(March 31, 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 Edmonton Oilers.

 

FORWARDS:

If the recent reports prove true, Nail Yakupov ($2.500 million) won’t be (or won't need to be) one of the protected players for Edmonton. Obvious locks for protection include all of the Oilers other recent first round picks: Connor McDavid ($3.775 million), Leon Draisaitl ($3.400 million), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($6.000 million), Taylor Hall ($6.000 million) and Jordan Eberle ($6.000 million). With those five locked-in, that leaves two spots left to fill.

Benoit Pouliot ($4.000 million) has posted very similar numbers to Nugent-Hopkins this season, and Pouliot won’t become an Unrestricted Free Agent until 2019. No other forward has approached 35 points this season, making him a likely choice for the sixth forward slot.

Patrick Maroon ($1.500 million) has posted roughly a point-per-game in his tenure with the Oilers, but he had just 13 points in 56 games with Anaheim before being traded in late-February. Maroon will be 29 at the time of a 2017 Expansion Draft and will be entering the final year of his current contract. Prospects Jujhar Khaira ($0.894 million), Anton Slepyshev ($1.525 million) or Greg Chase ($0.894 million) could also be considered for a protected spot.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

On the blue line, Andrej Sekera ($5.500 million) has been their biggest offensive producer this season. Oscar Klefbom ($1.244 million) has a contract extension that will give him a $4.167 million cap hit kick in this summer. Brandon Davidson ($0.585 million) will be up to $1.425 million a year when his new contract kicks in this summer, as well. Darnell Nurse ($1.713 million) and Griffin Reinhart ($3.213 million) are the team’s young defensemen warranting protection.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Edmonton acquired Cam Talbot ($1.450 million) for a few draft picks just last offseason, and his $4.167 million per year contract extension kicks in this summer. Talbot – who turns 30 in July, 2017 – is the obvious choice for protection, which leaves Laurent Brossoit ($0.925 million) and his new $0.750 million per year contract extension exposed.

 

THOUGHTS:

The Oilers will be able to protect all of their big former first round picks on offense. Whether they decide to protect Pouliot and a prospect or two prospects really comes down to where the organization thinks they are in their building process. One of those final two spots (aside from McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle) could go towards any free agents brought in this offseason as well.

Having given up a first and second round pick last year to get him, Reinhart would seem to be a lock on defense. Darnell Nurse has been trusted with over 20:00/game of ice time in his first full year in the NHL. If both of those players are locked in, the final slot would come down to Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera. Klefbom’s favorable contract (nearly $1.500 million a year cheaper), age (seven years younger) and better advanced statistical ratings this season would point towards Sekera being exposed to the Expansion Draft.

Talbot is an obvious lock for protection (barring a catastrophic season in 2016-17), but the Oilers are still unlikely to lose Brossoit anyway, given the talented goalies left unprotected elsewhere.

 

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