The National Hockey League will be making a decision on expansion for the 2017-18 season prior to the June 24-25 Entry Draft Weekend in Buffalo. And in true “Let’s Make A Deal” fashion, there will be one of three doors the league will choose from.
Door Number One, where the message to Las Vegas and Quebec City is “keep waiting fellas.” Door Number Two will be complete with “Viva Las Vegas” theme music. And Door Number Three would also include “Welcome Back” for Quebec City, in addition to the Vegas soundtrack.
The most likely scenario is Door Number Two, with a Je suis desole and better luck next time to the folks in Canada’s 418/581 area code.
So with that in mind, the Winnipeg Jets can go one of two routes. They can protect one goalie, three defencemen, and seven forwards. Or one goalie and eight skaters- regardless of the position they play.
First and Second Year pros are exempt, so Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp, Josh Morrissey, and Nic Petan would not have to be protected. But Connor Hellebuyck, Scott Kosmachuk and Marko Dano would have completed their third seasons by the time of the expansion draft following the 2016-17 schedule. So we are going to create the Jets list based on that criteria.
Hellebuyck will be the Jets slam dunk selection between the pipes. The trio of blue liners will include Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tyler Myers. Toby Enstrom will only have one year left on his deal, which includes a no movement clause. But as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out, the current CBA does not include a provision for expansion when it comes to NMC’s so it’s a good bet the league will take advantage of that loophole.
Up front, we’ll predict the Jets will protect Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia- and Kosmachuck and Dano even though both will be restricted free agents by the end of next season.
That would leave pending Restricted Free Agents Ben Chiarot and Alex Burmistrov along with Enstrom and veteran Mark Stuart as the only “contracted” players Winnipeg would risk losing to expansion. That’s because Ondrej Pavelec, Mathieu Perreault, Drew Stafford, Chris Thorburn, Paul Postma, and Anthony Peluso are all going into unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2017.
So in conclusion, we don’t “think” Kevin Cheveldayoff, nor Jet fans, should a whole lot of sleep over which one of those 4 players becomes a Las Vegas Black Knight.