- In some uplifting news, Craig Cunningham has been given a pro scout position with the Arizona Coyotes. The well-liked former captain of the Tucson Roadrunners collapsed on the ice in November and ended up losing part of his leg because of medical complications. He’ll never play professional hockey again, but will now be part of an NHL front office for at least the next two seasons. Just 26-years old, Cunningham has a long career ahead of him should he decide to remain in hockey and Arizona is the perfect place to get started; they’ve never been shy about giving responsibility to young men—just ask GM John Chayka.
With a 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final last night, the Nashville Predators punched their ticket to the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup appearance. In fact, Nashville had never even advanced beyond the conference semifinals until this heroic run and now stand just four wins away from hosting the greatest trophy in sports.
A Stanley Cup berth has certainly been a long time coming for the NHL’s 27th franchise whose inaugural season took place in 1998. GM David Poile, who has been the man in charge through it all, did not qualify for the postseason for the team’s first five seasons of existence, but since 2003 the Predators have only missed the playoffs three times. With other 1990’s expansion or relocation teams having made the Final before, like the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers, and even more having won a Stanley Cup, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, and Carolina Hurricanes, many would expect that the Predators may be the last team to accomplish the feat. However, there are four teams who have yet to make it to Stanley Cup Final, the Expansion Class of 2000 – the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, the current Winnipeg Jets, and the original Winnipeg Jets, now the Arizona Coyotes. Which of these teams will be the next to realize their dreams of playing in June?
The Minnesota Wild certainly seemed to be heading in that direction for much of this season as they had their way with the Western Conference. Although in a tough Central Division with the Cup-bound Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota is armed with a depth and talent at every position and showed (in the regular season) that they can fight through a tough schedule. The team was able to turn goaltender Devan Dubnyk into a star, has one of the strongest defensive cores in the NHL, and has a combination up front of strong veterans like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Eric Staal and exciting young players like Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. However, everything fell apart when it mattered most, as the Wild were easily bounced in the first round by the Blues. Can the Wild bounce back and, with the aid of top prospects such as Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, make a Stanley Cup appearance in the next few years?
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be racing them for that honor. Almost mirror images of each other in 2016-17, the Blue Jackets also surprised many by dominating the Eastern Conference early in the year. At the time, the New Year’s Eve match-up between Columbus and Minnesota, both on historic winning streaks, was even touted as the game of the year. The Blue Jackets too have a stellar goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky and deep group of talented defenseman, like young game-changers Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. However, where Columbus may edge out Minnesota is in their youth up front. Although similarly successful, the Jackets were able to reach 108 points to the Wild’s 106 with a much younger forward corps. The likes of Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg, Boone Jenner, and Josh Anderson, plus incoming talent like Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand could keep Columbus in the running for a Cup longer than the Wild.
Speaking of youth, the Arizona Coyotes seem to be building something special in the desert. Question marks abound throughout the roster, such as starting goalie and a long-term partner for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and many don’t expect the Coyotes to be contenders for several more years. However, after the rapid ascent of the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs this season, fueled largely by under-21 talent, Arizona may be relevant sooner rather than later. Their best players are also their top prospects – Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Jakob Chychrun – and that’s just the beginning, as even better young talent is on its way in Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome, not to mention whoever they select with the 7th and 23rd overall picks this year. It seems inevitable that the Coyotes will be good down the road, and, regardless of whether it’s in Arizona or not, have a strong chance to host a Stanley Cup final. However, will that day come before the likes of Minnesota or Columbus can take advantage of their current success?
Finally, there’s the Winnipeg Jets. They weren’t a playoff team this year like Columbus or Minnesota and they aren’t armed with years worth of high draft picks like Arizona either. Yet, the Jets may actually be the dark horse to reach the Stanley Cup first. Winnipeg finished ninth in the Western Conference in 2016-17, tenth in 2015-16, and eighth in 2014-15, consistently hanging around as a fringe team, not truly competing for a title. That seems like it is about to change. The Jets have one of the more dangerous forward groups in the NHL with Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and captain Blake Wheeler leading the charge. They also have talented defenseman in Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba. The Jets are a deeper team than many know and this season did not have a single player over the age of 32. Next year, they’ll add ace forwards Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic to the mix, and possibly goaltender Eric Comrie as well, all part of what The Hockey News called the top prospect system in the NHL. Given the wealth of talent on this team already, it seems strange they haven’t performed better. Throw some dynamic young players in and use some of the team’s ample cap space, and the Winnipeg Jets could be a breakout team in 2017-18.
