(April 13, 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 St. Louis Blues.

 

FORWARDS:

Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.500 million), Alexander Steen ($5.800 million) and Paul Stastny ($7.000 million) should all be protected, though Steen becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2017. David Backes ($4.500 million) would join that group if the Blues manage to re-sign him this offseason (he becomes a UFA on July 1).

Troy Brouwer ($3.667 million) also becomes a UFA this summer and would also be a likely selection for protection if re-signed. Jori Lehtera ($2.750 million this season, $4.700 million starting next season) enters the first year of a three-year contract extension in 2016-17. His numbers dropped slightly in his second NHL season, but he’d seem to be a safe choice to be protected.

If those six forwards get protected, that would leave one open spot. Robby Fabbri ($1.107 million) posted the most points this season of any Blues forward not listed above (37 points in 72 games). Jaden Schwartz ($2.350 million) managed more points per game, however, with 22 points in 33 games. Fabbri is under contract until 2018, while Schwartz is a Restricted Free Agent this summer.

Also garnering consideration would be Ty Rattie ($0.894 million), who totaled 49 points in 72 games between the AHL and NHL this year (43 points in 59 AHL games, 6 points in 13 NHL games). Rattie becomes an RFA this offseason. Ivan Barbashev ($0.894 million) could also be worth a look depending on his 2016-17 numbers (2015-16 was his first professional season, posting 27 points in 63 AHL games). Rattie and Barbashev are St. Louis’ top two prospects according to HockeysFuture.com, and both would be eligible for selection by an expansion team.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.250 million) becomes a UFA in 2017, but would be an easy choice for protection if re-signed. Alex Pietrangelo ($6.500 million) is signed through 2019-20 and, at just 26 years old, locks up another spot.

Meanwhile, Jay Bouwmeester ($5.400 million) failed to reach 20 points for the second straight season (his third full season with St. Louis). Statistically speaking, the last two seasons have been the worst two-year stretch of Bouwmeester’s 13-year NHL career. Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150 million total cap hit this season, $2.900 million starting next season) is locked up for the same number of years as Bouwmeester (through 2018-19) and is a few years younger.

Top defensive prospect Jordan Schmaltz ($1.208 million) wouldn’t be exempt for an Expansion Draft, so he’d need to be considered for protection, as well. Colton Parayko ($0.925 million) was the Blues’ top prospect before this year and becomes an RFA in 2017. The 22-year-old showcased plenty of offensive upside in his first pro season (33 points in 79 NHL games and 7 points in 17 AHL games).

Joel Edmundson ($0.925 million this season, $1.025 million starting next season) is one other name worth mentioning, though he would only have an outside chance of being protected.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Both Brian Elliott ($2.500 million) and Jake Allen ($2.350 million) hit free agency in 2017, Elliott as a UFA and Allen as an RFA. They nearly split starts down the middle this season (44 for Allen, 38 for Elliott), but Allen is over five years younger. That said, Elliott had the edge in GAA (2.07 vs 2.35) and in save percentage (.930 vs .920).


THOUGHTS:

The first handful of forwards to be protected is pretty easy: Tarasenko, Steen, Stastny, Backes, Brouwer. Those five (assuming Steen, Backes and Brouwer are signed beyond 2017 by the Expansion Draft) are locks. Lehtera, Fabbri, Schwartz, Rattie and Barbashev would battle for the other two slots. Schwartz should have the inside track to a spot (depending on how his contract negotiations go this summer). Lehtera could get the other, unless the Blues decide to expose him and his nearly-$5-million-per-year contract. In that case, Robby Fabbri or Ty Rattie would probably lock it up (with the advantage going to Fabbri).

Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo should take up the top two spots, so long as Shattenkirk is re-signed ahead of the Expansion Draft. The final spot could come down to two young defensemen: Jordan Schmaltz and Colton Parayko. Right now, give Parayko the leg-up after his remarkable rookie campaign.

One of the two St. Louis goalies should get a contract extension before the Expansion Draft, with that being the goalie protected. Unless Elliott becomes the guy in net for St. Louis before the end of next season (or contract extension talks stall with Allen), expect Allen to be the protected netminder.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Tampa Bay Lightning.