(March 21, 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 Arizona Coyotes.

 

FORWARDS:

Arizona only has two active forwards currently signed beyond July 1, 2017: Brad Richardson ($2.083 million) and Max Domi ($1.363 million), and both of their contracts expire on July 1, 2018. If Shane Doan, 39, retires when his contract expires at season’s end (cap hit of $5.300 million), or even plays just one more season, he’s removed from Expansion Draft consideration. Both Antoine Vermette ($3.750 million) and Martin Hanzal ($3.100 million) become Unrestricted Free Agents on July 1, 2017, as does Joe Vitale. Meanwhile, Boyd Gordon ($3.000 million), Kyle Chipchura ($0.875 million), Alex Tanguay ($0.772 million hit, $3.500 million salary) and Viktor Tikhonov ($0.705 million hit, $1.040 million salary) become UFAs this offseason. The team will also have to re-sign Restricted Free Agents Tobias Rieder, Sergei Plotnikov and Jiri Sekac this offseason, along with Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook next offseason.

As for prospects, Laurent Dauphin will require protecting, as would Henrik Samuelsson and Christian Thomas. Many of the team’s top prospects (like Nick Merkley, Christian Fischer, Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak) are exempt from the Expansion Draft because of their service time, which helps out the Coyotes tremendously.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($5.500 million) is the only current Coyote defenseman whose contract runs beyond July 1, 2017. Zbynek Michalek ($3.200 million) is a UFA in 2017 and Nicklas Grossmann is a UFA this summer (Chris Pronger’s contract comes off the books at the end of 2016-17 as well). Meanwhile, Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, Jarred Tinordi and Kevin Connauton are all RFAs on July 1, 2016.

As far as prospects go, Philip Samuelsson would also be among the players requiring protection from an expansion team.

 

GOALTENDERS:

The only current NHL goalie still under contract on July 1, 2016, for the Yotes is Mike Smith. Louis Domingue is an RFA after this season, though, and should be brought back and protected from the expansion teams. This would put Smith – who will be 35 on Opening Day, 2017 – and his $5.667 million cap hit (through 2018-19) in the pool of unprotected players. Goaltender Anders Lindback is a UFA on July 1, 2016.

 

THOUGHTS:

The Coyotes are pretty fortunate with their prospects, and it helps them keep pretty much everyone they’d want to protect. Assuming the team re-signs every RFA they have, I would see Arizona using the 7/3/1 method. Then, the Coyotes can easily hang on to Domi, Duclair, and Rieder (their three highest-scoring forwards this season not named Shane Doan), along with Dauphin, Samuelsson and Thomas. If they re-sign Martin Hanzal, he could fill out the other forward spot, as could Antoine Vermette (again, if re-signed) or, perhaps more likely, the already-signed Brad Richardson. They could also opt to protect two of Hanzal, Richardson and Vermette in exchange for exposing one of Dauphin, Samuelsson and Thomas.

Defensively, Ekman-Larsson is a given to protect, as is Michael Stone. For the third defenseman, Connor Murphy would seem to be the favorite at this point, though that would expose any veteran defenseman on the roster (Stone, the oldest of the three, will only be 27 on Opening Day, 2017).

 

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