NHL Players Most Likely to Be Traded Due to the Expansion Draft

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2016

NHL Players Most Likely to Be Traded Due to the Expansion Draft

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    With the NHL's Las Vegas expansion franchise unveiled as the Vegas Golden Knights, it remains to be seen which current NHL players will make up their inaugural roster.

    Next June's expansion draft could force some teams to trade players they might otherwise retain. Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler could be among the notables to hit the trade block. 

    As per expansion draft rules, teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender or eight skaters total (forwards/blueliners) and a goalie. Players carrying no-movement clauses must be protected unless they waive their clause to become available in the draft. They could also be asked to waive their clauses to accept a trade to an existing NHL franchise. 

    Because teams can only protect one goaltender, the Penguins must convince Fleury to waive his no-movement clause in order to protect young goalie Matt Murray. The Ducks could be forced to trade Fowler rather than risk losing him to Vegas for nothing. 

    The following slideshow lists the NHL players most likely to be traded because of the expansion draft. We'll examine the key reasons why they could be dealt before that draft. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section. 

Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin has a year remaining on his contract with the Colorado Avalanche. In order to protect a young blueliner, Avs management could attempt to move him before the expansion draft.

    Because the 36-year-old Beauchemin carries a no-movement clause, he must be protected in the draft unless he agrees to waive it. The Avalanche could opt to protect four defensemen (including Beauchemin) in the draft. Doing so, however, means they can only protect four forwards.

    Management could prefer the flexibility of protecting seven forwards. If they protect Beauchemin, Erik Johnson (who also has a no-movement clause) and Tyson Barrie, they risk promising defenseman Nikita Zadorov getting scooped up by Vegas in the draft.

    Beauchemin's career is winding down, and he carries a $4.5 million annual cap hit. If asked to waive his clause, he could be unwilling to join an expansion team at this stage of his career. Perhaps he'll consider moving to a team of his choice. 

Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Late last season and into the summer of 2016, Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell was the subject of trade speculation. The expansion draft could give rise to a fresh crop of speculation over the 34-year-old's future.

    On Sep. 22, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported Hartnell, who carries a no-movement clause, agreed to waive it earlier in the summer for a select number of teams. Because Jackets management failed to find a suitable deal, Hartnell rescinded his willingness to be dealt. 

    Along with Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno also carry no-movement clauses. The Blue Jackets could risk leaving a younger forward, such as William Karlsson or Josh Anderson, exposed in the draft. That could push management toward revisiting attempts to move Hartnell.

    The Jackets also have over $67 million invested in next season's payroll. Moving Hartnell and his $4.75 million cap hit could reduce that cost. 

    With the Jackets currently playing well, they are unlikely to shop Hartnell before the March 1 trade deadline. That move could come before the June 17 deadline to submit their list of protected players to the league. 

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Last season, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was the subject of trade speculation. The expansion draft could see him resurface in the rumor mill. 

    Brodin, 23, is signed through 2020-21 at an annual cap hit of $4.16 million. He lacks no-movement exemptions and no-trade protection. 

    On June 29, Mike Heika of the Star Tribune reported the Wild offered Brodin last January to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen. The Blue Jackets ultimately shipped Johansen to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Seth Jones. 

    The Wild could shield Brodin by protecting four defensemen. However, that means they can only protect four forwards. With Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville carrying no-movement clauses, the Wild would risk losing a good young forward such as Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter or Mikael Granlund.

    If the Wild protect three defenseman, Ryan Suter is automatically exempt because of his no-movement clause. They'll likely want to protect the promising Matt Dumba. It'll be down to Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella for that third protected spot. Given Brodin's history in the trade rumor mill, he could become the odd man out. 

Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Puck-moving defenseman Ryan Ellis is in his sixth season with the Nashville Predators. Because of the expansion draft, it could be his last.

    The Predators are expected to protect blueliners P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Should they opt to protect only three defensemen, they'll have to choose between Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. With the latter under contract through 2022 at a cost-effective $3.75 million annually, Ellis could become expendable.  

