(April 4, 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 Montreal Canadiens.

 

FORWARDS:

Montreal currently has three forwards with over 50 points: Max Pacioretty ($4.500 million), Alex Galchenyuk ($2.800 million) and Tomas Plekanec ($5.000 million this year, $6.000 million starting next season). Plekanec’s contract extension runs through 2017-18, Pacioretty’s contract runs through 2018-19 and Galchenyuk becomes a Restricted Free Agent in 2017. These players are all likely to be protected, with Plekanec – who will turn 35 early in the 2017-18 season – the only possible outlier.

Brendan Gallagher ($3.750 million) is currently the third-highest-paid forward on the Canadiens and is signed through 2020-21. Jacob de la Rose ($0.925 million) becomes an RFA next summer, but will be protected. With those two added in, Montreal has five forward slots covered.

David Desharnais ($3.500 million) has had his production drop every year since posting 60 points in 2011-12. He will also be an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2017. Lars Eller ($3.500 million) and Torrey Mitchell ($1.200 million) will both become UFAs in 2018. None of these players have hit 30 points in 2015-16 (as of this writing) and both Desharnais and Mitchell will be over 30 in 2017 (Eller will be 28).

The Habs do have options with prospects, however. Top prospect (according to HockeysFuture.com) Nikita Scherbak ($1.094 million) is in the first year of his rookie deal. Charles Hudon ($0.725 million) will become an RFA in 2017. Sven Andrighetto ($0.750 million) becomes an RFA this summer. Andrighetto has played in 41 NHL games this season (posting 17 points), while Hudon has two points in his three NHL games this season. Scherbak has 21 points in 44 AHL games for the St. John’s IceCaps this season.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

P.K. Subban ($9.000 million) is an absolute lock for protection. Andrei Markov ($5.750 million) is second only to Subban in defensemen scoring for the Habs this season, but he’ll become a UFA in 2017 and, at 38 years old, might be passed over for protection in favor of some younger defensemen. Nathan Beaulieu ($1.000 million) fits that description, but will be an RFA in 2017. Regardless, it would seem highly likely that the Canadiens protect Beaulieu with their second spot.

Alexei Emelin ($4.100 million) and Greg Pateryn ($0.562 million this season, $0.800 million starting next season) are both set to become UFAs in 2018. Jeff Petry ($5.500 million) is signed through the 2020-21 season. Young defensemen Mark Barberio ($0.600 million), Darren Dietz ($0.900 million) and Joel Hanley ($0.667 million) become RFAs this summer, as does Victor Bartley ($0.667 million).

Tom Gilbert ($2.800 million) is scheduled to become a UFA this summer and would be an unlikely choice for protection if re-signed.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Carey Price ($6.500 million) is signed through 2017-18. Carey Price will be the goalie protected by Montreal. Mike Condon ($0.575 million) and Charlie Lindgren ($0.925 million) will both hit free agency in 2017, Condon as a UFA and Lindgren as an RFA. Prospect Zachary Fucale ($0.863 million) is in the first year of his rookie contract.

 

THOUGHTS:

Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and Gallagher are locks. de la Rose is the fourth player among forwards. The final three spots are a little more up in the air. Plekanec’s age could see him sitting on the outside. Desharnais – who likely would have been considered a lock just a year or two ago – might need a bounce-back 2016-17 season to get back into the discussion for protection. Eller’s 2015-16 numbers also may not be enough to get the Habs to protect him.

Unless Montreal decides to go the 8/1 route (which seems unlikely), that would leave three spots open for the Canadiens to protect some prospects. Recent first round pick Nikita Scherbak, along with Hudon and Andrighetto could fill them if Montreal opts to skew younger. At the very least, protecting two of those players and keeping one of Plekanec, Desharnais and Eller would seem feasible.

Defensively, Subban and Beaulieu are the only two certainties. Unless a younger defenseman like Barberio or Dietz takes big steps forward in 2016-17, the final spot would likely go to Jeff Petry or, possibly, Alexei Emelin. Petry has been a staple in the team’s top two pairings since arriving in Montreal and would seem to have the inside edge on that third slot.

Obviously, Montreal will be protecting Carey Price as their goalie.

 

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