this summer's expansion draft, the Ducks are among the clubs that are, as they could lose a significant player.
All 30 NHL teams have until June 17 at 5pm ET to submit their protection list, upon which the Vegas Golden Knights have until June 20 at 5pm to make their selections (one player per team). An announcement will be made on June 21 with Vegas' selections.
The Ducks have a surplus of top quality defensemen, causing some issues with how the team will move forward.
Veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa owns a no-movement clause and will have to waive it in order to be exposed in the expansion draft, a request the Ducks are expected to make.
Regardless of Bieksa's status, the Ducks risk losing a top young defenseman or possibly a top young forward, depending on whether the Ducks decide to protect three or four blueliners.
At the start of the season, and throughout last summer, the Ducks had entertained calls for defenseman Cam Fowler, but never pulled the trigger on a deal. Fowler has since risen to All-Star status and has been one of Anaheim's best players this season, and is now considered a lock to stay with the Ducks.
With Fowler and Hampus Lindholm on the blueline, fellow young stud defenseman Sami Vatanen could become expendable.
Ducks GM Bob Murray has indicated that he plans on riding this current group through the playoffs, but if the Ducks can acquire a top-line left wing, he may opt to make a move before the March 1 trade deadline.
Vatanen, 25, has three-years left on his contract after this season and owns a $4.875 million salary cap hit.
Several teams, including the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, had expressed interest in Fowler, and could turn their attention to Vatanen.
If a trade is not reached by the deadline, the Ducks could regroup and resume discussions once their season ends.