In an era where professional sports leagues are looking for new ways to generate revenue for their coffers, the NHL is setting its sights on one of the richest targets available: adding expansion teams.
Over the past few weeks, the league has been accepting bids from interested ownership groups as they explore the possibility of adding two more teams into the fold. On Monday afternoon, it was revealed that Quebec City-based company Quebecor is angling to bring a team to the Canadian city to replace the departed Nordiques, who became the Colorado Avalanche in 1994. The city of Las Vegas has also been looking to get a team, selling 14,000 season tickets to fans and even going so far as to pick the name “Black Knights” for a potential franchise.
With the very real possibility that the league is going to expand by two teams as soon as the 2017-18 season (the earliest date that the league is willing to go through with those plans), we decided it would be an interesting exercise to see how the move would affect the Chicago Blackhawks. After all, the league would stock the new rosters with talent from the existing 30 teams through an expansion draft, and that would mean that the Blackhawks would have some interesting decisions to make in terms of which players to protect from the process.
Under the rules that were used in the last NHL expansion draft in 2000 (the year the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league), a team can choose one of two combinations of players to protect: one goaltender, five defenseman, and nine forwards, or two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards.
If the same rules were used today, here are the players we believe the Blackhawks would make an effort to retain.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, Marko Dano, Viktor Tikhonov, Corey Tropp
As you can tell, we’re going with the route of only protecting one goaltender, meaning that the Hawks can retain more forwards and defensemen. Hossa is potentially an intriguing candidate to leave unprotected, with his high salary cap hit and the fact he’s still got another six seasons left on his contract, but the notion of letting him go elsewhere and then potentially retire in a few years would be bad news as the Blackhawks would have to absorb salary cap recapture penalties.
Among the notable players left unprotected by the Hawks are Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg, with Ryan Garbutt, Andrew Desjardins, and Jeremy Morin also left out of the fold.
Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley, Trevor van Riemsdyk
According to expansion draft rules, a team has to leave at least one defenseman unprotected that has played in either 40 NHL games in the previous season or 70 in the previous two combined, and David Rundblad barely fits that bill. Over the past two years, he has played in 71 games for the Blackhawks and Coyotes, and as such the team would likely choose to leave him unprotected over putting another veteran on the chopping block.
Leaving Scott Darling unprotected wasn’t that tough of a decision, as it meant the Blackhawks were able to hold onto players like Daley, van Riemsdyk, and Dano. Saving two extra forwards and two extra defensemen at the expense of a low-cost back-up goaltender was a no-brainer to us.
Players Most Likely to be Drafted:
Without going through the other 29 rosters to pick players that would be sent away, it’s impossible to determine which Blackhawks would fit the needs of the new teams, but from which players are available, it would seem that guys like Bickell, Rundblad, and Darling would all get a decent amount of interest. Versteeg could as well based on his cheap cap hit and versatility.