For teams outside the playoffs, preparation for the summer months starts early. Free agency, coaching staffs, prospect profiles and this year, another interesting workload: the Expansion Draft. For many teams, much of the work to prepare for the expansion draft was already done during the season. We saw extensions for players like Michal Rozsival, trades for fringe forwards like Eric Fehr, and goaltenders given contracts without ever really making an NHL impact.
But still there remains much to be done in preparation for the draft, and contracts should come out over the next month to protect teams from an unexpected loss. Each team must expose at least two forwards and one defender who is both a) under contract for 2017-18 and b) played either 40 games in 2016-17 OR a total of 70 games in 2015-16 and 2016-17 combined. They must also expose one goaltender who is either under contract for 2017-18 or will be an RFA this summer. While much of this depends on who each team decides to protect, these are the situations that will likely see a move or extension handed out before the deadline.
The Coyotes currently have just three forwards who could fill this requirement: Jamie McGinn, Tobias Rieder and Brad Richardson. While Richardson is an easy choice, the other two don’t deserve to be exposed even if McGinn did have a disappointing year. The easy way to solve it would be extend Josh Jooris, who qualifies but doesn’t have a contract past this season currently. Peter Holland could also be sacrificed, though it’s unclear whether the front office believes in him as a piece going forward for this team.
Carolina is in an enviable position with so many young defenders making an impact already, but their situation in the expansion draft isn’t as rosy. Currently they’d need to expose Justin Faulk, as he’s the only defender that would meet the requirements. Again, it’s solved with a quick extension for Matt Tennyson, but it’s another example of a player getting a contract that he may have not normally deserved.
The ’Hawks shored up their defensive requirement when they signed Rozsival, and their goalie situation by inking Jeff Glass. But up front, they currently have only Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman and Jordin Tootoo able to fill the two spots. While Hartman surely deserves protection, that leaves Kruger and Tootoo exposed. Perhaps the Blackhawks are fine with exposing Kruger should it come to that, because they’re likely to lose either Trevor van Riemsdyk or Ville Pokka anyway. There are several players they could sign and expose instead of Kruger should they want, with the most likely candidate being Dennis Rasmussen.
Do the Oilers want to expose Mark Letestu? Because that’s what would likely have to happen at the moment, as he is one of the few who would be reasonable to expose and fills the requirement. Otherwise, they could give a contract to Iiro Pakarinen, David Desharnais or Matt Hendricks and leave one of them exposed along with Benoit Pouliot.
It’s not likely that many other teams will leave their captain exposed, but that’s what may have to happen in Florida with Derek MacKenzie. If the team would rather protect one of Colton Sceviour or Jussi Jokinen, MacKenzie is really the only other logical option to be exposed, even if they did just sign him to an extension. They also have a problem on defense, where one of Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic or Jakub Kindl needs a contract before the draft unless you want to lose Jason Demers.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are interesting, because if they protect their whole core up front they need to sign and expose at least one of Beau Bennett, Jacob Josefson and Stefan Noesen. Or, they can just thank Mike Cammalleri for his service and leave him available for the Golden Knights.
New York Rangers
The Rangers will lose a good forward in the expansion draft, and it might even be 27-goal man Michael Grabner. You wouldn’t want to expose any of the younger core forwards, and they’ll need to sign and expose Tanner Glass, Brandon Pirri or Jesper Fast to go with him. It’s going to be an interesting summer for the Rangers, who have eight or nine forwards who would all be welcomed in Vegas. Perhaps a deal is made before the draft to move one (or two) out for an asset.
Unless Bobby Ryan has played himself right out of Ottawa, the Senators will have to sign at least one player to expose alongside Alex Burrows in the draft. They have a half dozen players who all qualify, including Chris Neil and Viktor Stalberg. They’re more focused on the Boston Bruins though, and will likely talk to their free agents after the playoffs end.