BUFFALO, NY -- At the General Managers' meetings last week in Florida, the NHL gave GMs a glance into the guidelines of a potential expansion draft.
It's believed the League would like to add at least one expansion team to begin in the 2017-18 season, which would most likely would be based in Las Vegas, with a second, future expansion city is possible as well for Quebec City or Seattle down the road.
The NHL will inform teams prior to the NHL Draft this June if they will be adding an expansion franchise and if so, how many.
Expansion Draft Rules
Based on what has come out of the meetings from media insiders or the GMs and league executives themselves, here are a few important rules that have been laid out so far:
- 1. Every team can only lose one player if one team is added or two players if two teams are added
- 2. Players who have one or two years of pro experience are exempt from the draft
- 3. A team can protect either seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie, or eight total skaters and one goalie
- 4. Players with no movement clauses could be exempt, if the NHL and NHLPA agree on this subject. It's still fuzzy, but it wouldn't affect the Sabres, anyway, as they currently do not have any players with a NMC
- 5. Teams must expose at least 25% of their salary cap
Some of the rules still need to be tightened up, but this gives a good idea what the general rules are as we know right now.
The earliest the expansion draft would take place is in the summer of 2017, prior to the NHL Draft. It doesn't make a lot of sense to base how the Sabres will evaluate their roster for an expansion draft next year with this year's roster. So, Iím going to make a few assumptions about the Sabres roster at the end of next year.
It's expected Buffalo will be aggressive in attempting to bring more talent onto the roster this summer. For the sake of this breakdown, let's say the Sabres acquire for top-four defenseman, a bottom-six forward and a top-six forward. We'll call the new top-four blueliner Player D, the bottom-six forward Player C and the new top-six forward Player F.
Players currently on the roster now that I believe will no longer be on this team come the end of next summer or will be UFAs at the end of next season include Zemgus Girgensons, David Legwand, Cody Franson, Carlo Colaiacavo, Chad Johnson and Brian Gionta.
Protected and Unprotected Players
It makes more sense, to me, going with the model of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. If nothing more than a pure math standpoint, you get to protect more players this way.
Up front, the Sabres would likely protect Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Player F and Player C.
On defense, the protected players would include Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack McCabe and Player D.
Lastly, as of now, I would say Robin Lehner is protected as the sole goaltender.
If the Sabres go with these players as their protected 11, they still run the risk of losing some good hockey players, such as Matt Moulson, Nic Deslauriers, Mark Pysyk, Zach Bogosian or Josh Gorges.
Keep in mind, some of the team's young players won't need to be protected, such as Justin Bailey, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Hudson Fasching. My understanding of the initial rules is that those players only will have two seasons of pro hockey and are exempt from the draft.
By exposing Moulson, Bogosian, Pysyk and Gorges, the Sabres will have checked the box requiring them to expose at least 25% of their salary cap, if at the end of next season the Sabres have a cap hit of $65 million. They'll need to expose players that add up to at least $16.25 million.
Moulson, Bogosian, Pysyk and Gorges add up to a little over $15 million just on their own. The other players on the roster at the time that we don't know of yet that will be exposed will put them over the projected limit.
The expansion draft will surely be a way for teams to get out from under a bad contract with no repercussion. The Sabres will quietly be crossing their fingers that the expansion team selects a player like Moulson or Bogosian to get a big contract of their books, especially with new contracts for Eichel and Reinhart around the corner.
This, of course, is a very early look at what the Sabres could do come June 2017.
The salary cap, player acquisitions and player performance could change the list of protected players. As a quick example, maybe the Sabres choose to make Kane available to the draft as he'll be going into the final year of his deal.
You can only lose a maximum of one player, per expansion team, off your roster, but tough decisions will be made around the League to protect that one player a team is afraid to lose. The expansion draft will also bring about an interesting off-season this June, unlike anything we've seen since 2000 when the Columbus Blue Jackets entered the NHL.
Chad DeDominicis is the Buffalo Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.