UPDATE: As per @DarrenDreger, #NHL GMs told expansion decision is expected by June draft #TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/EBLIeUOJEH— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) March 16, 2016
NHL expansion is probably coming sooner than later. What will it mean for the Penguins?
From the good Pierre:
Expansion draft potential. Each team has option of protecting 3d, 7F and I goalie or 8 skaters +1 goalie. Expansion determined before draft— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 16, 2016
That doesn't quite make sense, and in the rush to tweet against all the other reporters, I assume he made a typo and meant either 3D+7F+0G or 8 skaters + 1G, which makes sense with how the NHL has had previous drafts.
So, going off this, the following notable players would be exempt from a potential expansion draft this summer:
- Forwards: Daniel Sprong, Oskar Sundqvist, Dominik Simon, Conor Sheary
- Defensemen: Derrick Pouliot
- Goaltenders: Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry
So who should the Pens protect?
Well, it's probably a good idea to keep Marc-Andre Fleury and select 8 more skaters to keep off limits. The other way to keep 10 skaters doesn't really benefit the Penguins asset wise to lose Fleury at the expense of keeping 2 extra forwards.
- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta
Probables (and our choices)
- Brian Dumoulin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin
Open for selection:
- Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, Beau Bennett (RFA), Justin Schultz (RFA)
There certainly could be the opportunity to walk away from the Kessel salary cap hit, but that seems short-sighted after one down year,. Just as it wouldn't have been smart to get rid of Sergei Gonchar or Paul Martin after their first less-than-great season in Pittsburgh, washing hands of Kessel (after giving up 2 first round picks to acquire him) would be a poisonous pill.
I could see arguments to keep Kunitz (only 1 year left on contract) over Hagelin, especially if expansion is 2 teams and team would lose 2 players. Otherwise, there's not a lot to sweat losing. It stinks to have to lose a player for nothing, but the unprotected list wouldn't hurt all that much.
We'll see what becomes of expansion draft and whether or not it happens, but it's always fun on an off-day to think about what could happen.