Rabid Habs

As Expansion Looms, Bergevin must Trade with Caution

Conférence de presse de Marc Bergevin (Vice-président exécutif et directeur général, hockey) sur le bilan de saison du Canadien au Complexe Sportif de Brossard le vendredi 15 mai 2015. MARTIN CHEVALIER / LE JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL / AGENCE QMI.

The mid way point of the season is in the rear view mirror, and once the All-Star break has come and gone, the trade deadline will be within striking distance. While his actions are never telegraphed, it is fair to say that Marc Bergevin is doing everything he can to improve his hockey team. At least Elliotte Friedman said so. While the trade deadline has become a formality over the last few seasons with teams opting out of the over-advertised frenzy, this is the first trade deadline that will precede an expansion draft in the salary cap era, and Bergevin should approach it with appropriate caution.

The expansion to Las Vegas adds a bit of intrigue to the trade deadline on March 1st, but it may not be for the better.

First let’s look at the expansion rules for existing NHL franchises. Via NHL.com.

* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

* All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

* All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

These rules seem pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t dwell on them too much. The main concept to take away from this memo is that NHL teams have to pick between taking only eight skaters to protect more than three defenseman, or taking ten skaters while only protecting three defenseman.

Those were the protection rules, but there are also rules for the amount of players teams must expose for selection.

i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

These rules are in place to stop rebuilding teams like, say, the New York Islanders from trading away all of their defenseman for ineligible players who cannot be selected by Las Vegas. Everyone has to share.

So what do all of these rules have to do with the Canadiens and the trade deadline? First, here’s the list of the Canadiens’ forwards that will be expansion draft eligible as they appear on CapFriendly’s expansion tool:

Habs Expansion Draft Forwards

 

Jacob De la Rose technically isn’t eligible, as he would need to play in 40 NHL games to require protection. As of today, Daniel Carr needs to play 12 more games before he would need a protection in the expansion draft. Alexander Radulov is not under contract next season, meaning that he is ineligible to be protected by the Canadiens, but that is likely to change so I will treat him as if he were eligible for selection. Here are my seven: Radulov, Pacioretty, Shaw, Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Byron, Danault.

Now lets tie this back to the trade deadline and some of the “available” pieces. Say Bergevin want’s to acquire Matt Duchene (just an example, calm down) and they don’t want to move a roster forward to do it. Let’s say it costs the Canadiens a 1st round pick, Noah Juulsen, Jared Tinor- uhhh, I mean Nathan Beaulieu, and whatever else you want to throw in that isn’t on the above list. Who do you leave out? In the seven I selected, you already miss out on Daniel Carr (assuming he plays enough games), but now you might also have to expose Paul Byron. Or if you have Carr on your original list, you now have to expose Byron. Because Duchene is under contract next year, he requires protection from Las Vegas.

In any trade like the above Duchene example, you need to factor in potential losses in expansion. If I acquire Duchene, I will most likely lose Paul Byron or Daniel Carr. And, again, that Duchene bit is just an example. I’m terrible at making up trades.

A look at the defense reveals that picking three blueliners may be more difficult than expected:

Habs Defense Expansion

Jeff Petry is the only skater protected by a no-movement clause, so he must automatically be protected by the Canadiens. Shea Weber obviously receives the second protection, because he’s Shea Weber. Don’t over-think this. And third we have…. Well, who do we have third? Do you protect Alexei Emelin because he’s Weber’s partner? Or do you hope that Emelin’s $4.1 million contract protects him enough and do you sign Beaulieu to extension and protect him instead? And what if Andrei Markov comes back? Do you want to resign him before he hits free agency? And if Greg Pateryn returns to play 13 more games, and I expect he will, he then needs a protection too. Also, not listed, Mark Barberio will need protection if he appears in 21 more games, which may or may not happen depending on the health of the team moving forward.

And there have been rumors about the Canadiens acquiring a top two defenseman since the beginning of the season. Let’s say Bergevin acquires a Shattenkirk or a Fowler and it doesn’t cost him a roster defenseman. Who do you expose then?

Of course, all of this only applies to players who have contracts past this season. This roster management doesn’t apply to rental players, as they don’t matter in the way that players with contracts do.

The point of this analysis was not to throw cold water on trade chatter, but to keep everything in perspective. If you try to acquire a guy that is under contract for next season, you must consider the potential expansion claim as part of the trade.

Instead of getting Matt Duchene for X+Y+Z, you got him for X+Y+Z+Paul Byron/Daniel Carr. Instead of getting Kevin Shattenkirk for X+Y+Z, you get him for X+Y+Z+Alexei Emelin/Greg Pateryn. Maybe these alterations are not enough to deter Bergevin from either of these trades, but it should be an important aspect in every trade negotiation headed into expansion. Maybe the Canadiens can survive without a Byron or a Carr in the future. Who knows? Every team is going to lose a player, but being able to control which player you lose may take some skillful roster management.

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan, and follow @rabidhabs for more news and analysis.

One Comment

  1. Jeff

    January 17, 2017 at 5:43 am

    If a major trade (such as for Duchesne) did occur it would be for one reason: so that Montreal can win a Stanley Cup. Mind you, I don’t think there will be such a MAJOR trade for many reasons. But the LAST thing on MB’s mind for a major trade should be the expansion draft, especially if it means a much better chance for the SC. After that the consideration is cost to the club (especially if a trade involved a 1st round pick and a guy like Sergachev) and only after that should MB think about the draft.