What do you think?
Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down each team’s situation as it pertains to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Which players are eligible, and which will likely warrant protection or may be on the block. Each team is required to submit their protection lists by 4pm CDT on June 17th. The full rules on eligibility can be found here, and CapFriendly has provided a handy expansion tool to make your own lists.
After going to the playoffs three consecutive years from 2010-12 the Arizona Coyotes have taken a sharp downturn in recent years, culminating in another disappointing season in 2016-17. They finished in 28th place with just 70 points, and unfortunately dropped all the way to seventh in the upcoming draft. Since most of their impressive assets are still very young, the team shouldn’t have much trouble protecting their future in the upcoming expansion draft. They do however have some interesting names that may be taken.
Eligible Players (Non-UFA)
Jamie McGinn, Tobias Rieder, Brad Richardson, Josh Jooris, Mitchell Moroz, Tyler Gaudet, Peter Holland, Brandan Troock, Jeremy Morin, Jordan Martinook, Alexander Burmistrov, Anthony Duclair, Teemu Pulkkinen
Like the Colorado Avalanche who we profiled yesterday, the Coyotes have more than enough protection slots to go around up front. Unlike the Avalanche though, who have a tough situation on defense the Coyotes will more than likely use the 7-3-1 method, allowing them to protect all of their valuable contracts.
Up front, the Coyotes amazingly have just three players signed for next season who are eligible to be taken, though several other restricted free agents will warrant protection. With seven slots, they actually have enough to even acquire another player or two without putting anything of true value at risk. Holland, Martinook, and Jooris all have shown various levels of upside in their NHL time, while others like Pulkkinen have performed well at the AHL level.
Because of the extremely few veterans signed for next season, the Coyotes actually still have some work to do. Each team needs to expose at least two forwards who are under contract for 2017-18 and played in at least 40 games this season of 70 the past two. McGinn, Rieder and Richardson are the only three who are signed, meaning another player will need a contract before the draft happens. Jooris is the most likely for this, as he doesn’t project as one of their current protected forwards but does fill the requirement.
On defense the biggest loss would likely be Schenn, the former fifth-overall pick who is now on his fourth organization without ever living up to the shut-down billing he had coming out of the WHL. If the team was worried that Vegas might take him—and there is definitely a chance the team would, seeing as he is a cheap 27-year old with more than 600 games under his belt already—and they really didn’t want that, they could go with the eight skaters method and protect four defensemen, though it seems very unlikely.
In net, Smith is a near-lock to be protected after the team refused to discuss him at the deadline despite his excellent season. GM John Chayka had this to say at the time:
We’re trying to grow, and he’s a key cog of that growth for us. Wayne Gretzky was traded. At the same time, [Smith’s] an important piece for our organization. There’s no discussion on him.
That does make Domingue an interesting option for Vegas, as the former fifth-round pick has turned in two solid seasons in part-time duty. While he doesn’t have the same immediate upside of Antti Raanta or Philipp Grubauer (two goaltenders who may also be exposed), Domingue is only 25 and costs just over $1MM for next season.
It’s important to note that Dave Bolland, Craig Cunningham and Chris Pronger, all of whom are technically still on the Arizona payroll are exempt from the draft due to their career-ending injuries. Pronger has in fact already been inducted to the Hall of Fame, and currently works for the Department of Player Safety. Pavel Datsyuk, whose rights were acquired at the draft last year is also on the books and has a no-movement clause, but will not need protection because of his expiring cap-hit and status as a retired player.
