(April 16, 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 Vancouver Canucks.

 

FORWARDS:

The Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel ($7.000 million each), will turn 37 just ahead of the 2017-18 NHL season, the last season under their current (and matching) contracts. The twins also found themselves at 1-2 on Vancouver in points this past season, with Daniel posting 61 and Henrik notching 55.

Bo Horvat ($1.744 million) had the most points of any Canuck not named Sedin, managing 40 points in 82 games, though Jannik Hansen ($2.500 million) had 38 points in just 67 games. Horvat becomes a Restricted Free Agent in 2017, while Hansen becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2018. Both should be protected.

Prized prospect Jake Virtanen ($1.744 million) won’t be an RFA until 2018 and will be protected. Brandon Sutter ($3.300 million this season, $4.375 million starting next season) played in just 20 games this season, but that marked the first non-lockout-shortened season he played in fewer than 80 games since 2009-10 (when he played in 72 games). His big-dollar contract extension kicks in this summer and runs through 2020-21.

Radim Vrbata ($5.000 million) is a UFA this summer and Alexandre Burrows ($4.500 million) hits free agency next summer. Both will be 36 in the summer of 2017. Linden Vey ($1.000 million), Sven Baertschi ($0.900 million), Emerson Etem ($0.851 million), Markus Granlund ($0.925 million), and prospects Ronalds Kenins ($0.600 million) and Michael Zalewski ($0.575 million) are RFAs this summer, while prospect Brendan Gaunce ($1.026 million) becomes an RFA next year.

Other players up for protection would be Derek Dorsett ($2.650 million), Jared McCann ($1.107 million) and prospect Cole Cassels ($0.905 million). Cassels, who managed just 7 points (in 64 games) in his first professional season, could work his way into a protected spot with a big season in 2016-17.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Alexander Edler ($5.000 million) played on the top pairing for Vancouver before suffering a season-ending injury. His current contract runs through 2018-19. Ben Hutton ($0.896 million) led Canucks defensemen with 24 assists this season but becomes an RFA in 2017. Dan Hamhuis ($4.500 million), Matt Bartkowski ($1.750 million) and Yannick Weber ($1.500 million) all become UFAs this summer, while Andrey Pedan becomes an RFA this summer. Ben Hutton ($0.896 million) and Nikita Tryamkin ($0.925 million) become RFAs next offseason.

Christopher Tanev ($4.450 million), Luca Sbisa ($3.600 million) and Alex Biega ($0.600 million this season, $0.750 million starting next season) are all signed beyond 2017, with Tanev’s contract ending in 2020 and Sbisa and Biega’s deals ending in 2018. Top prospect Jordan Subban ($0.755 million) will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2017, making him eligible to be selected if the Canucks don’t protect him. Subban had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in his first professional season, playing for the AHL’s Utica Comets.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Both Ryan Miller ($6.000 million) and Jacob Markstrom ($1.550 million) become UFAs in 2017. Top prospect Thatcher Demko is still playing college hockey and will be exempt from selection by an expansion team. The only other goalie to make an appearance for the Canucks this season, Richard Bachman ($0.575 million) will also become a UFA in 2017.

 

THOUGHTS:

What the Canucks do with the Sedins is the biggest question mark. Horvat, Hansen, Virtanen and Sutter are four locks. Burrows would have been a lock just three years ago, but his age, expiring contract and falling offensive numbers will likely leave him exposed. Baertschi likely takes the fifth spot on the list, as his age and production since coming to Vancouver (30 points in 72 games over two seasons) give him a leg up on the other players competing for protection spots.

Fighting for the final spots with the Sedins would be a series of prospects and younger players. Granlund, Vey, Kenins, Zalewski, Gaunce and Cassels could all make cases for a spot. Right now, Gaunce would likely lock up one spot with Kenins and Zalewski competing for the other spot (with an edge to Zalewski).

Given that the Canucks appear to be in a rebuilding phase, it would seem unlikely for them to protect the Sedins over two young prospects. They could opt to give up a draft pick to an expansion team in exchange for not taking Daniel or Henrik Sedin, but protecting them during a rebuild (particularly if there is only one expansion team) could expose the types of players Vancouver is trying to acquire.

Defensively, Edler and Hutton should both be protected. For the final spot, Hamhuis turns 35 in late-2017, making him an unlikely choice for protection if he’s brought back this summer. Fellow-2016-UFAs Bartkowski and Weber each played bottom-pairing minutes this season, making them both unlikely choices as well.

Tanev played the second-most minutes per game of any Canuck player this season, 20 seconds more than the third-ranking Hamhuis (but nearly three minutes less than Edler). Given, the length of his contract, he would be the leading candidate from players who played with the big club in 2015-16. However, Subban could push Tanev for that third protected spot if he continues to develop in the AHL and breaks into the NHL.

The Canucks could opt to protect four defensemen and four forwards if they’re willing to go with just Horvat, Hansen, Virtanen and Sutter (letting Vancouver keep Edler, Hutton, Tanev and Subban). However, given that the Canucks will have to expose a few young prospects regardless, this would probably be unlikely.

Markstrom will be 27 at the time of the Expansion Draft while Miller turns 37 during that summer. With both goalies likely to be days away from free agency (barring a contract extension), Miller can be pretty easily ruled out as a protected player. Markstrom could be protected if either (A) he gets a contract extension ahead of the Expansion Draft, or (B) the Canucks don’t have a third goalie in the system that would be worth protecting (Demko being exempt rules him out from this slot).

 

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