(March 30, 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 Detroit Red Wings.

 

FORWARDS:

Right off the bat, the Wings will protect their young core of forwards. Gustav Nyquist ($4.750 million), Tomas Tatar ($2.750 million), Dylan Larkin ($1.425 million) and Justin Abdelkader ($1.800 million this season, $4.250 million starting next season) all have at least 39 points this season. Tatar will be a Restricted Free Agent in 2017, but should be re-signed.

Highly regarded prospect Anthony Mantha ($0.863 million) will also have to be protected.

With those five as locks, Detroit will have just two open spots left for its other forwards. Younger players like Riley Sheahan ($0.950 million), Teemu Pulkkinen ($0.735 million) will be competing for these spots along with the Wings’ veterans like Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083 million) and will-be Unrestricted Free Agent Pavel Datsyuk ($7.500 million), who currently sit at the top for the Red Wings in points. Tomas Jurco ($0.900 million) would also require protection.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Detroit doesn’t have nearly as many pending free agents defensively, though there are a few. Danny DeKeyser ($2.188 million) and Alexey Marchenko ($0.792 million) are RFAs this summer, while Kyle Quincey ($4.250 million) is a UFA. Brendan Smith will become a UFA in 2017. Mike Green ($6.000 million) has been very consistent offensively in the last few years, and will turn 32 just after Opening Day, 2017. He will be entering the final year of his contract in 2017-18, though.

Niklas Kronwall ($4.750 million) and Jonathan Ericsson ($4.250 million) are each locked up through at least 2018-19, though they will be 36 and 33 years old, respectively, in 2017.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Petr Mrazek ($0.738 million) has started a majority of games in 2015-16 for Detroit, but will need to be re-signed this summer (he’s a pending RFA). If the Red Wings come to terms on a multi-year deal with the 24-year-old Mrazek, that would likely push 32-year-old Jimmy Howard ($5.292 million) into the pool of the unprotected.

 

THOUGHTS:

Detroit’s decisions come down to what to do with their aging veterans. The only seemingly clear-cut decision is in net, with Mrazek being protected over Howard. As for their other 10 players, the decision becomes tougher.

As mentioned earlier, Nyquist, Tatar, Larkin, Abdelkader and Mantha will all be protected. The Red Wings could try and shed Zetterberg’s contract (which runs through 2020-21, when he’ll be 40 years old) by leaving him unprotected, but it would seem unlikely to leave the captain unprotected. Any decision on Datsyuk would likely be made towards the end of next season, given his will-be-UFA status in 2017. If Sheahan can return to his 2014-15 form, he would probably lock down a spot. If not, that spot would go to Pulkkinen.

All that said, look for one of the final two forward spots to be given to one of Sheahan and Pulkkinen, and the other to one of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. As it sits, that combination would be Pulkkinen and Zetterberg. If Datsyuk remains headed for free agency, he’d be unlikely to be taken by an expansion team anyway.

Defensively, Detroit will hang on to DeKeyser for sure. Despite their age, Kronwall and Ericsson would make sense as the other two protected defensemen, though Marchenko could bump Ericsson. Kronwall would seem a likely lock unless he begins to show signs of a downswing next season.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Edmonton Oilers.