Midway-through the 2017-18 NHL season, it is nearly impossible to predict what rosters could look like following the 2019-20 season, more than two years away. Trades, free agency, and much more shape teams often in ways that no one sees coming. With that said, it seems like another Expansion Draft is coming to add the league’s 32nd team, the Seattle __________, and the timeline most are suggesting is a June 2020 draft date. Like it or not, the general managers of the other 31 NHL need to be keeping that in the back of their mind with each move they make over the next two seasons.
However, it could be that some have already made decisions that could impact their roster protection plans more than two years from now. The structure of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft will the remain the same, allowing for teams to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters regardless of position and one goalie from being selected. The one caveat that threw more than a few teams for a loop last June was that all players with No-Movement Clauses (NMC) in their contracts had to be protected, unless the players voluntarily chose to wave them i.e. Marc-Andre Fleury. So, with that one aspect of the expansion process in mind, it is possible to look ahead at certain long-term contracts to see, assuming those players don’t waive them ahead of time, who could be locked in for protection in 2020 or which teams will have more flexibility without any such players:
Arizona Coyotes (0) – The only NMC players on the Coyotes are defensemen Alex Goligoski and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hjalmarsson will be a free agent in the summer of the projected Expansion Draft and Goligoski’s clause will have shifted to a Modified No-Trade Clause. Arizona will likely have complete flexibility.
Calgary Flames (0) – There is no one on the roster with a NMC and no one that will predictably get one by the end of the 2019-20 season. Kudos to GM Brad Treliving.
Los Angeles Kings (0) – Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar in their only NMC player right now and even his clause will have shifted to No-Trade by 2020. L.A. is free and clear.
Nashville Predators (0) – GM David Poile does not seem to be a fan of NMC’s in his recent long-term deals and in the new NHL expansion era, that’s a good thing.
New Jersey Devils (0) – see Calgary Flames
New York Islanders (0) – The Andrew Ladd and Johnny Boychuk contracts already look bad for the Isles. They would be much worse if their NMC’s didn’t expire soon. With John Tavares and Josh Bailey both candidates for NMC’s should they re-sign in New York and a defense that needs a re-haul, the Islanders could lose some flexibility, but they should be fine.
Toronto Maple Leafs (0) – The Leafs have no NMC players under contract beyond 2019-20 right now. That could easily change with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander in need of extensions, but Toronto should still be in a good spot. After all, those are players that would protected regardless.
Vancouver Canucks (0) – Loui Eriksson’s NMC shifts to a No-Trade Clause following this season and will be an afterthought by 2020. It’s fortunate, as Eriksson’s tenure in Vancouver has not gone according to plan.
Vegas Golden Knights (0) – The Golden Knights didn’t sign or trade for any players with NMC’s and only drafted two – Marc-Andre Fleury and David Clarkson – who already had them and they both expire before the Knights would be set to become the NHL’s second-newest team. With that said, the current Knights’ roster will see a lot of turnover in the next two years and they may struggle to avoid NMC’s completely.
Washington Capitals (0) – GM Brian MacLellan has avoided NMC’s in any of his recent mega-deals. If he can do it again this summer in his attempt to re-sign (or replace) John Carlson, then the Caps will be in good shape for another round of expansion drafting.
Winnipeg Jets (0) – The NMC in Bryan Little’s contract will both kick in and expire between now and June 2020. The Jets should be left with a fully flexible lineup.
Boston Bruins (2) – There’s little concern that Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron will still be playing at a high level in two years. Their NMC’s should be a non-factor for Boston. If David Krejci and, especially, David Backes still had their NMC’s too at that time, there would be a real logjam up front. However, both will have shifted to Modified No-Trade Clauses by then, potentially saving the Bruins from making tough decisions about their many talented young forwards.
Carolina Hurricanes (1) – As important a job as he’s had in Carolina, Jordan Staal will never be the star forward that finally puts them over the top. If his NMC causes a problem in 2020, he could easily be traded to a contender to play a complementary role. The Hurricanes need to retain as many promising young forward assets as they can in hopes of one day finding that true superstar.
Colorado Avalanche (1) – There are mixed opinions on Erik Johnson, but he has a leadership role for the Avalanche and will be key in grooming a strong crop of up-and-coming defensive prospects. The Avs won’t lose sleep about having to protect him in expansion, especially if he’s still one of their top-pairing guys in two years.
Columbus Blue Jackets (1) – The Blue Jackets were one of the biggest losers in the most recent Expansion Draft. They might be smart to sell off Nick Foligno if there’s any risk that history repeats itself.
