(April 28, 2016) – With SinBin.Vegas reporting that the NHL will award Las Vegas with an expansion team within the next two weeks or soThoughts From The Penalty Box wraps up a look at a potential 2017 Expansion Draft with two separate mock drafts. The first is a look at what could happen with just one team making the picks. The second looks at a two-team scenario. All protected players and exposed players are based on the #TFTPB: NHL Expansion 30-part series posted on this website. You can find team-by-team breakdowns and explanations of what players are being protected and exposed by browsing other articles posted on TFTPB.com.

You can also find the list of projected protected players at the very bottom of this (extremely lengthy) post.

For the purposes of this piece, we’ll be using a projected salary cap of $77.000 million. This would happen with a roughly $3.000 million increase both the 2016 and 2017 offseasons, but is by no means an actual/official number or based on anything the NHL has suggested to this point. Each current NHL franchise loses exactly one player in the one-team draft and exactly two players in the two-team draft. The only other restriction on the drafting expansion team(s) is that they must be able to field an active roster of 20-23 players while adhering to the $77 million salary cap.


ONE-TEAM MOCK EXPANSION DRAFT:

For this Expansion Draft, I went in with the idea of creating the best possible lineup using only players from the Expansion Draft, while keeping a 23-man active roster under a projected NHL salary cap (I'll get into more details and some alterations I would make later on). Starting with the forwards...

Line 1: Nick Foligno – Jori Lehtera – Ryan Strome
Line 2: Lars Eller – Travis Zajac – Jesper Fast
Line 3: Matt Nieto – Jordan Staal – Jason Pominville
Line 4: Patrick Maroon – Riley Sheahan – Curtis Lazar
Extra Line 1: P.A. Parenteau – Alexander Burmistrov – Blake Comeau
Extra Line 2: Viktor Arvidsson – Rocco Grimaldi – Jordan Weal

Note that any forward who becomes a UFA before 2017 would not be taken (save for P.A. Parenteau...more on him later), and players like Andrew Ladd and Steven Stamkos I either had as being protected (Stamkos) or did not select them (Ladd) because they'll likely be protected by whatever team has them next season. Notably absent from this list would be the Sedin twins. I didn't have it in my heart to take only one of them (would have selected Daniel, a Left Wing) so I opted against them both.

As for the defense (get your drool bibs ready)...

Pairing 1: Brent Seabrook – Alec Martinez
Pairing 2: Mark Giordano – Braydon Coburn
Pairing 3: Jamie Oleksiak – Mark Pysyk
Extra Pairing 1: Kevin Connauton – Brandon Montour
Extra Pairing 2: Jordan Subban

Jordan Subban is P.K. and Malcolm's brother and plays in Vancouver's system. He was taken as an inexpensive option and partly as a gesture towards the expansion team's goalie of the future (to take nothing away from his own skill set and potential). The top five defensemen on this team are all legitimate Top 2-3 defensemen, with Pysyk being the lone outsider (and Connauton and Montour, both younger options with Montour being a bigger prospect).

Notably absent from this list is a Florida Panthers defenseman. Dmitry Kulikov becomes a UFA in 2017, so the Panthers will likely expose him in order to protect Ekblad, Gudbranson and Matheson. If Kulikov gets an extension before the Expansion Draft, the expansion team would select whichever of those four guys is unprotected (and crossing their fingers that it's Matheson or Gudbranson) instead of Rocco Grimaldi, as shown on the forward depth chart. 

Goaltending is pretty stacked as well...

Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Malcolm Subban
Extra: Philipp Grubauer

Notable available (but not selected) goalies who won't become UFAs by the summer of 2017 (along with their current teammates selected in their place) include Fredrik Andersen (ANA-Brandon Montour), Semyon Varlamov (COL-Blake Comeau), Kari Lehtonen (DAL-Jamie Oleksiak), Jimmy Howard (DET-Riley Sheahan) and Pekka Rinne (NSH-Viktor Arvidsson). Rinne is more expensive and older than Fleury, and Anaheim, Dallas and Detroit had better offerings at other positions compared to Pittsburgh (Conor Sheary would be my other choice for a player from the Penguins).

