As I mentioned in the FanShot earlier today, a bunch of SB Nation hockey sites are coordinating a "what-if?" summer diversion: Namely, if the NHL expanded to 32, where do they go (vote here), and what players would those teams have? (Two mystery GMs to be named later will do the drafting.)
That second question will be in part determined by each SBN team site, which means we need to get down to the business of protecting, finalizing a list by Thursday.
After the jump are the ground rules, based on a combo of rules used in prior NHL expansion drafts. As you'll see, these rules are awfully friendly to the fantasy New York Islanders GM in all of us. Though I'll have to decide on a final list to submit to the overlords, I will need and use your collective input to make sure I didn't overlook anyone:
Protected List Rules
- Teams can protect either "1 goalie, 5 defensemen and 9 forwards" OR "2 goalies, 3 defensemen and 7 forwards."
- If you go the two goalie route, at least one goalie left unprotected must have played in at least 10 games last season OR 25 games in the last two seasons combined. One game = at least 31 minutes.
- Each team must leave unprotected at least one defenseman who appeared in 40 games last season OR 70 games in the last two seasons combined.
- Each team must leave unprotected at least two forwards who appeared in 40 games last season OR 70 games in the last two seasons combined.
- Players who have played in 49 or fewer games are automatically exempt and do not need to be protected. [Note: This last rule was a bit arbitrary, but it was a way of including important young players (like John Tavares) while protecting those still in development.]
Decision 1: 1/5/9, or 2/3/7?
Our first decision is pretty easy, given the Islanders goalie situation, and it actually sets us up perfectly for the rest of the process: Only two goalies have NHL experience, so we only need to protect one goalie: Why? Because Rick DiPietro has a 15-year deal and uncertain knees, so no way on this planet would an expansion team claim him. (Ironically, if we had the need to protect two goalies, DiPietro would not be eligible to be our unprotected guy because he hasn't played 25 games over the last two seasons.)
Protected: Dwayne Roloson
Unprotected: Rick DiPietro (all other goalie properties are exempt)
That means we get to protect five D and nine forwards, which makes the rest of this exercise a whole lot easier.
Decision 2: Which defenseman?
Thankfully, Andrew MacDonald has played exactly 49 NHL games (yay for poorly timed foot injuries!), so he is exempt. That means we get to choose five others to protect, leaving two unprotected. The candidates:
Mark Streit, James Wisniewski, Jack Hillen, Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina, Radek Martinek, Bruno Gervais
Personally, I'd venture Bruno is one, while the second decision is between Jurcina and Martinek. Martinek is the better defenseman, but is he healthy enough to hold on to? Or is his health history enough to scare off another team? Jurcina has an attractive salary, Martinek has an attractive game (when healthy). Since we can only lose one of these guys, I'm protecting Martinek, reasoning that Gervais and Jurcina are a wash -- if we lose one, the other one stays and fills that 7th-D role. Meanwhile, the risk of losing Martinek is scarier, because if he's healthy again he's a guy who can actually handle facing the Ovechkins of the world.
So I'm proposing:
Protect: Streit, Wisniewski, Hillen, Eaton, Martinek (A-Mac is exempt)
Unprotected: Gervais, Jurcina
Secondary question: Since that wasn't so hard, who would you choose if we could only protect three D-men?
Decision 3: Which forwards?
We can only protect nine, but we have to leave two unprotected. Again, thanks to the draft's rules, our decisions are pretty straightforward. Here are the eligible candidates:
Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Andy Hilbert, Trent Hunter, Zenon Konopka, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Rob Schremp, Jon Sim, John Tavares.
Incredibly, Hilbert meets the criteria of a guy we can leave unprotected (40 games last season OR 70 games over the last two seasons) thanks to him seeing 4 games for the Wild last year, which pushed his two-season total up to 71. In the name of Zenon Konopka, whew!
Due to a rule that we maybe should have altered, Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu, Trevor Gillies and P.A. Parenteau do not qualify because they have not played 49 NHL games yet...
...which means this exercise is an unbelievable cakewalk as far as our team is concerned. Simple solution:
Protected: Bailey, Comeau, Hunter, Konopka, Moulson, Nielsen, Okposo, Schremp, Tavares
Unprotected: Hilbert, Sim
Hey, I didn't write the rules. I just leveraged 'em.
However, I'm thinking: 1) It's no surprise that a mock-expansion draft wouldn't leave many prime unprotected bits from the Islanders roster, and 2) That's probably just as well, as a draft like this should be designed not to hurt teams that are still climbing their way back from the bottom. Viva le rebuild!
Secondary question: As with the D-men, if we chose two goalies and thus could only protect seven forwards, which ones would you choose? For me it's Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Moulson, Nielsen, Schremp, Comeau, leaving Konopka and Hunter at great risk.