(April 7, 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 New York Islanders.

 

FORWARDS:

The service time requirement is going to be a major helper for the Islanders. Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier – four of the Isles’ top five prospects – are all exempt from being taken by an expansion team. With their top prospects already covered, that leaves the Islanders with all seven forward slots to protect the guys they currently rely on.

John Tavares ($5.500 million), Kyle Okposo ($2.800 million) and Frans Nielsen ($2.750 million) are the top three point-getters for New York this season. Okposo and Nielsen both become Unrestricted Free Agents this offseason, but Tavares is signed through 2017-18. All three should be protected. Likewise, Brock Nelson ($2.500 million) and Anders Lee ($3.750 million) should be locked into protected spots as well. Their contracts run through 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.

That leaves two open spots.

Mikhail Grabovski ($5.000 million) and Nikolay Kulemin ($4.188 million) are unlikely to fill that spot, given their current performance and their higher salaries; they are currently the second- and third-highest-paid forwards on the team, but fall near the middle of the pack in offensive production. Josh Bailey ($3.300 million) will be entering the final year of his contract in 2017. Ryan Strome ($1.713 million), Casey Cizikas ($1.000 million) and Shane Prince ($0.700 million) become Restricted Free Agents this summer, while Matt Martin ($1.000 million), Steve Bernier ($0.750 million) and Eric Boulton ($0.675 million) are UFAs after the playoffs.

Look for Ryan Strome to lock up the sixth spot with Josh Bailey taking up the seventh and final position.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Getting the most-obvious one out of the way first, Nick Leddy ($5.500 million) will be protected. Travis Hamonic ($3.857 million) is a likely second selection. Both Leddy and Hamonic are 25 years old and their contracts run through at least 2019-20 (Leddy’s runs longer). The third spot becomes more complicated.

Calvin de Haan ($1.967 million) is a young defenseman who has played in the Islanders’ top two pairings, but his offensive production hasn’t yet climbed to what he did prior to hitting the NHL. Johnny Boychuk ($6.000 million) is signed long-term (through 2021-22) and has been a top-pairing defenseman for New York, but he’ll be 33 at the time of the expansion draft and turns 38 during the final year of his contract. And then there’s Ryan Pulock ($1.363 million), the team’s First Round Pick in 2013, who has just a dozen NHL games under his belt (as of this writing) but is the team’s top defensive prospect (according to HockeysFuture.com).

 

GOALTENDERS:

Jaroslav Halak ($4.500 million) is signed through 2017-18, while backup Thomas Greiss ($1.500 million) becomes a UFA in 2017. Prospects Jena-Francois Berube ($0.562 million) and Christopher Gibson ($0.750 million) are both RFAs this offseason. Halak is the likely choice for protection, though Greiss has posted comparable numbers this season and each has started exactly 36 games so far in 2015-16.

 

THOUGHTS:

Offensively, the Islanders are going to be able to protect a ton of talent thanks to their top prospects all being exempt from the Expansion Draft. With their wealth of talent on the blue line, it is possible that New York would opt for an 8/1 option. Going the 7/3/1 route, the Isles would protect Tavares, Okposo, Nielsen, Nelson, Lee, Strome and Bailey. If they go for the 8/1 route in order to keep a fourth defensemen, that would mean protecting just Tavares, Okposo, Nielsen and one out of Nelson and Lee (likely Nelson, who will still be under team control as an RFA in 2018, as opposed to Lee, who becomes a UFA in 2019).

Regardless of which forwards are protected and which route is taken, Ho-Sang, Dal Colle, Beauvillier and Barzal are automatically protected and added into that group.

New York is likely to protect Leddy, Hamonic and one of Boychuk and Pulock, or both of them if they choose the 8/1 option.

Jaroslav Halak is, right now, the goalie that the Islanders would have to protect.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the New York Rangers.