By Kim Dunning
So you think the NHL season is over right? It’s far from over. This year is a special year in hockey, not only will it be a short off-season for the playoff teams, especially the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, but it’s the year for the World Cup of hockey which starts in September. This off-season is a special one because the NHL has a new expansion team set to hit the ice in 2017/18 season.
So what does it matter for this year if a new team is coming into the Western Conference? Well, if you know your hockey, you know that with the expansion team comes the expansion draft. So why does the expansion draft matter for this year? Well, it’s simply because you can only protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or you can apply for different variations but the gist of it is you can only keep 10 skating players and one goalie.
Now if you think about who teams can protect, you can automatically assume players like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane will all be protected by their respective teams. That leaves a lot of other really good players who aren’t at the caliber as the above mentioned players out there to be drafted by the new Las Vegas team. That is why it’s a good idea to keep an idea on the NHL trades which began on July 1. Players will be moving around so that teams aren’t put into a tight spot when the expansion draft happens next year. Players like the St. Louis Blues goal, Brian Elliott who was sent to the Calgary Flames because the Blues had a playoff caliber younger goalie in Jake Allen. Again remember in this case, come the expansion draft, the Blues would only be able to protect one of those goalies. Another example would be the Minnesota Wild signed Jason Zucker, who is a Las Vegas Native, to a 2 year extension worth 4 million contact to assure that if he is drafted by the Las Vegas team would get compensation for his contract.
Now there are hiccups in the plan depending on the no trade clauses some players have, but for the most part, your superstar players are going to be protected. Teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are deep with talent will have issues keeping players, especially if Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray make it through the entire NHL season with the Penguins. Pittsburgh would only be able to protect one of those players in the expansion draft. If we look more closely at the Penguins Stanley Cup team and more specifically their lines, we find that the Penguins are deep on all four lines and that makes it a difficult decision for the organization to protect all their good quality hockey players.
As the first day closed on July 1, the NHL broke a League record with 616.2 million in committed salaries, which more than doubled from 2015. So now as the NHL off-season progresses and we head into the World Cup of Hockey in a few months it’s a good idea to keep your eyes to the news, even if you have to look hard for it, because the NHL is hot on the trade market this year.