murray (4)NHL expansion in Las Vegas is certainly going to happen with the NHL’s target date being the 2017-2018 season. Quebec City also under consideration is considered a longshot.

From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN on two critical elements of the potential expansion draft rules.

[I: “Teams will have the option of either protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie in total; or go with the option of protecting eight skaters (whether they’re defensemen or forwards) and one goalie.”]

[II: “First- and second-year pros — those are players playing pro hockey at any level — will be exempt from the expansion draft; the bottom line is that if they are signed and playing pro hockey, they’re exempt in their first two years. But if they’re entering their third year of pro hockey, they’re no longer exempt for the expansion draft. Teams would have to either protect them or expose them.”]

The goal here from the NHL is to make the expansion team competitive from day 1 with this type of expansion draft increasing the likelihood of that happening.

If expansion happens for the 2017-2018 season, it would accelerate the Penguins pending goaltender situation as Matt Murray would be a third year pro and no longer exempt from the draft.

The expansion draft would force the Penguins hand in having to make a decision before next years trade deadline. There’s no way the team could take the risk of not protecting Murray, the NHL’s top goaltending prospect with the significant trade value he has and long-term value he has to the organization.

Murray’s presence gives Pittsburgh the opportunity to create needed cap space by moving Marc Andre Fleury and going young and cheap in goal.

The Penguins’, though, privately are saying Fleury will remain an untouchable no matter the circumstances due to how valuable Jim Rutherford believes Fleury is in the room and those above Rutherford are against moving a popular figure like Fleury with the team for sale.

Who knows, maybe another early playoff exit starts changing the mindset from higher-up’s. Regardless, this will be a fascinating situation to watch.

Another situation to watch is what happens with players who have full no trade clauses. Agents are fighting like hell behind the scenes that players with full No Trade Clauses/No Movement Clauses are going to be automatically protected from the expansion draft, while the league believes the CBA allows leeway for players with NTC/NMC to be eligible for the expansion draft. The league is going to try to get it.

That could be a potential win for the Penguins regarding one specific player To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!