This summer, rumors of potential NHL expansion are reaching a high point. As expansion appears to become a distinct possibility, as part of Insider's 2013-14 NHL preseason coverage, we're running a mock expansion draft. If the NHL were to expand instead of relocate for its next new team -- be it in Seattle, Quebec City or elsewhere -- by what rules would the expansion draft be bound, which players would be protected and which players (out of the unprotected) would the new teams select?
Over the next three days, we're running through the answers to all of those questions, with the help of Insiders Craig Custance and former assistant GM Frank Provenzano, starting with the protected lists. Tuesday, Custance breaks down the Eastern Conference -- which players teams would protect and the thought process behind those decisions.
Expansion in the NHL is coming. Regardless of whether or not it's good for the league, the huge financial windfall it will bring current NHL owners is too hard to pass up while attractive markets like Seattle and Quebec line up for the opportunity.
For the players, it means more jobs. This is no small consideration during a time when talented veterans still remain unsigned on the unrestricted free-agent market.
So with this project, we're examining what expansion would look like if it happened right now: two new NHL teams -- Seattle and Quebec -- playing this season.
When one NHL GM heard about the idea, he immediately envisioned teams using an expansion draft to dump salary in a season where money is tight.
"There wouldn't be a player available under $5 million," he said, describing his vision of what would happen if an expansion draft was held this summer.
In projecting protected teams, the primary considerations were balancing the salary cap along with fielding a competitive team. Using ground rules mirroring previous expansion drafts -- along with tweaks to acknowledge the current environment of the salary cap and no-movement clauses -- we went through and projected exactly who would be available, based on available data.
In this column, I project the East. Frank Provenzano will project the West on Wednesday. When all the teams have designated the players protected and exposed, on Thursday we will draft two new teams -- the Seattle Metropolitans and Quebec Nordiques -- who will begin play in 2013-14.
There's a full rules breakdown found here, but here's a brief summary:
Teams that protect one goalie are allowed to keep five defensemen and nine forwards. Teams that protect two goalies can keep only three defensemen and seven forwards. In the two-goalie scenario, teams must expose a third goalie who played either six games last season or 20 in the previous two seasons. As you'll see below, that becomes an important distinction.
All players with a no-move clause active for the current season are automatically on a team's protected list.
Teams must expose one defenseman and two forwards who played either 23 games last season or a total of 55 games the previous two seasons.
The following players are exempt from the draft: All first- and second-year professionals and all unsigned draft choices. So if you notice a key, young player on a team not protected, chances are he's exempt.
Note: A full list of the unprotected players -- the pool from which we'll be drafting -- will be published along with Thursday's draft results, although I do mention a number of the prominent unprotected players in the notes below.
The protected lists: Eastern Conference
G: Tuukka Rask (NMC)
Notes: Two key, young defensemen in Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug were exempt. Youth in goal behind Rask (Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg are exempt) allows Boston to hang on to most of its forward depth, although keeping younger players like Caron and Soderberg exposes valuable veterans like Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Exposing Adam McQuaid, Campbell and Thornton fulfills availability requirements.