There has been much speculation over the past few weeks that the NHL, and Commissioner Gary Bettman, are planning to expand the league to more than its current 30 teams.
Expansion would make a lot of sense after moving to a four division format. There is currently an imbalance among division, where two of them contain eight teams, and two division are home to seven teams. Oddly enough, the NHL decided to put both eight team divisions in the east, and the seven teamers out west.
If expansion were to occur, it would only make sense to grant new teams out west, and add them to the smaller division to balance out the league. Seattle has been heavily speculated as a location, and even though most hockey purists would like to see a team return to Quebec City, rumors of Las Vegas, or Kansas City becoming NHL locales will not go away.
From a Montreal Canadiens perspective, adding a team in Quebec City would be a huge story, as their rivalry from the 80s and early 90s would immediately be renewed, but if two teams are added to the western side of the NHL, it would not effect the Canadiens very much. Except, of course, for the expansion draft.
If there were an expansion draft this offseason, (hypothetical, though very possible a year from now) who would the Canadiens be forced to leave unprotected?
The way the last few expansions worked, most recently when Columbus and Minnesota were added in 2000, and Atlanta and Nashville the seasons prior, existing teams were allowed to protect either 1 goaltender, 5 defensemen and 9 forwards, or they could keep 2 goalies, 3 defenders and 7 forwards. Further, any player having just completed their first or second year of professional hockey were ineligible to be taken in the expansion draft, so everyone around the league was able to hold on to their youngest prospects. Also, any team could lose no more than 2 players during the draft, but they had to leave one forward and one defenseman who played 40 games in the NHL the past season available to be selected.
What this would mean for Montreal currently, is that Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, and Louis Leblanc would not need to be protected, because the new franchise would not be allowed to select them.
So, who would the Canadiens protect, and who would they leave prone to be lost for no return? First off, protecting Peter Budaj would mean having to leave two more forwards and two more defencemen unprotected, so it is a no brainer to only protect one goalie. So the Canadiens would have to identify their nine most valuable forwards, and five top defenders they want to hang on to.
Up front the locks to be kept would be Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere, Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust. That leaves David Desharnais, Gabriel Dumont, Ryan White, Travis Moen and George Parros, and only two can be kept. I would hang onto Desharnais and Dumont, though I would not want to see White plucked away for nothing.
This would leave Moen, Parros and White vulnerable, but someone who played half the games last season has to be the sacrificial lamb so to speak. Of course, Marc Bergevin could go in a different direction and use the expansion draft as a way to free up cap space by leaving Desharnais available, who would surely be scooped up by a team that would be desperate for offense.
On defense it is quite obvious P.K. Subban would be kept, along with Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz. This leaves David Drewiske available, as well as Francis Bouillon, who played all 48 games a year ago.
In net, like I mentioned earlier, Carey Price is protected, and Budaj, along with Dustin Tokarski are left as potential expansion draftees.
This is of course, all hypothetical right now, but expansion is certainly looming around the corner. Within two years, and very likely next summer, we could be witnessing the league growing once again, and if it does the Canadiens will in all likelihood lose two roster players.
If two players must be plucked off the Canadiens roster, who would you want them to be?