This roster has an average age of 27.4 years (in mid-2017), with the 23-man active roster having an average age of 28.4 years. The total combine salary of every player listed above is $79.792 million in 2017-18 (or, if they are RFAs before then, using their current salary), with the 23-man roster coming in at $73.463 million (about $3-4 million below what could reasonably be projected as the 2017-18 salary cap). Players like Parenteau ($1.500 million 2015-16 salary cap hit), Comeau ($2.400 million 2017-18 salary cap hit) and Pominville ($5.600 million 2017-18 salary cap hit) could be replaced by prospects to bring the total salary cap hit down.

For instance, prospect Chris Bigras ($0.863 million) could replace Comeau, and the slightly-cheaper Jonas Brodin ($4.167 million) or a much-cheaper prospect like Mario Lucia ($0.925 million) could replace the very-expensive Pominville. Those changes would save up to $6.5 million. That would put the team $10-11 million below the salary cap, clearing up space for any 2017 UFAs like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, James Neal, Patrick Sharp, T.J. Oshie, Drew Stafford, Mike Fisher and others (all of whom are currently set to become UFAs in 2017, as of this writing).

Also a possibility would be taking only one of Jordan Staal and Travis Zajac, each set to make about $6 million in 2017-18, in favor of younger and cheaper players (Staal could be replaced by defenseman Brett Pesce, Zajac by winger Joseph Blandisi, at a savings of about $5 million apiece).

With the money in mind, the realistic changes I would make to the "spend to the cap using just the Expansion Draft" method shown above would be this:

Lucia over Pominville, Bigras over Comeau, Blandisi over Zajac. 

And so, your finished depth chart…

Line 1: Nick Foligno – Jori Lehtera – Ryan Strome
Line 2: Lars Eller – Jordan Staal – Jesper Fast
Line 3: Matt Nieto – Riley Sheahan – Curtis Lazar
Line 4: Patrick Maroon – Alexander Burmistrov – Jordan Weal
Extra Left Wings: P.A. Parenteau, Viktor Arvidsson, Joseph Blandisi, Mario Lucia
Extra Center: Rocco Grimaldi

Pairing 1: Brent Seabrook – Alec Martinez
Pairing 2: Mark Giordano – Braydon Coburn
Pairing 3: Jamie Oleksiak – Mark Pysyk
Extra Pairing 1: Kevin Connauton – Brandon Montour
Extra Pairing 2: Jordan Subban – Chris Bigras

Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Malcolm Subban
Extra: Philipp Grubauer

The team sheds about $11 million in salary from the initial roster, giving them about $14-15 million in cap space.

 

TWO-TEAM MOCK EXPANSION DRAFT:

For this Expansion Draft, I drafted on behalf of both teams. I implied similar, albeit separate, strategies, reacting to the picks made by the other team and drafting accordingly (for instance, after Marc-Andre Fleury was selected #1 Overall by Team A, Team B waited until #11 to select a goalie, and went with the young Malcolm Subban, realizing that Pekka Rinne would be an unlikely second goaltender selected by Team A and that he would still be around for Pick #34).

The draft was conducted in a snaking fashion.

For this breakdown, we’ll go team-by-team. We start with Team A, which selected First Overall…

Line 1: Matt Nieto – Jori Lehtera – Jesper Fast
Line 2: Curtis Lazar – Jordan Staal – Dustin Brown
Line 3: Pontus Aberg – Riley Sheahan – Blake Comeau
Line 4: Lars Eller – Josh Bailey – Zach Nastasiuk
Extra Left Wings: Patrick Maroon, Mario Lucia
Extra Centers: Quinton Howden, Chris Tierney, Nic Petan
Extra Right Wings: (none)

Pairing 1: Mark Giordano – Jamie Oleksiak
Pairing 2: Zdeno Chara – Jack Johnson
Pairing 3: Jay Bouwmeester – Dmitry Orlov
Extra Pairing 1: Marc Staal – Brett Pesce
Extra Pairing 2: Chad Ruhwedel – Jared Tinordi
Extra Pairing 3: Jonas Brodin

Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Philipp Grubauer

This team is extremely deep defensively (Marc Staal is the 7
th defenseman). Zdeno Chara seemed to be a good pick at 21st overall (immediately after Jack Johnson at 20th overall) to provide leadership for the defense. The first five players taken were: Fleury (#1), Lehtera (#4), Giordano (#5), J. Staal (#8) and Oleksiak (#9), providing the team with a legitimate top defensive pairing and two solid center options (Lehtera can play center or left wing).

