What are the ramifications of the league’s expansion to Las Vegas as it pertains to the New York Islanders?

Ever since the Associated Press reported that the National Hockey League decided on Las Vegas as the site for a possible expansion, the New York Islanders fan base has been mulling possible repercussions.

The official announcement could follow the Board of Governors meeting on June 22 at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas. The earliest the league would expand is the 2017-18 season.

Besides being a new destination with unique attractions, the other big occurrence would be the expansion draft.

According to The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, team’s would have to choose between protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender (eleven players), or eight skaters and one netminder (nine players).

The later would be utilized if a team wishes to preserve more than a triad of blueliners. The Isles have three stalwart defensemen but also a pair of up-and-coming blueliners that they may want to safeguard.

The Isles also own a plethora of depth on offense, including a vaunted fourth line, a bona-fide superstar, and handful of teenagers.

It’ll be very interesting to see how general manager Garth Snow maneuvers the following list of draft parameters:

  • Las Vegas will be required to draft one player from every existing team.
  • Las Vegas will possess — at minimum — three goaltenders, nine defensemen and fourteen forwards.
  • Teams must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman who played in at least 40 games the previous season (2016-17) or 70 games the last two seasons (2015-17).
  • Las Vegas must select players with a total value of sixty to one hundred percent of the 2016-17 salary cap.
  • All players with two season or less of professional experience are exempt. A season is classified as ten or more games, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

There are two potential ramifications that the draft could have on the Isles’ gameplan.

First, as Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said via The Washington Post, “You try and add as much depth as you possibly can to anticipate one of your players leaving.”

And second, as the Post beautifully encapsulated, “One of the big unknowns of the process is how teams will handle pending unrestricted free agents.”

The later is of great importance because Cal Clutterbuck and Thomas Greiss will be UFA’s following this season. Will the Isles commit valuable spots to protect them, or take the risk that Las Vegas won’t take a gamble and draft them — attempting to sign them following the draft.

The following is mere speculation, but here is my guess as to who Snow would protect (assuming — and yes, I know what happens when one assumes — that Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin are let go in free agency and Greiss and Clutterbuck aren’t protected):

Forwards: John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Ryan Strome, 2016 FA Signee
Defensemen: Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy
Goalies: Jean-Francois Berube

Under this format, the Isles would leave Shane Prince, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Pulock, Thomas Hickey, Nikolai Kulemin and Alan Quine susceptible to the draft.

Although this is hypothetical (especially since the 2016-17 season hasn’t happened yet), many have marveled at the offensive depth the team possesses.

One player we have not discussed is Jaroslav Halak, the often injured netminder who helped the Isles advance to the postseason in 2014-15. He carries a large cap hit, so if he’s still on the squad by the time the draft rolls in, he’ll probably be ousted.

Skaters: Tavares, Nielsen, Cizikas, Nelson, Hamonic, Boychuk, Leddy, Ryan Pulock
Goalies: Berube

Although this format allows the Isles to protect Ryan Pulock, it doesn’t give them the ability to safeguard some forwards — notably Nelson, Lee and Strome.

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Another variable are the young guys. Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle, Mathew Barzal and Joshua Ho-Sang can all have bright futures in this league.

Which players would you protect if (when) the expansion draft takes place?

NEXT: Islanders’ Vande Sompel Fell Off Radar In 2015-16

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Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.