The Runner Sports

Arizona Coyotes Expansion Draft Outlook

NHL expansion draft details

This past June, the National Hockey League announced that it had approved an expansion franchise to Las Vegas, NV. The franchise, which will begin play in 2017-18, marks the first league expansion since 2000 when the NHL added two franchises – Columbus and Minnesota. Each team must submit a list of exposed players to the draft so the new Vegas Golden Knights may choose their new roster. The expansion protection list is due June 17 and the Knights’ selections are due on June 20 with the selections announced on June 21. Many teams, including the Arizona Coyotes, have choices to make as to who to protect in this draft.

The basic rules for each of the current 30 NHL teams to use is as follows:

Each team will be allowed to either protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender or one goaltender and eight skaters, regardless of position. They must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in the 2016-17 season, or more than 70 games in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons combined. They must still be contracted for the 2017-18 season.

The new Vegas Golden Knights will suit up a competitive team due to the number of protected players being reduced since the last expansion in 2000. That last expansion draft had different quotas. Each team could protect nine forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie, or two goalies, three defensemen, and seven forwards. The Knights must select a minimum of fourteen forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. At least twenty of the thirty players selected by Vegas must be under contract for the 2017-18 season.

That’s quite a detailed guideline, and has some teams reeling as to what moves to make to protect vulnerable players they wish to keep.

Who are the Arizona Coyotes protecting in the expansion draft?

Fortunately, new Coyotes general manager, John Chayka, has stockpiled draft picks to give him some negotiating breathing room. Per Sarah McLellan of, “General Manager John Chayka said probably half of his discussions on deadline day were related to the expansion draft, and the Coyotes certainly could use their picks to land established players from teams who are at risk of losing them for nothing if they have to expose them in the draft.

As it stands now, the Coyotes are poised to have seven entry draft selections in 2017 after adding a second first-rounder (from Minnesota in the Martin Hanzal/Ryan White trade) and a third-round choice from Calgary in the Michael Stone trade.”

The most desirable expansion draft choice for the Coyotes would be as follows:

Protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender. Using this option, the Coyotes could protect forwards Jamie McGinn, Jordan Martinook, Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, and Brad Richardson. The defensemen protected would include Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, and goalie Mike Smith while leaving Luke Schenn exposed. That could mean as many as two protected-forward slots available (if they also expose Alexander Burmistrov). Those two forwards could be Radim Vrbata and Teemu Pulkkinen. Richardson seems more pressing since the team traded away Martin Hanzal before the deadline.

Losing Schenn would not be a terrible loss since both Anthony DeAngelo and Kyle Wood are right-handed shooting defensemen. DeAngelo has played 27 games with four goals and seven assists. Wood is tearing it up in the AHL with impressive numbers of 13 goals and 25 assists in 54 games. He also is a huge presence, standing 6’ 5”, 235 pounds.

It’s roll the dice time

The guessing game continues when one tries to evaluate if the Coyotes should keep expensive goalie Mike Smith. His $5.667 million salary may be the difference in retaining him or exposing him. The Yotes’ salary situation with only about $45 million committed to 16 players next season, and more low-priced youth (Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer) likely to join the team next season, means they will need Smith’s high cap hit to exceed the cap basement… again. Giving up on Louis Domingue may be the wiser option, especially if Adin Hill of the AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners, continues his excellent play. Hill’s statistics show some promise with a 2.98 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage.

So, it looks like the Knights could possibly choose between Schenn, Domingue, or Burmistrov when they need to make a selection from the Coyotes’ unprotected roster. Of course, this is all crystal ball kind of predictions, and other scenarios could transpire. Chayka could sign some free agents, or make some deals with teams who would want some draft picks belonging to Arizona in exchange for a player or two.

Anything is possible, and when you’re talking about Las Vegas, that is especially the case.