The NHL wants to get bigger. That much is certain as rumors swirl about possible expansion to cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, Kansas City and Quebec City in the next few years. Obviously such developments would have massive implications for both the league and the Blackhawks, who would likely need to expose several players to an expansion draft.
But who exactly would be at risk of leaving Chicago in such a scenario? As Stanley Cup of Chowder passes on, here are the eligibility rules for the last expansion draft back in 2000:
Exempt from the Expansion Draft are (i) all first and second-year pros and (ii) unsigned draft choices (except unsigned draft choices drafted from European clubs [drafted at least 4 years ago] and who remain unsigned).
So that means pretty much every important player to the 2014-15 Blackhawks would be up for grabs in a draft unless protected by the team. And while the league gives teams the ability to protect a lot of players, it makes a clear effort to leave talent for the new franchises entering existence. Here's a look at the two options offered to teams in 2000 (also via SCC)
In both cases, only one defenseman or goaltender could be picked from each team, and only two players could be picked from each team.
That gets us to the really important question here: Who should the Blackhawks actually protect if we get to this point? And frankly, expansion seems inevitable (with 2017 as the target date), so while this is a current hypothetical, prepare to lose some interesting players as the league continues to evolve.
Some guys are obvious locks to get protected, the Kanes and Keiths of the group, but if you can only protect 16 guys, that leaves an awful lot of talent available. Here's a quick look at the 16 guys I'd keep, using Option 1:
One goaltender: Crawford
Five defensemen: Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Rundblad, Leddy
Nine forwards: Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Saad, Smith, Shaw, Morin, Kruger
(We don't need to protect Teuvo because he lacks the experience to be eligible.)
Players left unprotected would include Versteeg, Rozsival and Bickell, covering the experience requirements for unprotected players, as well as guys like Raanta, Nordstrom and others. Basically, no matter how you slice it, good teams will need to give up useful players to expansion.
But what about you guys? Who would you protect once the expansion draft rolls around? It could happen as soon as next year, when Quebec's new arena is scheduled to open. Let us know what you think in the comments!