In less than six months, the entire shape of the NHL will be shifted.
The potential NHL expansion draft is rapidly approaching and a big factor for it has yet to be determined. No trade clauses and no movement causes have become far more prevalent in NHL contracts over the last half decade. They put the NHL and NHLPA in a tough situation regarding the use of the players who have them in the expansion draft.
Option #1: players with clauses cannot be taken in the draft, but do have to be protected by their team
This means that anyone with a no movement or no trade clause (or whatever/whichever they decide) would be required to remain on their team at the expense of a protection spot being taken. This means that, for example, the Bruins would have to protect Zdeno Chara if he is still around. Also, the Penguins would be forced to protect Marc-Andre Fleury, meaning prized prospect Matt Murray would be available for the taking. Another example is Ryane Clowe, who technically has a no movement clause, as he is signed until the summer of 2018. Would New Jersey be forced to protect him?
I highly doubt teams want this option. Owners and management personnel do not like these clauses to begin with, so being stuck with them won’t be too appealing.
Option #2: players with clauses cannot be taken in the draft, but do not have to be protected by their team
This seems like a better option, but it still has it’s loopholes. For one, a team like Chicago for example, would not have to protect Hjalmarsson, Keith, Crawford, Toews, Kane, or Seabrook. Same thing with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang, and Fleury in Pittsburgh. This leaves those two teams eligible to protect more depth players, a luxury teams like Edmonton with only Sekera and Talbot and New York with only Boychuk would not get.
The use of this tactic would also see the number of no movement clauses increase in the upcoming years since general managers and players alike will know that they won’t have to waste a protection spot on a player with said clause.
Option #3: players with clauses are still eligible to be taken in the expansion draft
The NHLPA and it’s player representatives will fight this one. It seems like the most reasonable option from a business and fairness standpoint, but a contractual agreement is a contractual agreement. This option would leave certain names like Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, and Alex Burrows, to name a few, eligible to possibly be taken.
There is no indication to believe that any expansion team would want these players, but it largely affects the teams these players currently play on.
Nothing is written in stone, at least not yet. Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, and the NHL brass will have a lot of thinking to do before they decide what to do about these clauses, albeit time is at a minimum. The decision they make will have gigantic implications on how the next few offseasons and the expansion draft itself play out.
It’s an issue that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.