Top 20 NHL Players Who Could Be Available In An Expansion Draft

The NHL will hold a vote prior to this June's draft to decide whether to expand in time for the 2017-18 season with Las Vegas and Quebec City being the most likely destinations for new teams. Once we know whether they will add one team, two teams, or none at all – a scenario that's difficult to envision – we can look forward to the expansion draft. The league's general managers have already laid the groundwork for the draft's rules.

Under the proposed rules, existing teams would be allowed to protect one goaltender and their choice of either seven forwards and three defensemen or any combination of eight skaters. Prospects and players with less than three years of pro hockey experience will be exempt from the draft and each team can only lose one player in a one team expansion or two players in a two team expansion.

One decision that hat hasn't entirely been made is what to do about no-move clauses. A player with a NMC can't be traded or placed on waivers without his permission, but the league's collective bargaining agreement doesn't say anything about an expansion draft. According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, players with such provisions will likely be ineligible for selection, so for the purposes of this list, we're going to assume that is the case and that those players would count amongst a team's protected players, otherwise those teams would have an unfair advantage. No-trade clauses, on the other hand, may be a different story. Players with NTCs can be waived and demoted, so we'll assume they'd be expansion draft eligible.

Now that we have a pretty good idea of the format, let's take a look at the top players who could be available in an NHL expansion draft:

20 Malcolm Subban

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

19 Trevor van Riemsdyk

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

18 Calvin de Haan

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sportsx

17 Jakob Silfverberg

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few teams who could be forced to expose multiple valuable players due to having to protect players with no-movement clauses, but the Anaheim Ducks may be the most prominent. Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa both possess NMCs that begin kicking in next season and the Ducks would be forced to protect them when they'd likely be better off not. The Ducks are a team built with a strong and youthful back-end and would likely want to protect defensemen Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm in addition to Bieksa, meaning they'd only be able to protect four forwards.

16 Simon Despres

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Due to their surplus of premium young defensemen, the Ducks would also have to leave 24-year-old Simon Despres off their protection list. The former first round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins hasn't quite shown as much offensive potential in Anaheim as he did in Pittsburgh with just four assists on the score sheet this season, but he's also fifth on the Ducks defensive depth chart. He'd likely have to assume a top four role on an expansion team if they we're to take on the final four years of his five year deal that pays him $3.7 million per year beginning next season.

15 Matt Read

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

14 Carl Gunnarsson

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

13 Leo Komarov

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have done a good job of stockpiling young players and draft picks over the past year, but unfortunately for them a few of those players, namely William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov, and Kasperi Kapanen, turned pro in Europe last season before making their way to North America this season and won't be exempt from protection. They're not likely to lose any prospects of significance, but could lose a veteran player or two.

12 Matt Murray

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

11 Andrei Vasilevskiy

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Whether of not Steven Stamkos re-signs in Tampa Bay and what the Lightning ultimately get in a Jonathan Drouin trade will be majors factors in which skaters they decide to protect, but their most interesting situation involves their goaltending. Starter Ben Bishop has proven himself to be among the league's elite, while 21-year-old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy has the potential to be the real deal as well. What makes things really intriguing is the fact that Bishop is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017.

10 Jimmy Howard

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

9 Marco Scandella

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

8 Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

7 Mikael Granlund

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

6 Nino Niederreiter

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

5 Cam Atkinson

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

4 Mike Hoffman

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

3 Rick Nash

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

2 Frederik Andersen

via Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

1 Shea Weber

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

At 30 years of age, the Nashville Predators captain is clearly on the decline, but he'll still have another nine years left on his contract heading into the expansion draft. The Predators have a strong defensive core and they'll likely want to protect Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, meaning they'll need to expose Weber in order to maximize the number of forwards they can protect. There's a good chance that an expansion team wouldn't want to take on such a large contract and if they did, it would benefit the Predators to be rid of it, so exposing Weber only makes sense, even if the optics of making the face of the franchise available suggest otherwise.

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Top 20 NHL Players Who Could Be Available In An Expansion Draft