(March 27, 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 Colorado Avalanche.

 

FORWARDS:

The Avalanche will be protecting their young crop of forwards before all others. Matt Duchene ($6.000 million), Gabriel Landeskog ($5.571 million), Nathan MacKinnon ($3.775 million) and Mikko Rantanen ($1.658 million) would be the locks of the bunch. MacKinnon is a pending Restricted Free Agent this offseason, but the other three are all locked up through at least 2017-18.

For the three remaining spots, pending RFA Mikhail Grgiorenko ($0.675 million) would seem a highly-likely bet to stay put if re-signed. Jarome Iginla ($5.333 million) turns 40 years old the day free agency opens in 2017, and he’ll be an Unrestricted Free Agent on that day as well, making him a likely candidate for exposure to the Expansion Draft. Mikkel Boedker ($3.750 million) has been fantastic for the Avs since coming over in a trade this season, but is a pending UFA this offseason. If re-signed, Boedker likely takes spot number six, leaving one spot open.

That final spot could come down to anyone signed this offseason, or any of a number of forwards currently with the team, most likely being one of Carl Soderberg ($4.750 million) and Blake Comeau ($2.400 million). Also a candidate would be 2016 RFA Trevor Cheek ($0.598 million) and 2016 UFA Shawn Matthias ($2.600 million).

 

DEFENSEMEN:

With three spots open for defensemen, the Avalanche have a few decisions to make. Tyson Barrie ($2.600 million) is having a monster year with 47 points in 70 games and will be turning 26 during the summer of 2017. He’ll be an RFA this offseason, however, and must be re-signed. Erik Johnson ($6.000 million) has his seven-year, $42-million contract extension kick in this offseason. Nick Holden ($1.650 million) will be entering the final year of his contract before becoming a UFA. Both Brad Stuart ($3.600 million) and Eric Gelinas ($1.575 million) hit free agency in 2017 as a UFA and RFA, respectively. The team’s top defensive prospect (according to HockeysFuture.com) is Chris Bigras ($0.863 million) and will not be exempt from the Expansion Draft if left unprotected. Veterans Francois Beauchemin ($4.500 million) and will-be-UFA Brad Stuart ($3.600 million) would seem likely to be exposed, as both will be 37 that summer (and Stuart will turn 38 later in the year).

 

GOALTENDERS:

The Avalanche will have a decision to make between the pipes. Semyon Varlamov ($5.900 million) and pending RFA Calvin Pickard ($0.851 million) have put up similar numbers this season. While Pickard’s GAA and save percentage are slightly better than Varlamov’s, it has been Varlamov receiving most of the starts. Colorado is likely to make their decision on which goalie will be protected this offseason based on how they approach re-signing Pickard. Varlamov will still have two years left on his contract by the time the 2017 offseason rolls around.

 

THOUGHTS:

Barring an offseason acquisition, the seven forwards I’d see the Avalanche protecting would be Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon, Rantanen, Grigorenko, Boedker and either Soderberg or Comeau. However, Comeau will be 31 and Soderberg will be about to turn 32, so I would think that Colorado would expose one of them in order to protect their younger players. Should Boedker leave the Avalanche this summer, that would allow for both Comeau and Soderberg to be protected.

Defensively, it would seem likely that Colorado would hang on to Barrie, Johnson and Holden (barring any contract difficulties with Barrie this offseason), though that would leave Bigras open to be taken away. Regardless, it could be a goalie that the Avs end up losing to the Expansion Draft, as either Varlamov or Pickard would be pretty enticing for a new team (both goalies will still be under 30 at the start of the 2017-18 NHL season).

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Columbus Blue Jackets.