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Everything we know about who the Blackhawks will protect in the Las Vegas expansion draft

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The NHL is reportedly coming to Las Vegas, so here's what we know about who the Blackhawks will be able to protect in the expansion draft.

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For most teams figuring out how to prepare for the upcoming NHL expansion draft, which will help populate the roster of the new Las Vegas franchise, there are a lot of decisions to make. For the Blackhawks, who already have eight players tied up with no-movement clauses, the majority of their protected players list is already made up.

Based on the reported rules for the expansion draft, which have changed over the last few months, teams will be required to protect any player with a no-movement clause in his contract through the 2017-18 season. Chicago GM Stan Bowman has been fairly liberal in handing out those clauses to key players over the past few years, and the result is that much of the team's expansion draft situation is already laid out.

Still, there have been a lot of questions about who the Blackhawks will end up protecting, especially after the trade of Teuvo Teravainen, so let's dig in before the expansion process goes any further. Here's a look at the rules for the draft, who Chicago will need to protect and who we would protect with the team's remaining spots.

The rules

  • Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender (11 players) or eight skaters and one goaltender (nine players).
  • "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."
  • They've added an experience criteria. "A minimum of two forwards and one defenseman must be exposed who have played 40 games the previous season, or a total of 70 over the previous two."
  • Players holding no-movement clauses, including partial ones, that run through 2017-18 must be protected.
  • Each team can only lose a maximum of one player.

HOWEVER, it's important to note that Bill Daly said Thursday -- right after publishing of this post, naturally -- that the reported rules for expansion draft aren't quite accurate.

So if the rules prove significantly different from what's used in this breakdown, we'll post something new reflecting the new rules and update this post.

The automatically exempt players

Before getting into who the Hawks need to protect, let's clarify who they won't need to protect. Based on the CBA's definition of professional service time, any player with two years or less of experience in the NHL and/or AHL will be exempt. That's actually pretty great news for Chicago because it means that star forward Artemi Panarin, who will be completing his second NHL season in 2016-17, should be protected. The CBA doesn't include the KHL in accumulated professional service time like it does with the AHL, so Panarin will be among those who is automatically exempt and safe from Las Vegas.

Other crucial pieces who will be automatically protected include Nick Schmaltz, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Gustav Forsling and Tanner Kero. Hinostroza and Kero briefly played for Rockford in 2014-15 on amateur tryout contracts before making their full-season debuts on entry-level contracts in 2015-16. As such, they'll each only have two years of service time following the completion of the 2016-17 season and be exempt from the expansion draft. The same goes for any prospect signed this year, like Schmaltz, Motte and Forsling.

The automatically protected players

Eight players on Chicago have partial or full no-movement clauses through 2017-18: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. Those players will all be automatically protected in the expansion draft assuming they're all still on the team's roster by the end of the upcoming season.

Based on the 7-3-1 format, the Blackhawks wouldn't be able to protect any more defensemen or goaltenders. Keith, Hjalmarsson and Seabrook would be the three blue liners Chicago protects, and Crawford would be the lone goaltender.

That leave the team with two options: protect one more defenseman or three more forwards.

Who else would we protect?

This depends on which route you take. The re-signing of Andrew Shaw would also add a significant wrinkle here because he would be another forward in need of protection. The Blackhawks would have some crucial defensemen go exposed if they choose the 7-3-1 route, but they would also be forced to leave talented forwards exposed if they opted for the nine-player route. Here's how each of those options would look.

The 7-3-1 route

Going the 7-3-1 route, you're able to protect three more forwards.

One of those spots could go to center Marcus Kruger, depending on whether they would need him to meet the experience requirement. You would hope that depth guys like Richard Panik, Dennis Rasmussen and Brandon Mashinter would cover that, but Kruger could be left out there. The other forwards you would protect are probably former first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who has spent the past few years in the AHL and could be ready to make the NHL leap next season, and another one of the young forwards such as Kyle Baun. This year will be big for Hartman's future in Chicago, but among the pieces currently in house, he's the other forward you'd definitely protect.

And of course, if Shaw signs, then you'd protect Shaw, Kruger and Hartman.

The nine-player route

Given that protecting forwards like Kruger and Hartman isn't exactly the biggest priority, the Blackhawks might decide they'd rather expose those players and protect a defenseman instead. Going the nine-player route, you'd have the chance to retain a top young defenseman like Trevor van Riemsdyk or Ville Pokka.

However, going this route would not only expose Panik and Hartman, but a very useful player in Kruger (and potentially Shaw if he signs) as well. Barring some trades that shake up the present make up of the roster, you have to ask whether it's worth protecting a TVR or Pokka to leave Kruger exposed. My immediate reaction is that you let Kruger go if it means keeping cost-controlled young blue liners.

The wrap-up

So to break it all back down for you, here are the two protected lists that could play out for the Blackhawks. One uses the 7-3-1 format that would allow the team to protect the maximum of 11 players, while the other would let the team protect more than three defensemen.

The 7-3-1 projection

Protected: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman, Kyle Baun, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford

Exempt: Artemi Panarin, Erik Gustafsson, Nick Schmaltz, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Gustav Forsling, Tanner Kero, Robin Norell, Luke Johnson, Carl Dahlstrom, Nolan Valleau, Michal Kempny, all unsigned prospects

Available: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Ville Pokke, Viktor Svedberg, David Rundblad, Dillon Fournier, Mac Carruth, Richard Panik, Mac Carruth

Note: Available players list does not meet playing time requirement, but we're assuming that between now and the expansion draft, there will be an additional forward who play 40-plus games in 2016-17 or 70-plus games in 2015-17. For example, Dennis Rasmussen played 44 games in 2016-17, so if he's re-signed and appears in 26 games next season, they would be good along with Panik and TVR. And hey, if they really needed to, Kruger could be left unprotected.

The nine-player projection

Protected: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk/Ville Pokka, Corey Crawford

Exempt: Artemi Panarin, Erik Gustafsson, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Gustav Forsling, Tanner Kero, Robin Norell, Luke Johnson, Carl Dahlstrom, Nolan Valleau, Michal Kempny, all unsigned prospects

Available: Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman, Richard Panik, Trevor van Riemsdyk/Ville Pokke, Viktor Svedberg, David Rundblad, Dillon Fournier, Kyle Baun, Mac Carruth

* * *

So that's a general run through how the Blackhawks' situation with the expansion draft looks. The trade of Teravainen has made some impact because it takes away one piece in need of protection, although re-signing Andrew Shaw or bringing in outside help could leave the team with more expansion draft-eligible players. As such, this list will likely need updating at the end of the offseason, which we'll do when the time comes.

No matter what, the Hawks will likely be forced to leave some valuable players unprotected, and I'm guessing that's precisely how the NHL wanted it.

And because of all those no-movement clauses, there really aren't that many decisions for the Blackhawks to make. Either you go the 7-3-1 route and protect all of your good forwards at the expense of a solid, young defenseman, or you protect one of those young d-men and expose a couple forwards you wouldn't want to lose. It's important to remember that the team can only lose one player, though, so even if it exposed both TVR and Pokka, it's not like there's any risk of losing both of them.

Things will surely change a good deal before the 2017 expansion draft, from the final established rules by the league to the make up of the Blackhawks' roster, but this is where we're at. Expansion will hurt the Hawks to some degree, but hey, at least it appears they'd be losing a TVR and not a Toews.

UPDATE: This post was updated to reflect Artem Anisimov's no-movement clause and the signing of Nick Schmaltz.