Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston provided an update yesterday on the developing expansion draft rules heading into a likely NHL expansion scenario for 2016-17.

The key takeaways:

  • “A minimum of two forwards and one defenceman must be exposed who have played 40 games the previous season, or a total of 70 over the previous two. There is also a requirement that the 40/70 players are under contract for the first expansion season.”
  • “Players holding no-movement clauses – including those modified by limited no-trades, such as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury – count against the protection limit, provided that those contracts and clauses extend through the 2017-18 season. Teams will also be permitted to ask players to waive their no-movement clauses for inclusion in the expansion draft.”
  • “Players with two years of professional experience or less will be exempt from the process. Determining who that covers is based on the definition included in the collective bargaining agreement – meaning that 10 games played in the NHL at age 18 or 19 counts as a season, as does any American Hockey League or NHL season for players older than that.”

It was also reiterated in Johnston’s article that a team can only lose one player maximum to the expansion draft (given we’re looking at one expansion team for 2016-17). The looming expansion draft is not a game changer for most organizations, but it now becomes an ongoing consideration if a team wants to ensure it avoids losing a valuable player for nothing in return next June.

As the Leafs are going to have a young roster next season, they appear to be in a fairly uncomplicated situation overall. By Johnston’s reported definition of “professional experience,” the majority of their NHL-ready young talent will be exempt from the draft next June. As of today, the 2017 expansion draft may stand to benefit the Leafs (through potentially acquiring talent a hard-up team can’t protect) more than inconvenience them.

ExemptNot ExemptMeets 40/70 Requirement
(as of today) & signed
beyond 2016-17
Auston MatthewsJames Van RiemsdykJames Van Riemsdyk
William NylanderNazem KadriNazem Kadri
Mitch MarnerTyler BozakTyler Bozak
Zach HymanLeo KomarovLeo Komarov
Kasperi KapanenJoffrey LupulJoffrey Lupul
Nikita ZaitsevNathan HortonMorgan Rielly
Nikita SoshnikovMorgan RiellyJake Gardiner
Frederik GauthierJake Gardiner
Travis DermottColin Greening (x)
Andreas JohnsonBrooks Laich (x)
Andrew NielsenMilan Michalek (x)
Kasimir KaskisuoStephane Robidas (x)
Rinat ValievMatt Hunwick (x)
Dmytro TimashovMartin Marincin**
Frank Corrado**
Connor Carrick **
Connor Brown*
Brendan Leipsic*
Byron Froese*
Stuart Percy**
Josh Leivo**
Scott Harrington**
Colin Smith**
Sam Carrick**
Viktor Loov*
Antoine Bibeau*
Garret Sparks**
Jonathan Bernier (x)
x = UFA as of July 1, 2017
*RFA = RFA as of July, 2017
** RFA = RFA as of July, 2016

Some notes:

– Hearts undoubtedly sank when the news broke that players with No Movement Clauses will automatically be protected – given the presence of Nathan Horton on the Leafs’ cap, who has an NMC – but yesterday’s revelations should alleviate those concerns. The Leafs are going to have some options with Horton, from the looks of things. Horton’s NMC switches over to a modified NTC as of July 1, 2017. It looks as though the No-Movement Clause must extend through the 2017-18 season in order to apply to the June, 2017 expansion draft. It appears as though Horton’s does not. If, for some reason, it turns out the NMC stays in effect for the expansion draft, the Leafs have the option of asking Horton if he will waive his NMC in order to be included in the draft. There is zero chance of Horton getting claimed, so it would be a straightforward favour to ask.

Here is the breakdown of Horton’s No Move/Trade protection. I’m told Cap Friendly has sourced the following from CapGeek and the Columbus Dispatch but is still working on official confirmation:

2013-14 – NMC
2014-15 – NMC
2015-16 – NMC
2016-17 – NMC
2017-18 – Modified NTC
2018-19 – Modified NTC
2019-20 – Modified NTC

– The two prospects of note that won’t be exempt for the Leafs, based on Johnston’s report, are Connor Brown and Brendan Leipsic. Come the end of 2016-17, both Leipsic and Brown will have logged three seasons of professional experience. William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Kasperi Kapanen, Nikita Zaitsev, Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman are all in the clear.

– There was some concern about William Nylander given he played in the AHL the past two seasons, but the latest wording of the professional experience rule (as explained by Johnston) puts the Leafs in the clear with Willy. His 2014-15 AHL experience will not count as a season of professional experience as he was below the age of 20 and did not play 10 or more NHL games. His 22 games of 2015-16 NHL experience will count as a full season of professional experience, and so will his 2016-17 NHL season, but that puts him at two professional seasons come June, 2017.

– The “40/70 rule” dictates that two forwards and one defenceman must be exposed who have 40 games of NHL experience in the prior season or 70 games of NHL experience over the previous two seasons combined. The Leafs currently have just two defencemen signed beyond 2016-17 in Gardiner and Rielly, who the Leafs will certainly want to protect. If the Leafs were to sign current RFA Martin Marincin for two seasons, he would qualify as long as he plays five games or more next season. Fellow current RFA Frank Corrado would need to play a minimum of 31 games next season to qualify if the Leafs were to sign him (he played 39 NHL games last season).

– The trick for any team looking to meet the 40/70 requirement with a few free agent signings this offseason is that they’re going to have to be two-year contracts. In order to meet the requirement, the player must be signed beyond 2016-17.

– Up front, it appears Joffrey Lupul would need to play 24 games this upcoming season so that the Leafs could expose him as one of the two forwards, although the rules aren’t clear yet on veteran players who may have battled injuries and missed the 40/70 cutoff. There may be an overall career experience component we’re not yet privy to. Byron Froese is a player who would qualify under 40/70 if the draft were this June and the Leafs would have no issue exposing him, but he’s not signed beyond 2016-17 and may not make next year’s roster.

– The final column in the chart above will fill out as we learn more about the Leafs’ RFA and UFA signings, and so will their projected protection list. Each team will protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie. As of today, that list safely includes Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov and Connor Brown, but there is much to be decided in the weeks and months to come.