Vegas will have a chance to speak to the pending free agents for the Coyotes like any other team, and there is the possibility they could go after Radim Vrbata instead of any exposed player. Vrbata had a solid season in the desert, leading the Coyotes with 55 points. At 35 he’s clearly past his prime, but for a team that will severely lack scoring ability he may be an interesting option. Shane Doan is also a free agent as of this moment, but it seems unlikely that he would go to Vegas for the end of his career—if it’s not over already—after making it clear he only wanted a trade to a potential Stanley Cup contender at the deadline.
Projected Protection List
In all, the Coyotes sit in outstanding shape going into the expansion draft without much to lose. Since all of their highly-touted assets are still too young to be eligible, they’ve actually put themselves in a situation to acquire a player or two before the draft from a team in a worse situation.
Though they aren’t likely to compete next season, they could easily add young players to their core this summer to make their team substantially better. Like the acquisition of Crouse last summer in exchange for Bolland’s contract, or the draft-finagling to move up and get Chychrun, Chayka and the Coyotes front office is headed in the right direction. It would be surprising to not see them take advantage of their protection slots and ample cap space again over the next few weeks.
While this list reflects the roster as it is today, it could clearly change as the team makes the decision on who to extend or a deal to bring someone in. As it sits, Schenn or Domingue look like the toughest losses, which won’t really inspire much excitement among Golden Knights fans.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
While the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is still several years away (the earliest expiration date is September 15, 2020), NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has already brought up one element that the owners will be looking to tweak. Speaking at the Sports Lawyers Association Annual Conference, Daly told the attendees, including Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal (Twitter links), that they will be looking to redefine the definition of Hockey Related Revenues, more commonly referred to as HRR, which set the salary cap and floor. He clarified that they want to make definitions more precise and that it wouldn’t necessarily mean that they would be looking to exclude (or include) certain income as part of HRR.
On the union side, Steve Fehr, special counsel for the NHLPA, noted to Mullen (Twitter link) and others in attendance that the biggest issues they intend to look at are escrow and cap management issues. Escrow has risen sharply since being instituted to the point where some expect that the players won’t exercise their cap inflator next month in an effort to reduce the percentage that is withheld off of each pay.
CBA talks are still probably another couple of years away but we’re already starting to hear what some of the key points will be when discussions get underway.
Elsewhere around the hockey world:
- Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has been fined $10K for a homophobic remark uttered during Thursday’s Game Four against Nashville, the league announced. The fine is the maximum allowed under the CBA.
- There will be two Ekman-Larssons in the Coyotes organization next season. Arizona’s AHL affiliate in Tuscon announced the signing of defenseman Kevin Ekman-Larsson to a one year, minor league contract. He is the younger brother of Coyotes blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 22 year old has spent the past two seasons with Tingsryds AIF of the Swedish Allsvenskan.
- Canadiens center prospect Jacob de la Rose is drawing interest from the SHL, he told Värmlands Folkblad’s Johan Ekberg (link in Swedish). However, the pending RFA noted that his priority is to remain playing in North America and that talks have already started with Montreal on a new contract. He played in just nine NHL games this season, the fewest in his three years with the Canadiens.
After several seasons as the Arizona Coyotes Director of Player Development, Steve Sullivan has been promoted to assistant General Manager. Sullivan will also take over as GM of the Tucson Roadrunners, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. There is still no indication whether or not the team will promote an internal candidate to take over his former position. The team will retain Chris O’Hearn, who is currently serving as AGM and will work in tandem with Sullivan.
Sullivan had a lengthy NHL career that saw him play over 1000 games and suit up for six different franchises. His most success came with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he scored a career-high 75 points in 2000-01. He retired in 2013 after short stint with the New Jersey Devils, the team that had drafted him in the ninth round nearly 20 years prior. One of the best “small players” in history, Sullivan stood just 5’9″ but recorded 747 points over a long career.
As more and more former players move into GM roles around the league, he will be joining a group led by 27-year old John Chayka, fifteen years Sullivan’s junior. As the team continues to build its player base with a nod to the analytical side, Sullivan provides a different perspective from his days as an NHL center.
