The Montreal Canadiens weren’t too handcuffed by the expansion that saw the Vegas Golden Knights enter the league, but it may be different for the next.
Seattle being the 32nd team in the NHL is almost a foregone conclusion. The ownership group has already been approved to continue with the expansion draft including paying the $650 million fee, $150 million more than Vegas had to pay. Elliotte Friedman tweeted back in February that the down payment and application were completed, meaning there should be a new team for the 2020-21 season. But what does that mean for the Montreal Canadiens?
On the surface, it’s another form of competition. Seattle is expected to be in the Central Division of the Western Conference, so the Habs would only be playing them twice a year. How the team effects Montreal, is the same way they affect everyone. There’s going to be another expansion draft.
The format of the draft was set up such that a decent amount of teams would lose a valuable player. However, the other general managers did Vegas a lot of favours with those side deals that brought more value to their roster. Gary Bettman has already confirmed that the expansion draft rules for Seattle will be the same.
Therefore, each team will be able to use one of two options for their protected lists:
- Seven forwards, three defencemen, and a goaltender
- Eight skaters of any position and a goaltender
To add-on to that, any player who has a no-movement clause at the time of the expansion draft must be protected. But they can choose to waive it making themselves available, similarly to Marc-Andre Fleury‘s claim from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The positive aspect of the protection rules is that all first and second-year pros are exempt from the draft giving teams more leeway.
If the plan is to have Seattle play in the 2020-21 season, then there will need to be a draft in June of 2020.
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Carey Price will be the goaltender to protect and will need to be seeing as he has a no-movement clause. Jeff Petry is in a similar boat with his clause still in effect for the remainder of his contract. The Habs then find themselves in a bind.
The next two to be locked in could most likely be Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen. Both would be pending restricted free agents and three and two-year pros respectively by then. However, that would leave Shea Weber exposed forcing the Habs to possible go for the 8-1 model instead of the 7-3-1 they used in 2017.
The forwards are going to be equally as tricky. Off the bat, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, and probably Max Domi will be protected. That creates more problems for the Habs as Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen, and Nikita Scherbak will need new contracts by then and could be left exposed.
This could force Marc Bergevin to make a deal with Seattle, so they don’t take some of the more skilled forwards on the team they’d be forced to leave exposed.
Luckily, if Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling are on the team by then, they’ll be exempt. That is if Kotkaniemi doesn’t play this season and makes the Habs next year. If the third-overall pick registers a professional season for the 2018-19 campaign, he’d be available for the expansion draft leaving one less spot.
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It’ll be interesting to see how the Montreal Canadiens get through that expansion. Another thing to keep in mind is that the risk of a lockout could push that whole process back unless a new CBA is agreed upon. Either way, Bergevin and the rest of his staff will need to start planning for that event as there’s a good chance a good player will be taken.