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Which players the Habs should protect and expose in the Las Vegas expansion draft

A closer look at Montreal’s roster situation as we approach the expansion draft

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Later today, the Las Vegas franchise will announce their name, which means we’re inching closer to the famous expansion draft that will take place next summer.

The following rules were approved for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft:

Protected Lists

  • Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

  • All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).
  • All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).

Player Exposure Requirements

  • All clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:

i) One defenceman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club's protected list.

The Canadiens’ situation

The Habs are in a relatively healthy situation when it comes to players that are automatically protected. Jeff Petry is the only player who falls into that category, and he’s going to be on their protection list regardless.

Seeing as they don’t have an overabundance of defencemen to protect, in all logic they’ll choose to protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie, instead of eight skaters and one goalie.

Players exempt from the expansion draft:

Goaltenders: Michael McNiven, Hayden Hawkey, Zach Fucale, Charlie Lindgren.

Defencemen: Ryan Johnston, Simon Bourque, Arvid Henrikson, Noah Juulsen, Nikolas Koberstein, Brett Lernout, Victor Mete, Magnus Nygren, Tom Parisi, Mikhail Sergachev, Casey Staum, Colin Sullivan.

Forwards: Mark MacMillan, Jeremiah Addison, Daniel Audette, Will Bitten, Matt Bradley, Jake Evans, Jeremy Gregoire, Artturi Lehkonen, Michael McCarron, Joonas Nattinen, Michael Pezzetta, Martin Reway, Nikita Scherbak, Lukas Vejdemo.

Signed players that require protection:

Goaltenders: Carey Price

Defencemen: Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin, Mark Barberio, Greg Pateryn, Zach Redmond

Forwards: Daniel Carr, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, Tomas Plekanec

Restricted free agents that require protection:

Defencemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Joel Hanley, Alex Racine, Philip Samuelsson, Dalton Thrower

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Conor Crisp, Jacob de la Rose, Max Friberg, Alex Galchenyuk, Charles Hudon, Stefan Matteau.

As usual, Carey Price is #1. We can quickly add him to the protection list, along with the automatic inclusion of Jeff Petry.

That leaves us with seven forwards and two defencemen to protect.

Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber and Alex Galchenyuk are the easiest decisions, leaving the Canadiens with four forwards and one defencemen to protect.

Andrew Shaw should probably be next on that list, seeing as there’s no way the Canadiens will leave him unprotected after signing him to a six-year deal last summer.

With Paul Byron’s recent offensive explosion, you have to assume that the Canadiens will use one of their protected slots on their successful reclamation project. Byron won’t continue to score every three shots, but the fact of the matter is that he leads the Habs in goals this year.

That leaves two forwards and one defenceman.

This is where things get interesting. Keep in mind we haven’t talked about the unrestricted free agents that are in the mix. Here’s the list: Al Montoya, Andrei Markov, David Desharnais, Alex Radulov, Bobby Farnham, Brian Flynn, and Chris Terry.

Out of those players the only one that stands out is Radulov, seeing as he’s fitting in rather well with the Habs.

For the moment let’s keep a spot open for him, pending the results of contract extension negotiations.

As for Markov, as much as he’s a veritable legend of the modern edition of the Canadiens, if he re-signs with the team I don’t feel like he’s worth using a protection spot on, for a few reasons. Obviously he’s no spring chicken, but he can still play hockey. However seeing as the Vegas team will probably be terrible for their first few seasons, as most expansion teams are, I don’t see them claiming a 38-year-old defenceman that has played his entire career with one team.

Which brings us to one forward and one defencemen left to protect.

Once again, here’s the list of remaining players that would require protection: Nathan Beaulieu, Joel Hanley, Alex Racine, Philip Samuelsson, Dalton Thrower, Sven Andrighetto, Conor Crisp, Jacob de la Rose, Max Friberg, Charles Hudon, Stefan Matteau, Alexei Emelin, Mark Barberio, Greg Pateryn, Zach Redmond, Daniel Carr, Phillip Danault, Torrey Mitchell, and Tomas Plekanec.

For the remaining defenceman spot it’s a question of mobility versus grit, as both Beaulieu and Emelin bring different aspects to the table for the Canadiens. Even though he has struggled this year, given his age and potential, I believe the right move would be to protect Beaulieu and leave Emelin unprotected.

As for the last forward to be protected, it comes down to a few youngsters and one veteran. Once we filter out the white noise, we’re left of a choice between Carr, Danault, Hudon, Plekanec and Andrighetto.

Last time we went through this exercise I made the case that Plekanec should be left unprotected. It was a somewhat controversial opinion at the time, but one that should probably garner more support this time around. Plekanec’s offensive prowess has more or less vanished.

As for immediate risks of being claimed, I assume Danault is at the top of that list, which is why I would use the remaining spot on the young centre. He’s proven his worth this year, and the Canadiens are rather thin down the middle. Andrighetto cleared waivers earlier this season, and despite Habs fans’ awareness of Carr’s ability to score, he doesn’t have that reputation around the league.

Hudon would probably be Montreal’s riskiest player to leave unprotected. He’s young, is a restricted free agent, and has proven his worth in the AHL, although he’s yet to establish himself in the NHL. If Radulov isn’t re-signed, I would probably use the remaining protection spot on Hudon, but there’s an argument to be made that the Habs would be better off protecting Carr.

Which means the Canadiens’ protection list for the 2017 expansion draft would look like this:

Carey Price, Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Alex Radulov, and Philip Danault.

Leaving some decent players at risk of an expansion claim: Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon, Daniel Carr, Tomas Plekanec, Torrey Mitchell, Mark Barberio, Alexei Emelin and Greg Pateryn.

Obviously things can, and probably will, change from here to the expansion draft. These decisions hinge on whether or not the Habs will need to use a protection slot on Radulov, and if particular players, like Beaulieu or Carr, finish the season on a high note.

Regardless, the Canadiens will lose one player in the expansion draft, but they’re not at risk of losing any essential personnel.

Do you agree or disagree with the players protected and exposed? Let us know in the comments below!