In a new report from Slava Malamud, the KHL is considering closing the doors on five franchises this summer and reducing its league size to 24. The league has wild competition issues, with the top teams sometimes spending up to 800% more than the poorest teams according to Malamud. This comes right as the KHL itself released a statement about how “further improvement in the financial stability of the KHL” was reached this season.
Malamud lists Novokuznetsk, Ugra, Avtomobilist and Slovan as possibilities for contraction, while noting that Medvescak has already closed its doors. If these teams aren’t familiar to you, you’re not alone as many of them have basically been development and feeder teams for the richer and more successful franchises. Malamud also admits that Sochi is in trouble, though will likely avoid the foreclosure sign for now. As James Mirtle of The Athletic points out, perhaps this instability will make NHL players a bit more hesitant to try the KHL in the coming years.
- One player who will be tied over the coming months to the KHL is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1st. As Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet writes in his latest article, Kuznetsov was very forward when discussing with Craig Custance of ESPN the long negotiation countryman Nikita Kucherov had to go through last summer: “If I would be in [Kucherov’s] position, I would be signed in the KHL for sure. I would sign and say, ’Bye.’ I would buy a beach house and a couple Rolls-Royces.” That outlook may come to the forefront as Washington has trouble fitting in all their current restricted free agents. In addition to Kuznetsov, the Capitals will need to work out contracts with Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly and Nate Schmidt this summer with Philipp Grubauer also on the table should he not be selected in the expansion draft.
- 28-year old Mario Kempe has signed a one-year two-way deal with the Arizona Coyotes. The team did not release the financials. The older brother of Los Angeles Kings’ first-round pick Adrian Kempe, the Swedish forward has been playing in the KHL for the past three seasons. The winger had 34 points in 56 games this season and has been a consistent goal threat for his entire professional career. While he doesn’t have the upside that Adrian possesses, it would be another depth player to surround the young core Arizona is building, and it likely comes at very little cost.
The Winnipeg Jets have signed seventh-round pick Sami Niku to a three-year entry-level contract. The Finnish defenseman broke out in Liiga this year, registering 27 points in 59 games while playing for Jyvaskyla. Niku has been praised for his mobility and offensive upside, but had trouble producing in a consistent manner before this season.
He’ll enter a Winnipeg Jets system that is fairly weak on the left side behind Logan Stanley, now that Josh Morrissey has graduated to the NHL. With some of the best right-handed depth in the NHL including newcomer Tucker Poolman, the Jets are likely ecstatic with Niku’s development. Should he come to North America next season, he’ll pencil in as one of the top defenders for the Manitoba Moose and try to adapt to the pro game here.
- Jim Nill is standing by the contract for Ben Bishop according to Yahoo! Sports’ Greg Wyshynski. Nill admitted that in a perfect world he wouldn’t have had to give up six years, but is happy that Bishop wanted to make a commitment to his team. He also seemed confident that there will be opportunities to move one of his goaltenders this summer because of their expiring contracts, something that is necessary after committing to Bishop. As we wrote last week, the Stars do have several options to rid themselves of a goaltender, with Antti Niemi seemingly being the leading candidate for a buyout. Even with a long-term deal, Bishop will have a lot of pressure on him to help the Stars bounce back from a disappointing season. They’ll be looking not only to make the playoffs but to contend in short order, after leading the Western Conference in 2015-16.
- The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Rick Braunstein away from the Arizona Coyotes as their new Director of Player Services according to Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Braunstein was one of the Coyotes first hires after the move from Winnipeg, and had been with the franchise for their entire 21-year history. While not having an impact in personnel decisions, the Player Services role is an especially important one when it comes to Las Vegas, a city known for its endless temptation. Some of the hesitation by professional sports franchises for decades has been the worry that young, wealthy athletes will get into “trouble” in Vegas and the team will need a strong support system to stop it from happening; Braunstein represents some of that system.
