Montreal Canadiens expansion draft preview

The Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft is just around the corner, and the Canadiens still have some decisions to make.

Time is running out for the Montreal Canadiens to devise their strategy heading into the expansion draft. That plan will be ever-evolving in the final few days before rosters are frozen across the league.

The course has been altered once again with a swap of young defence prospect Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. A trade of a junior-aged prospect for a NHL player, which can be boiled down to an expansion-draft ineligible asset for one who will need protection, completely changes the game plan moving forward.

Montreal Canadiens acquire Jonathan Drouin

Before we get into the actual situation the Canadiens are faced with, first a reminder on how the draft will operate.

Expansion draft rules

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 defencemen, and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defencemen) 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 only have to automatically protect two players: Jeff Petry and Carey Price. Thankfully both players would have been on their protection list anyhow, so that particular rule doesn’t force them into a bad move.

The choice is simple for the Habs considering their current roster makeup and situation on defence: protect the most players possible, which means opting to protect a goaltender, seven forwards, and just three defencemen.

Players exempt from the expansion draft

Goaltenders: Michael McNiven, Hayden Hawkey, Zachary Fucale, Charlie Lindgren

Defencemen: Ryan Johnston, Simon Bourque, Arvid Henrikson, Noah Juulsen, Nikolas Koberstein, Brett Lernout, Victor Mete, Magnus Nygren, Tom Parisi, Casey Staum, Jakub Jerabek

Forwards: Mark MacMillan, Jeremiah Addison, Daniel Audette, Will Bitten, Matt Bradley, Jake Evans, Jeremy Gregoire, Artturi Lehkonen, Michael McCarron, Michael Pezzetta, Martin Reway, Nikita Scherbak, Lukas Vejdemo, Andreas Martinsen, Antoine Waked, Markus Eisenschmid

Signed players who require protection

Goaltenders: Carey Price, Al Montoya

Defencemen: Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin, Jordie Benn, Zach Redmond, Brandon Davidson

Forwards: Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Drouin, Charles Hudon

Restricted free agents who require protection

Defencemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Dalton Thrower, Brandon Davidson, Nikita Nesterov, Keegan Lowe

Forwards: Phillip Danault, Daniel Carr, Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob de la Rose, Stefan Matteau.

Unrestricted free agent who would require protection if signed

Andrei Markov, Alex Radulov, Dwight King, Brian Flynn

With Jeff Petry and Carey Price automatically protected, we’re left with seven forwards and two defencemen to protect.


We can assume the Canadiens won’t expose their best goal-scorer, which means the captain is next to earn a protection spot. After Max Pacioretty, the Habs will surely add Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher to their protection list, along with their most recent acquisition: Jonathan Drouin.

The final three forwards aren’t guarantees, but both Andrew Shaw and Phillip Danault are good bets to earn protection.

We’re down to one protection spot, and several worthy candidates.

Assuming that Alex Radulov signs after the expansion draft, the Canadiens will have to choose between players like Tomas Plekanec, Paul Byron, Charles Hudon, Torrey Mitchell, and Daniel Carr. Out of the lot, Byron and Hudon stand out as most skilled of those options, and the conversation could very well be going back and forth about those two players as the protection deadline approaches. As it stands, it’s tough to bet on potential versus established value, which means Paul Byron gets the edge. Although there’s a legitimate argument to be made regarding Hudon.


The Canadiens will definitely be protecting Shea Weber along with their automatic spot for Petry, which brings us to the last decision.

Despite Jordie Benn’s solid play, you’d believe that protecting Nathan Beaulieu is the right choice. He’s much younger, has more skill, and you can control his contract for longer than you could in Benn’s case. There’s also the need for puck-moving defencemen in the roster, seeing as the defensive core is rapidly aging.

If the Habs choose to move Beaulieu between now and the draft, they could use that spot on Benn (assuming they don’t need to use it on the player coming back), and hope that leaving a veteran like Alexei Emelin exposed could yield a significant salary cap relief.

Protected list

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

If Radulov does sign before the draft, the Canadiens may be forced to add Byron, Danault or Shaw to their final selection pool.

Obviously things can — and possibly will — change from here to the expansion draft. Regardless, the Canadiens will lose one player in the expansion draft, and they are at risk of losing a quality top-nine forward.

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

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