(March 29, 2016) – A verdict on the potential expansion of the National Hockey League is due ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. While there has been no 100% guaranteed-official format announced, the NHL has discussed a potential format for an Expansion Draft (full details here): Teams will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR eight total skaters and one goaltender with the choice belonging to the team. It is unknown what will happen with players who have a No Movement Clause (NMC) or a No Trade Clause (NTC) in their contract, but the same report states that any player in their first or second year of professional play will be exempt. It also looks like each team would lose one player if there is one expansion team, or two if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are awarded teams.

For this 30-part #TFTPB series, we will be taking a closer look at each current NHL team and what players might be available to a new franchise at the conclusion of the 2016-17 NHL season. For the sake of simplicity, players with a NMC/NTC will not be made automatically exempt. All contract and salary information for this series is courtesy of NHLNumbers.com.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Dallas Stars.



Five Stars forwards become free agents in the summer of 2017. Patrick Sharp ($5.900 million), Jamie Benn ($5.250 million) and Ales Hemsky ($4.000 million) all become Unrestricted Free Agents, while Mattias Janmark ($0.800 million) and Radek Faska ($1.338 million) become Restricted Free Agents.

This offseason, Travis Moen ($1.850 million), Vernon Fiddler ($1.250 million), Patrick Eaves ($1.150 million) and Colton Scevious ($0.650 million) become UFAs while Valeri Nichushkin ($2.125 million) and Brett Ritchie ($0.894 million) are RFAs.

Tyler Seguin ($5.750 million) and Jason Spezza ($7.500 million) are currently second and third on the team in points, respectively, and both are signed through 2018-19. Antoine Roussell ($2.000 million) is signed through 2017-18 and Cody Eakin ($1.900 million) has his $3.8500 million per year contract extension kick in this summer.



Top prospect Julius Honka ($1.394 million) is a lock for protection. John Klingberg ($4.250 million) currently leads all Stars defensemen in points and is locked up through 2021-22 and is also a lock. The third spot gets interesting, given how many Stars defensemen are pending free agents. Alex Goligoski ($4.600 million), Jason Demers ($2.210 million), Kris Russell ($2.600 million) and Jordie Benn ($0.700 million) are all pending UFAs. Jamie Oleksiak ($0.875 million) is a pending RFA. Johnny Oduya ($3.750 million) and Patrik Nemeth ($0.900 million) hit free agency in 2017 as a UFA and RFA, respectively.



Kari Lehtonen ($5.900 million) and Antti Niemi ($4.500 million) are each signed through 2017-18. With nearly-identical numbers this season (Niemi, as of this writing, has very slight edges in GAA and wins, while Lehtonen has slight edges in save percentage and win percentage), it’d be a toss-up as to which would be the better goalie to protect. Niemi being the cheaper option might get a slight edge, though it’d be a close call. Prospects Philippe Desrosiers ($0.894 million) and Jack Campbell ($0.650 million) would each require protection to keep them from being options for an expansion team, though Campbell is an RFA this offseason.



What the Stars do this offseason will determine who Dallas manages to hang on to in the Expansion Draft. The Stars are already right near the Salary Cap, and Eakin’s contract extension is almost two million dollars more added to next year’s total. With five pending free agents on the blue line and six up front this year alone, the Stars are likely to look very different by the time the Expansion Draft rolls around.

That said, it would seem likely that the Stars would protect Seguin and Eakin, along with Benn, Sharp and Nichushkin (as long as those three’s contracts are cleared up by then). Spezza is a likely lock as well, even though he’ll be turning 34 in 2017. That leaves one open spot for someone like Brett Ritchie.

Defensively, the third defenseman protected alongside Klingberg and Honka will come down to how the Stars manage their free agents. Goligoski would be the obvious choice based strictly on the current roster, but someone like Jamie Oleksiak could make a case for a spot.

Niemi and Lehtonen are only months apart in age, and both will be 34 before Opening Day, 2017. They will both be entering the final years of their respective contracts as well. Depending on the progress of their younger goalies like Desrosiers and Campbell, they may opt to expose both veteran goalies if only one expansion team is granted. This would allow them to save their goalie of the future, while also allowing the expansion team to make the choice between Niemi and Lehtonen for the Stars. In the event that two expansion teams are granted, however, it would seem unlikely for the Stars to expose both Niemi and Lehtonen.

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we'll be looking at the Detroit Red Wings.