Center is the team’s next-best position, with a good 1-4 and three younger options providing depth. The team drafted only four dedicated right wings, and will definitely need to turn to that position in free agency and the NHL Entry Draft. The left side isn’t particularly impressive, but is definitely satisfactory. Grubauer (selected #32 overall, two spots ahead of Pekka Rinne) provides a good backup option in net and can take the reigns from Fleury down the road.

 

TOTAL CAP HIT (2017-18 salaries): $81.767 million

23-MAN ROSTER CAP HIT: $72.492 million

PROJECTED CAP SPACE (Based on a $77 Million Salary Cap): $4.508 million

 

Four-and-a-half million dollars is a nice bit of room to play with, and that’s with having their seventh defenseman (Marc Staal) bringing in nearly $6 million. Drafting Fleury over Rinne saves the team over a million dollars a year, as well. The team could look to move Staal for an NHL Entry Draft pick or two if they want more cap space.

 

And now for Team B...

Line 1: Nick Foligno – Travis Zajac – Ryan Strome
Line 2: Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Conor Sheary
Line 3: Andrew Ladd – Tyler Bozak – Ryan Callahan
Line 4: Andrew Cogliano – Alexander Burmistrov – Rocco Grimaldi
Extra Left Wings: Joseph Blandisi, Jujhar Khaira, Cole Ully
Extra Centers: Jordan Weal
Extra Right Wings: (none)

Pairing 1: Brent Seabrook – Alec Martinez
Pairing 2: Braydon Coburn – Mark Pysyk
Pairing 3: Alexei Emelin – Jyrki Jokipakka
Extra Pairing 1: Kevin Connauton – Brandon Montour
Extra Pairing 2: Chris Bigras – Mark Alt
Extra Pairing 3: Frank Corrado – Fredrik Clasessen

Starter: Pekka Rinne
Backup: Malcolm Subban

Like with Team A, Team B has a wealth of defensemen, albeit much more geared towards the future. Still, the team has a set of five well-established blueliners to help bring players like Jokipakka and Montour along, and Connauton likely slots as the #7 defenseman to start things off. Three of the team’s first five selections were defense: Brent Seabrook (#2), Alec Martinez (#6) and Braydon Coburn (#10). The team focused on forwards between defensive selections, grabbing Nick Foligno (#3) and Ryan Strome (#7).

Subban provides a goaltender of the future for Team B and was selected #11 overall, long ahead of Rinne who went #34. Rinne slots in as the starter for the first few seasons until the torch is passed along to the young Subban.

The team is short right wings, with Rocco Grimaldi (a natural center) sliding in to fill the fourth line role. Still, the position is not a weakness. Strome and Sheary are not a mind-blowing 1-2, but both are very young. Callahan provides leadership and is a solid third-line forward.

Unlike in the one-team mock draft, the Sedin twins were both selected this time. Daniel and Henrik were selected #18 and #19, respectively, providing some punch for the second line. Nick Foligno and Travis Zajac fill out the top line, both players who will be looking for bounce-back years in 2016-17 but could potentially benefit from the change of scenery (Foligno could easily be protected by Columbus with a more to-form season in 2016-17 but – don’t forget – these projections are all based on right now).

Andrew Ladd may not be available in the Expansion Draft (and was intentionally passed over in the one-team mock draft for that very reason), but essentially holds a place for a Chicago forward who will become the latest cap casualty for the Blackhawks, hence why he slots in on a very powerful third line with Tyler Bozak and Callahan.

Team B’s shortcomings are going to show a few seasons in, as they don’t have nearly as many young offensive prospects as Team A. The team would likely focus on landing a center in the NHL Entry Draft, which could allow Zajac to slot in on the third line and bumping Bozak to the right side (Grimaldi becomes an extra forward).

