(March 26, 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 Chicago Blackhawks.

 

FORWARDS:

Chicago has a handful of players to re-sign both this offseason and next offseason. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (each with a cap hit of $10.500 million) are locks to be protected. Artem Anisimov ($4.550 million starting next year) and Marcus Kruger ($3.083 million starting next year) would both likely be kept as well. Artemi Panarin ($3.500 million) has been a revelation this season and can be added to that list, though he’ll be a Restricted Free Agent in the summer of 2017.

With two spots left, the Blackhawks have options.

Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) will be 38 years old by time the Expansion Draft rolls around and is still signed through the 2020-21 season. On July 1, 2017, Andrew Desjardins ($0.800 million) will be an Unrestricted Free Agent and Teuvo Teravainen ($1.344 million) will be an RFA. This offseason, Andrew Ladd ($4.400 million), Brandon Mashinter ($0.562 million), Tomas Fleischmann ($0.750 million) and Dale Weise ($1.025 million) are all UFAs, while Richard Panik ($0.975 million) and Dennis Rasmussen ($0.575 million) are both RFAs.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

Defensively, the Blackhawks will have a big decision to make. Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million starting next season), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4.100 million) and Trevor Van Riemsdyk ($0.925 million) will all be under contract and would all need to be protected. Both Michal Rozsival ($0.800 million) and Christian Ehrhoff ($1.275 million) are UFAs this offseason. Next offseason, Erik Gustafsson ($0.667 million) becomes an RFA. Prospect Ville Pokka ($1.775 million) becomes an RFA next offseason as well and would also be eligible to be selected by an expansion team if left unprotected.

 

GOALTENDERS:

Only Corey Crawford ($6.000 million) is under contract beyond 2016-17. Michael Leighton ($0.575 million) becomes a UFA this offseason while Scott Darling ($0.588 million) becomes a UFA on July 1, 2017.

 

THOUGHTS:

The Hawks have been nearly gutted from the middle down twice since starting their current dynasty in 2010, and have managed to bounce back both times. Barring a major offseason roster change this summer, Chicago would be likely to protect Kane, Toews, Anisimov, Kruger, Panarin, Teravainen and either Rasmussen or Panik on offense. Regardless of who is kept in that group, and even if it means exposing Hossa, it would seem likely that the Blackhawks do not lose a forward because of the other talent left available to an expansion team.

Whichever defensemen out of Seabrook, Keith, Hjalmarsson and Van Riemsdyk is not kept is the player most likely to be selected in the Expansion Draft. Seabrook’s high cap hit might make him the odd man out, but Van Riemsdyk may be the only one who could be deemed a lock out of the group.

In net, Crawford turns 33 on New Year’s Eve, 2017, while Darling will be turn 29 nine days before that. If there is only one expansion team, I would think both goalies stay put (or at least avoid being selected). However, if both Quebec City and Las Vegas are granted teams, it would seem likely that an exposed goalie would be taken (at least as long as the goalie is signed beyond July 1, 2017, by the time the Expansion Draft rolls around). If Darling is exposed but isn’t re-signed, he’d become a risky play for an expansion team, given that they’d have just days or weeks to re-sign him or they’d lose him to free agency for absolutely nothing. The Hawks may lose a second defenseman or an unprotected forward if there are two expansion teams and Darling is a pending UFA.

 

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