NHL Expansion Draft: the basics for the Tampa Bay Lightning

With the upcoming expansion draft, it’s important to understand the current player contracts and how they impact GM Steve Yzerman’s protection list.

Article updated on June 16, 2017 to reflect the current roster after trading Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens.

With the upcoming expansion draft to determine the roster for the Vegas Golden Knights, the Tampa Bay Lightning have to make some important decisions regarding which players they will choose to protect. The rules of the expansion draft take into account the contract clauses, so let’s start with a brief description of the three major clauses.

Contract Clauses

  • No Trade Clause (NTC): A player cannot be traded to any other team in the NHL without his consent.
  • Modified No Trade Clause (M-NTC): A player can be traded only to specific teams in the NHL without his consent. This is how both Valtteri Filppula and Ben Bishop were moved this year.
  • No Movement Clause (NMC): A player cannot be traded to any other team in the NHL nor can the player be re-assigned to the AHL (Syracuse Crunch) without his consent. /

Players can opt to waive any of these clauses at any time. For instance, Jason Garrison waived his NTC when he was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to Tampa. That does not invalidate his NTC moving forward — he cannot be traded from Tampa without his consent.

Expansion Draft Rules

You can read the complex, convoluted rules on the NHL’s official website, but I’ll give you the simplified version here and focus in on the rules that specifically impact the Lightning.

  • Teams may choose to protect: EITHER seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie (7 F / 3 D / 1 G) OR eight skaters and one goalie (8 F+D / 1 G). The Lightning are likely to choose 7 F / 3 D / 1 G.
  • Players with a NMC must be protected by the team unless the player chooses to waive their right to protection.
  • Players who have played more than two seasons of professional hockey (this includes both the AHL and the NHL) are eligible to be taken in the expansion draft. This means young players like Brayden Point (1 season in the NHL) and Adam Erne (2 seasons in the AHL) are exempt from being selected in the draft./

Okay. Those are the basics. There are more rules about meeting certain exposure requirements, but the Lightning should be able to do that regardless of who they choose to protect.

A few more brief details before we dig into the data. There are three types of player contract statuses. Players can be under contract, such as Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman who both signed long-term deals. Players between contracts fall into two distinct categories: restricted free agents (RFAs) and unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Simply put, UFAs are free to sign with any team in the NHL on July 1, while RFAs are limited to only signing with the Lightning. There are some exceptions to this (offer sheets, etc) but that’s the gist of it.

Tampa Bay Lightning Players

Now that we have a framework for the different types of contract clauses as well as the simplified draft rules, let’s take a look at what contracts General Manager Steve Yzerman has to work with. The following is a list of all players in the Lightning organization who are eligible for the expansion draft. All contract information comes from CapFriendly.

For players who are between contracts (UFAs and RFAs), I have listed their salaries from last year. Some of these players are likely to earn significant raises and have higher cap hits next season.


Stamkos, StevenNMC27$8,500,0002024NHL
Callahan, RyanNMC32$5,800,0002020NHL
Killorn, AlexNTC27$4,450,0002023NHL
Kucherov, Nikita23$4,766,6672019NHL
Namestnikov, Vladislav24$1,937,5002018NHL
Brown, J.T.26$1,250,0002018NHL
Paquette, Cedric23$812,5002018NHL
Johnson, Tyler26$3,333,333RFANHL
Palat, Ondrej26$3,333,333RFANHL
McKegg, Greg24$700,000UFANHL
Condra, Erik30$1,250,0002018AHL
Conacher, Cory27$575,000UFAAHL
Gourde, Yanni25$575,000UFAAHL
Vermin, Joel25$575,000UFAAHL
Bournival, Michael25$575,000RFAAHL
Dumont, Gabriel26$575,000UFAAHL
Froese, Byron26$575,000UFAAHL
Ikonen, Henri23$616,667RFAAHL
McGinn, Tye26$575,000RFAAHL
Halmo, Mike26$575,000UFAAHL
Fournier, Stefan25$632,500UFAAHL
Letourneau-Leblond, Pierre-Luc32$575,000UFAAHL

All right, let’s tackle this list of 23 players first and try to whittle it down to seven names to protect in the expansion draft. We’ll start with the obvious - two players have NMCs which means they must be protected. Let’s assume Ryan Callahan is not going to waive his NMC.

Stamkos and Callahan occupy two of the seven spots. That leaves five spots open for the remaining forwards. Since the Lightning traded Jonathan Drouin, this decision becomes much more straight-forward.

My list (in order of importance) for the remaining five players who need to be protected is: Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Alex Killorn.

The only other enticing player available is Yanni Gourde. The reason I left him off this list is simple - he’s a UFA. There is a brief window for the Golden Knights to negotiate with UFAs prior to the expansion draft, so it’s possible that the Knights pursue Gourde and sign him. I don’t believe that is likely because while Gourde is a talented forward, he’s not a highly sought after free agent (like Kevin Shattenkirk). Vegas is more likely to wait until July 1 to talk to him, assuming he is unsigned. This allows them to pursue Gourde as a UFA in addition to whatever other player they already poached from the Bolts roster.

Projected list of protected forwards: Stamkos, Callahan, Kucherov, Palat, Johnson, Namestnikov, and Killorn.


Hedman, VictorNMC26$7,875,0002025NHL
Stralman, AntonNTC30$4,500,0002019NHL
Coburn, BraydonNTC32$3,700,0002019NHL
Garrison, JasonNTC32$4,600,0002018NHL
Sustr, Andrej26$1,450,000RFANHL
Witkowski, Luke27$575,000UFANHL
Koekkoek, Slater23$894,167RFAAHL
Dotchin, Jake23$616,667RFAAHL
Taormina, Matt30$575,000UFAAHL
Blujus, Dylan23$742,500UFAAHL
Racine, Jonathan24$660,000RFAAHL

Let’s continue to assume the Lightning are choosing to protect 7 F / 3 D / 1 G. The only defenseman with a NMC is Victor Hedman, so he takes one of the three spots. I believe Anton Stralman has earned the second protection slot, which leaves one spot open between the remaining players.

The two most likely candidates for the third defenseman are Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin. This choice is likely the most contentious among the fan base. I think Koekkoek gets the edge here based on his potential and upside. Yes, Dotchin looked great at the end of the season, but keep in mind it was a very small sample size and he spent the vast majority of his time partnered with Norris Trophy Finalist Victor Hedman.

Ultimately, I think Yzerman should offer up a lower-round pick in exchange for a guarantee that Vegas won’t select either one of these young defensemen in the expansion draft.

Projected list of protected defensemen: Hedman, Stralman, and Koekkoek. Possible offer of a lower round draft pick to guarantee Vegas doesn’t take Dotchin.


Vasilevskiy, Andrei22$3,500,0002020NHL
Budaj, Peter34$600,000UFANHL
McKenna, Mike34$575,000UFAAHL
Gudlevskis, Kristers24$575,000RFAAHL

This one is fairly easy. Andrei Vasilevskiy is Tampa’s number one goalie.

Projected list of protected goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy.


The Tampa Bay Lightning are likely to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The only three players that must be protected are Stamkos, Callahan, and Hedman - the rest is up for debate. General Manager Steve Yzerman has until June 17th at 5:00 PM to make his choices. His track record shows he is an intelligent, judicious man who carefully considers all of his options before reaching a final decision. I have faith that he will apply that same tact and wisdom in this situation and the Lightning will come out of the expansion draft without losing anyone too valuable.

If you have any questions or need any clarification on the expansion draft, feel free to leave it in the comments below and I’ll be sure to respond.