 

TOTAL CAP HIT (2017-18 salaries): $82.888 million

23-MAN ROSTER CAP HIT: $77.329 million

PROJECTED CAP SPACE (Based on a $77 Million Salary Cap): -$0.329 million

 

When figuring out the 23-man roster for Team B, they land just above the projected cap of $77 million. To correct this, they’d likely also send down Jordan Weal and carry 22 players, bringing them about $0.300 million below the cap. The Sedins and Rinne each make $7.000 million a season, taking up about 27% of the team’s cap space, while Callahan and Zajac pull in nearly $6.000 million apiece. Zajac could be bought out (if New Jersey were to offer an Entry Draft pick to Team B as compensation for taking the contract) to get the team some wiggle room, or a player like Emelin or Bozak could be moved for picks in the NHL Entry Draft.

 

 

Projected Protected Players:

(All teams protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender unless marked otherwise)

Anaheim: Rickard Rakell (2016 RFA), Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Nick Ritchie, Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, Brandon Pirri (2016 RFA); Cam Fowler, Clayton Stoner, Shea Theodore; John Gibson.

Arizona: Max Domi, Anthony Duclair (2017 RFA), Tobias Rieder (2016 RFA), Laurent Dauphin, Henrik Samuelsson (2017 RFA), Christian Thomas (2016 RFA), Brad Richardson; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michael Stone (2016 RFA), Connor Murphy (2016 RFA); Louis Domingue (2016 RFA).

Boston: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner (2017 RFA), David Pastrnak (2017 RFA), Brad Marchand (2017 UFA), Loui Eriksson (2016 UFA), Seth Griffith, (2016 RFA); Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug (2016 RFA), Joe Morrow (2016 RFA); Tuukka Rask.

Buffalo: Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons (2016 RFA), Justin Bailey, Marcus Foligno (2016 RFA); Zach Bogosian, Rasumus Ristolainen (2016 RFA), Josh Gorges; Robin Lehner (2017 RFA).

Calgary: Johnny Gaudreau (2016 RFA), Sean Monahan (2016 RFA), Sam Bennett, Joe Colborne (2016 RFA), Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Hunter Shinkaruk; Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Oliver Kylington; Joni Ortio.

Carolina: Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask (2016 RFA), Joakim Nordstrom (2016 RFA), Andrej Nestrasil (2017 RFA), Phillip Di Giuseppe (2017 RFA), Brock McGinn (2017 RFA); Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Ryan Murphy (2016 RFA); Eddie Lack.

Chicago: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger, Artemi Panarin (2017 RFA), Andrew Desjardins (2017 UFA), Teuvo Teravainen (2017 RFA); Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Van Riemsdyk; Corey Crawford.

Colorado: Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon (2016 RFA), Mikko Rantanen, Mikhail Grigorenko (2016 RFA), Mikkel Boedker (2016 UFA), Carl Soderberg; Tyson Barrie (2016 RFA), Erik Johnson, Nick Holden; Calvin Pickard (2016 RFA).

Columbus: Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexander Wennberg (2017 RFA), Sonny Milano; Ryan Murray, Seth Jones (2016 RFA), David Savard; Sergei Bobrovsky.

Dallas: Tyler Seguin, Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn (2017 UFA), Patrick Sharp (2017 UFA), Valeri Nichushkin (2016 RFA), Jason Spezza, Brett Ritchie (2016 RFA); John Klingberg, Julius Honka, Alex Goligoski (2016 UFA); Antti Niemi.

Detroit: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar (2017 RFA), Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, Anthony Mantha, Henrik Zetterberg, Teemu Pulkkinen (2016 RFA); Danny DeKeyser (2016 RFA), Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson; Petr Mrazek (2016 RFA).

Edmonton: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl (2017 RFA), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Slepyshev; Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart (2017 RFA), Oscar Klefbom; Cam Talbot.