With the conference championships underway, we’re left with just four teams remaining in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. For the rest, they can take a look at the major trades made up to and on March 1st this year and gauge whether they were a mistake or a success. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag this year, with no deadline acquisition fueling their team to postseason dominance and no scapegoat whose underwhelming performance is to blame for an epic collapse. With that said, over two months later, it is safe to say that there were some clear winner and loser trades at the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline.
Winner: Anaheim Ducks – Patrick Eaves
Eaves has quietly been one of the most consistent contributors in the NHL this season and that did not change when he moved from the Dallas Stars to the Ducks ahead of the deadline. A versatile, two-way winger, Eaves has fit in well in Anaheim as is the lone major deadline addition who is still playing in the conference championships. After scoring 37 points in 59 games with the Stars, about .63 points per game, he registered 14 more in the final 20 regular season games for the Ducks, boosting his scoring to .7 points per game down the stretch in his new home. He even has two goals and two assists in seven playoff games, despite battling injuries. Anaheim may be down 1-0 in their pursuit of the Campbell Bowl and a Stanley Cup berth and their postseason success has bumped the price for Eaves up from a 2017 second-round pick to a first-rounder, but with a one in four chance at a title and a chance to re-sign Eaves, the Ducks cannot be more pleased with how this deal has played out thus far.
Loser: Minnesota Wild – Martin Hanzal
A team that is not so happy with their first-round investment is Minnesota. The Wild had been one of the best teams in the league all season long when they surprised many by acquiring one of the top trade deadline targets in Hanzal. The power forward performed admirably post-trade, putting up half as many points as his season total in Arizona in less than half as many games, 26 in 51 versus 13 in 25. He even added a playoff goal. However, his time in the playoffs, by no fault of his own, was much shorter than expected. The Wild were upset by the St. Louis Blues in five games and just like that they’re Stanley Cup hopes were gone. Falling so short despite high expectations makes the cost of adding a piece that didn’t matter much more difficult to swallow. Minnesota owes the Arizona Coyotes a top pick this season and a second-rounder next season plus another conditional pick and prospect, with little to show for the price.
Winner: New York Rangers – Brendan Smith
While the Rangers were underwhelming in their semi-final series against the Ottawa Senators, one many expected them to win, their exit is still not all that surprising given their status as a wildcard seed. Helping them to upset the Montreal Canadiens in Round One and take the Senators to six games was deadline acquisition Smith. While some initially mocked the deal – a 2018 second-round pick and 2017 third-round pick for a defenseman with just five points – Smith proved to be an excellent fit in New York. He scored four points in 18 games with the Rangers and also played better in his own end, earning him more play time. A disappointing start to the season in Detroit for the career-Red Wing quickly turned into a career revival with impressive play for his new squad. The postseason brought yet another four points and continued high-level play for Smith. Unfortunately, perhaps his worst game as a Ranger came in the elimination loss to the Senators when he was exposed on defense multiple times. Yet, in the big picture he was a success in New York. There is no word yet on whether there is mutual interest between both sides in an extension, especially since the Rangers carry many expensive blue line contract, but regardless this deal has to be considered a win for the Blueshirts.
Loser: Los Angeles Kings – Ben Bishop
Bishop may be happily settling in to his new home in Dallas after signing a nice six-year deal, but his time in Los Angeles did little to help him secure that contact. The Kings and the keeper were strange bedfellows to begin with, as now ex-GM Dean Lombardi traded red-hot backup goalie Peter Budaj, 2015 second-round defenseman Erik Cernak, and a 2017 seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Bishop, just as starter Jonathan Quick was returning to health. The Kings needed scoring, not better goaltending, if they wanted to make the playoffs, but ended up with neither from the Bishop trade as he picked up only two wins in seven appearances with L.A. and posted just a .900 save percentage. The Kings finished 10th in the Western Conference and eight points out of a playoff spot, not even all that close to a berth, and now need to find a new backup goalie for 2017-18. The Bishop trade makes as little sense now as it did then and undoubtedly figured in to Lombardi’s firing.
