As the NHL loks to expand the league to more teams, it looks as though Quebec and Las Vegas will be getting the first 2 expansion teams. Both of the Quebec and Las Vegas arenas are said to be on target to be opened for business by next season, but it is reported that the projection for the newest teams to start playing will be for the 2016-2017 season. The last time that there was expansion in 2000 for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, the teams already playing in the NHL had two options of protecting some of their players exempt from getting taken away by the upstart teams. The first, which will be most likely what the Rangers will choose, you are allowed to protect 1 goalie, 5 defensemen (at least 1 defenseman with over 40 games played in 2015-2016 has to be exposed) , and 9 forwards (at least 2 forwards with 40 games played in the 2015-2016 season has to be exposed). The other option was 2 goalies, 3 defensemen, and 7 forwards. Each team could lose two players in the expansion. It will be up to new General Manager Jeff Gorton to choose the correct scenario for the Rangers in which option to choose and which players to expose in the draft. Some teams leave some bigname-big contract players out there but not many have ever been taken in these expansion drafts as teams are looking for young players with promise that can grow into a solid team. If the expansion teams are ready to go for next season, it would be off of this years roster as the exoansion draft was before July 1st and free agency back in 2000.
It would seem like the Rangers would pick the 1 goalie option if the draft is for the 2016-2017 season as Brandon Halverson will still not be exposed as he won't be signed yet after playing in Jr's again this season. It would expose all the other Rangers goalies in Mackenzie Skapski, Antii Raanta, and Magnus Hellberg as the most sought after in the Rangers system. Of the 5 defensemen, it would seem like Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, Kevin Klein, and Brady Skjei would be the best bet while exposing defensive key Dan Girardi and his $5.5 million cap hit for another 4 years hoping it would be enough of a deterent for a new team to go after younger and cheaper options. For the 9 forwards, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, Derrick Brassard, J.T. Miller, and Jesper Fast along most likely Pavel Buchnevich as the core. The Rangers will have to let some players like Dominic Moore, Oscar Lindberg, Emerson Etem, Jarrett Stoll, and Tanner Glass plus the AHL guys to get plucked by the expansion teams. It would seem that the Rangers will probably lose one of the goalies and a forward to expansion if it was to happen this coming June 26th like it did in 2000.
Alot of things will change between now and the expansion draft if it really is 2 years away, but the Rangers core seems to be set for the next few years. Halverson seems to be the heir to the throne when the King steps down, so losing a goalie isn't that big escpecially with Russian Igor Shesterkin in the pipeline. If an expansion team chooses to take a veteran dman that the Rangers may choose to expose, it could alter the top 4 depending if the Rangers choose to extend Yandle. The Rangers will make a few more moves this season and next offseason, but each of these moves have to be made while still keeping an eye on the future expansion draft.
With the league expanding to Quebec and Las Vegas, it would seem like a no-brainer that Detroit is heading back to the West . Quebec would take Detroit's spot in the Atlantic Division, while Vegas would play in the Pacific while Detroit goes back to the Central. Only time will tell and a week or 2 into September, the NHL is supposed to make the whole expansion announcement for keeps and the NHL's official gameplan for the start of the new franchises and how the draft will actually work. Traverse City prospect Tournament is right around the corner. LET'S GO RANGERS!