Florida: Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau (2017 RFA), Vincent Trocheck (2016 RFA), Reilly Smith (2017 RFA), Jussi Jokinen, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, (2017 RFA); Aaron Ekblad (2017 RFA), Erik Gudbranson (2016 RFA), Mike Matheson; Roberto Luongo.

Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli (2017 RFA), Tanner Pearson (2017 RFA), Jeff Carter, Milan Lucic (2016 UFA), Adrian Kempe, Michael Mersch, 2017 RFA; Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Brayden McNabb (2016 RFA); Jonathan Quick.

Minnesota: Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund (2017 RFA), Nino Niederreiter (2017 RFA), Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula (2017 RFA), Jason Zucker (2016 RFA); Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Mathew Dumba (2016 RFA); Devan Dubnyk.

Montreal: Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk (2017 RFA), Brendan Gallagher, Jacob de la Rose (2017 RFA), Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon (2017 RFA), Sven Andrighetto (2016 RFA); P.K. Subban, Nathan Beaulieu (2017 RFA), Jeff Petry; Carey Price.

Nashville: James Neal, Filip Forsberg (2016 RFA), Craig Smith, Ryan Johansen (2017 RFA), Colin Wilson, Kevin Fiala, Calle Jarnkrok (2016 RFA); Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm; Juuse Saros.

New Jersey (8/1): Kyle Palmieri (2016 RFA), Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill (2016 RFA), Damon Severson (2017 RFA), Andy Greene, Michael Cammalleri, Reid Boucher (2016 RFA); Cory Schneider.

New York Islanders (8/1): John Tavares, Kyle Okposo (2016 UFA), Frans Nielsen (2016 UFA), Brock Nelson; Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Pulock; Jaroslav Halak.

New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller (2016 RFA), Chris Kreider (2016 RFA), Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes (2016 RFA); Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle (2016 UFA), Brady Skjei; Henrik Lundqvist.

Ottawa: Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad (2017 RFA), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (2017 RFA), Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Kyle Turris; Erik Karlsson, Cody Ceci, Marc Methot; Andrew Hammond.

Philadelphia: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn (2016 RFA), Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton (2017 RFA); Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Yevgeni Medvedev (2016 UFA); Steve Mason (2017 UFA).

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson; Kris Letang, Derrick Pouliot (2017 RFA), Olli Maatta; Matt Murray (2017 RFA).

San Jose (8/1): Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi (2017 RFA); Mirco Mueller (2017 RFA), Brent Burns (2017 UFA), Justin Braun, Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Martin Jones.

St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen (2017 UFA), Paul Stastny, David Backes (2016 UFA), Troy Brouwer (2016 UFA), Jaden Schwartz (2016 RFA), Robby Fabbri; Kevin Shattenkirk (2017 UFA), Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko (2017 RFA); Jake Allen (2017 RFA).

Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov (2016 RFA), Alex Killorn (2016 RFA), Vladislav Namestnikov (2016 RFA), Ondrej Palat (2017 RFA), Tyler Johnson (2017 RFA), Steven Stamkos (2016 UFA), Jonathan Drouin  (2017 RFA); Victor Hedman (2017 UFA), Anton Stralman, Slater Koekkoek (2017 RFA); Andrei Vasilevskiy (2017 RFA).

Toronto: William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, James Van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Brendan Leipsic (2017 RFA), Connor Brown, Leo Komarov; Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Martin Marincin (2016 RFA); Jonathan Bernier (2017 UFA).

Vancouver: Bo Horvat (2017 RFA), Jannik Hansen, Jake Virtanen, Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, Brendan Gaunce (2017 RFA), Michael Zalewski (2016 RFA); Alexander Edler, Ben Hutton (2017 RFA), Christopher Tanev; Jacob Markstromm (2017 UFA).

Washington: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov (2017 RFA), Marcus Johansson (2016 RFA), Andre Burakovsky (2017 RFA), T.J. Oshie (2017 UFA), Jakub Vrana; Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, (one of: Karl Alzner, Madison Bowey); Braden Holtby.

Winnipeg: Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele (2016 RFA), Mathieu Perreault (2017 UFA), Drew Stafford (2017 UFA), Marko Dano (2017 RFA); Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Josh Morrissey; Connor Hellebuyck (2017 RFA).