Winner: Boston Bruins – Drew Stafford
The Bruins may have lost in the first round of the playoffs, but they likely wouldn’t have if four of their six starting defenseman didn’t miss all or most of the series. Even with those major injuries, the Ottawa Senators still had a difficult time eliminating the Bruins and Stafford was a thorn in their side with two goals and consistent two-way contribution. Add in four goals, matching his total earlier in the season with the Winnipeg Jets, and four assists in 18 regular season games as well as an outstanding +8 rating, and Stafford was an excellent addition for Boston. Acquired for just a sixth-round pick, Stafford was easily the steal of the trade deadline and ongoing talks of an extension would only add more value to a shrewd deal by GM Don Sweeney.
Loser: Florida Panthers – Thomas Vanek
Vanek was having a great season for the Detroit Red Wings when the Trade Deadline rolled around. He had 38 points in 48 games and was sniping with accuracy unseen over the past five years. When the Florida Panthers struck a deal to acquire that level of talent for just a 2017 third-round pick and struggling prospect Dylan McIlrath, there was a consensus that they had won the trade considering the affordable cost. Yet, the counter to that argument was that, even if he maintained the same rate of production, Vanek alone was likely not enough for the Panthers to make the playoffs. In the end, that proved to be true. Vanek’s scoring dropped off to just two goals and ten points in 20 games and his shooting percentage fell almost ten points, but even if it hadn’t, the Panthers wouldn’t have qualified for the postseason. They finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 14 points shy of a playoff spot. At the end of the day, acquiring the impending free agent and missing the playoffs by that much was simply a waste of a third-round pick for a team that is still building.
Loser: New York Islanders – No One
The idea that you can’t lose at the Trade Deadline if you don’t make a deal is incorrect. Case in point: the 2016-17 Islanders. New York ended up missing the postseason by just one point and their playoff hopes were alive up to the final day of the season. Had the Isles made a trade, even a small one, that could have won them one more game down the stretch, they might have been a playoff team after all. Given their need to convince star John Tavares to stick around, the Islanders should have been more willing to do something – anything – to transform into a playoff team.
In an interesting front office move today, the Arizona Coyotes have hired Jake Goldberg to join their hockey operations staff. Goldberg had been the Assistant General Manager and of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights since 2016, before taking his first NHL executive position. The Toronto Sun’s John Matisz broke the news, but so far it is unclear what exact title he will have in Arizona.
Much like the Coyotes GM, 27-year-old John Chayka, Goldberg is much younger than the typical professional sports executive. Goldberg is just three years removed from law school. Also like Chayka, Goldberg has a strong background in analytics, a growing movement in hockey and one that they Coyotes have embraced.
Adding Goldberg to the mix will only serve to strengthen what could be revolutionary hockey operations department being built in the desert. The Coyotes have done exceedingly well with drafting in recent years and have one of, if not the best, prospect systems in the NHL. They’ll get another boost this June when they draft seventh overall in the first round. A possibility at that slot could be OHL prospects like the Windsor Spitfires’ Gabriel Vilardi or the Mississigua Steelheads’ Owen Tippett, two players that Goldberg has seen up-close many times. Arizona also has the Minnesota Wild’s pick at #23 and another high pick in the second round. An option there: how about the London Knights own Robert Thomas?
Alongside breaking NHL news, ProHockeyRumors staff pen original and engaging work. This weekend brought pieces on individual teams’ expansion draft issues, offseason considerations, and free agency. In case you missed them, here are the top five original pieces published this weekend:
Blue Jackets Must Convince Hartnell to Waive NMC
The Columbus Blue Jackets had an excellent season spurred by the exciting play of several young forwards. The team faces a potential setback, however, if they lose one of those young players to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft this summer. The biggest obstacle preventing the Blue Jackets from protecting all their young prospects is aging veteran forward Scott Hartnell. Hartnell has a No-Movement Cause, and the expansion draft rules require that any player with a NMC must be protected in the draft. That means that Columbus must protect Hartnell over one of its more promising younger players. The Blue Jackets can solve this issue by convincing Hartnell to waive his NMC.