Dallas Stars (3) – Call it optimism about his play in his first season in Dallas, but the NMC for Alexander Radulov doesn’t seem like it will be a major issue even after a couple more years. Of course, Jamie Benn’s NMC will also be a non-factor. Ben Bishop on the other hand may not be the goalie the Stars would prefer to keep in two years. As of now, there’s no immediate competition though.
Detroit Red Wings (1) – Detroit only has one NMC player who will still be under contract in 2020-21 (and another season after that), but it’s Frans Nielsen, who has been a major disappointment for the team since coming over from the New York Islanders. He could throw a wrench in their plans if he continues his downward trend over the next two seasons.
Minnesota Wild (2) – The Ryan Suter and Zach Parise mega-deals will still be making an impact in 2020, but with most of the core locked up throughout that season and no other NMC contract likely on their way, Minnesota should be okay in the Expansion Draft.
Montreal Canadiens (2) – Even if the Canadiens continue to struggle through two more seasons, there will be few Habs fans that blame superstar goalie Carey Price. His NMC won’t be an issue because the team would never dream of leaving him exposed. Jeff Petry on the other hand could be a problem. Luckily (?), it doesn’t look like Montreal will have many defenders worth protecting even in the next couple of seasons.
Ottawa Senators (2) – Some things never change. The NMC’s for Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf were problems for the Senators in this past Expansion Draft and they’ll likely be problems again next time around. If Phaneuf is traded between now and then, that alleviates some concern for Ottawa. Good luck moving the Ryan contract though.
Philadelphia Flyers (1) – Only Claude Giroux has and predictably will have an NMC come June 2020. That’s a pretty safe situation for Philly.
San Jose Sharks (1) – Marc-Edouard Vlasic plays a confident, stay-at-home defensive game that often ages nicely. He looks to be the only NMC in San Jose in 2020, which shouldn’t cause a stir.
St. Louis Blues (1) – Patrik Berglund will be on the wrong side of 30 and still under a NMC when the potential 2020 draft rolls around, but with the rest of their core signed long-term without NMC’s, the Blues should be pretty safe.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) – Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman may be the two safest NMC contracts in the NHL. Fortunately, Ryan Callahan’s otherwise-problematic NMC expires just prior to projected 2020 Expansion Draft.
Anaheim Ducks (3) – Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler will all be 35+ and still be NMC-protected in 2020. That’s a large chunk of your protected forwards to dedicate to players in the twilight of their careers. Some up-and-coming young talent could leave Anaheim again in this next Expansion Draft a la Shea Theodore.
Chicago Blackhawks (4) – The downside to signing all of your core players to long contracts with NMC’s could hit the Blackhawks hard in the next Expansion Draft. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be well past 30 and Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith will be in their mid-to-late 30’s during the 2020-21 season, but all four will need to be protected ahead of that season, which could force other promising younger players out of Chicago’s protection scheme. At least they’ll narrowly avoid having an issue in net with Corey Crawford’s contract expiring prior.
Edmonton Oilers (2) – Milan Lucic and Kris Russell. Each two years older than they are now. Those aren’t exactly players that a team wants to be forced to keep. It’s foreseeable that one or both could have a negative impact on the team’s protection plan.
Florida Panthers (3) – The Panthers probably won’t mind having three players locked up come Expansion 2.0. The team knew what they were doing when they signed Keith Yandle long-term. Even in his mid-30’s, Yandle will be a reliable player and a leader for the young Florida defensive core. Sure, they considered asking him to waive his NMC this past June, but they never actually did. Yandle won’t be a major issue in two years unless his play falls off considerably. There should be no concern whatsoever over Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, whose NMC’s kick in later on in their contracts. The same might not be true about Evgeni Dadonov, whose been somewhat underwhelming so far in Florida, but luckily his contract runs out just prior the probable draft date.
New York Rangers (4) – Although they will have near total control over their forwards, outside of Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers could be in a tough position with their protection schemes in net and on the blue line in 2020. Then-38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist will require protection, as will underachieving defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal. New York is apparently readying themselves for somewhat of a rebuild, which could mean some of those players are traded beforehand. Otherwise New York could face quite the dilemma.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) – It seems unlikely, even years from now and in their mid-30’s, that the NMC’s for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Phil Kessel would cause trouble for the Penguins. Injury-prone defenseman Kris Letang could be different though. Being forced to protect him after another two seasons of hard minutes could be difficult to swallow. Pittsburgh also has some work to do filling out the forward corps between now and 2020. GM Jim Rutherford would be well-served to avoid acquiring or handing out any further NMC’s.