    This problem could be avoided if the Predators opt to protect four defensemen. Under that scenario, however, they'll only be allowed to protect four forwards. They might not want to lose that flexibility. 

    Ellis, 25, is signed through 2018-19 at a very affordable annual cap hit of $2.5 million. Teams seeking a young mobile blueliner could be very interested in him. He might also fetch the Predators a young draft-exempt player. 

Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Center Valtteri Filppula is now in his fourth season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It could be his last, as the club could attempt to trade him in order to protect a younger player from the expansion draft.

    Filppula, 32, carries a no-movement clause in his contract. He could be unwilling to waive it for the expansion draft, but perhaps he might accept a trade to a club of his choice.

    Given the Lightning's depth in forwards, management could prefer protecting seven of them. Filppula's clause could put the Lightning at risk of leaving a younger forward, such as the talented Jonathan Drouin, exposed in the draft.  

    Rather than face that option, they could ask Filppula to accept a trade prior to the March 1 trade deadline or before the June 17th deadline for submitting their list of protected players. 

    The Lightning could also attempt to move right wing Ryan Callahan, who also carries a no-movement clause. However, Filppula's deal is more affordable ($5 million annual cap hit) and only goes to 2017-18. Callahan's runs to 2019-20 at an annual cap hit of $5.8 million. 

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Since 2005-06, goaltender Jimmy Howard's spent his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings. The expansion draft, however, could bring his tenure in Hockeytown to an end. 

    The Wings are expected to protect 24-year-old Petr Mrazek over the 32-year-old Howard. He's also carrying an annual average value  of $5.29 million on his contract through 2018-19, while Mrazak earns a more affordable $4 million cap hit

    While the Red Wings are struggling this season, Howard's performance is among the few bright spots. In 16 games played, he has a 1.94 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. 

    Those strong stats could improve Howard's trade value. Rather than risk losing him for nothing to Las Vegas in the draft, the Wings could consider trading him in hopes of landing a reasonable return. 

    If the Wings are out of playoff contention by the March 1 trade deadline, they could try to move Howard before then. Otherwise, they could attempt to shop him before the expansion draft in June. 

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    The Anaheim Ducks are well-stocked with good young defensemen. The expansion draft, however, could force them to part ways with Cam Fowler

    Fowler, 25, is among the Ducks' best players. Protecting four defensemen would ensure Fowler's shielded from the draft. But under that scenario, they can only protect four forwards. With Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler covered by their no-movement clauses, the Ducks could risk losing Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

    Should the Ducks protect three defensemen, Kevin Bieksa's no-movement clause ensures he's unavailable for the draft unless he agrees to waive it. They could ask him to accept a trade, but his age (35) and the decline in his performance makes him a tough sell. 

    Fowler, on the other hand, is entering his playing prime. He's under contract through 2017-18 and carries a $4 million cap hit. Given his skills,  the Ducks wouldn't have any difficulties finding suitors in the trade market.

    Having invested long term in blueliners Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, Fowler seems a likely trade candidate. Dealing him for a good, young draft-exempt forward could be a worthwhile move for the Ducks.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Fleury's been with the Penguins since his NHL debut in 2003-04. The expansion draft and the rise of young Matt Murray into the starter's job could put him on the trade block later this season.

    Because Fleury has a no-movement clause in his contract, the Penguins must protect him unless he agrees to waive it to become eligible for the draft. The Penguins, however, likely prefer protecting Murray. 

    On Dec. 1, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal speculated the Penguins could ask Fleury to waive his clause to accept a trade to a club of his choosing. With a new team, he would also stand a better chance of being protected in the draft. 

    The Penguins could attempt to trade Fleury prior to this season's trade deadline on March 1. Given his $5.75 million annual average value through 2018-19, dealing him in-season might be difficult. 

    If unable to move Fleury by March 1, the Penguins could try again in June. They'll have until the June 17 deadline for submitting their protected players list to the league to make that move. 


    Player stats (as of Dec. 16, 2016) and expansion draft info via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly