(April 2, 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 Los Angeles Kings 

 

FORWARDS:

Anze Kopitar ($6.800 million) will carry a $10.000 million annual cap hit starting next season, but that won’t prevent him from being protected. Younger players like Tyler Toffoli ($3.250 million) and Tanner Pearson ($1.400 million) will both be protected as well, though both will become Restricted Free Agents on July 1, 2017. Jeff Carter ($5.273 million) sits near the top of the Kings in goals, assists, points and shots on goal this season, and should also warrant protection. If re-signed this summer, Milan Lucic ($3.250 million cap hit, $6.000 million including Boston’s retained salary) would also be locked in.

Beyond those five, things are a little more open. Dustin Brown ($5.875 million) has a very high cap hit and will turn 33 late in 2017. Marian Gaborik ($4.875 million) would seem like an unlikely player to protect, given his age (turns 35 ahead of the Expansion Draft). Brown and Gaborik’s contracts also run through 2021-22 and 2020-21, respectively. Gaborik is very likely to be exposed, while the 2016-17 season could dictate what happens with Brown.

Waiting for the final two spots, then, are players who are a little younger. Dwight King ($1.950 million) and Nick Shore ($0.600 million) will both hit free agency in 2017 (King as an Unrestricted Free Agent, Shore as an RFA), but could be protected by L.A. if re-signed. The same goes for Adrian Kempe ($0.925 million), the Kings’ first round pick in 2014, and Nic Dowd ($0.600 million), who becomes an RFA this summer. Michael Mersch ($0.925 million), who becomes an RFA after next season, could warrant a look, as well, if his typically-big AHL numbers can convert to the NHL next season.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Drew Doughty ($7.000 million) is a lock. Alec Martinez ($4.000 million) and Jake Muzzin ($4.000 million) are both are on the right side of 30 years old, and both have cap-friendly contracts for another handful of years (Martinez through 2020-21, Muzzin through 2019-20). Competing with them for those final two spots would be Brayden McNabb ($0.650 million) and possibly Luke Schenn ($1.800 million cap hit for the Kings, $3.600 million total cap hit) if the Kings keep them this summer; McNabb is a pending RFA while Schenn is set to become a UFA.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Jonathan Quick ($5.800 million) is signed through 2022-23 and will be the goalie protected by the Kings. His current backup, Jhonas Enroth ($1.250 million), becomes a UFA on July 1, 2016.

 

THOUGHTS:

It’s unclear if any team will decide to forgo protecting 10 total skaters (seven forwards and three defensemen) to be able to keep a fourth defensemen, but the Kings could be an interesting case to look at. Kopitar, Toffoli, Pearson, Carter and Lucic are the only clear-cut locks offensively, and Lucic is a UFA this summer. If the Kings cannot afford to keep Lucic – they currently sit just about $2.000 million below the cap, and are only paying for half of Lucic’s current salary – then it might make sense to keep 8/1. This would allow for them to protect Kopitar, Toffoli, Pearson, Carter, Doughty, Martinez, Muzzin and McNabb.

Should the Kings bring Lucic back, going the 7/3/1 route becomes significantly more likely. While the Kings would have to expose one of Martinez, Muzzin and McNabb (Martinez perhaps being the likely odd man out), it would allow them to protect seven forwards: Kopitar, Toffoli, Pearson, Carter, Lucic, and Kempe, along with one out of the group of Brown, Dowd, King, Mersch or Shore.

Jonathan Quick is the only real option for protection in net for the Kings.

 

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