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Expansion draft: Alex Biega as a forward?

Earlier this afternoon, TSN 1040 host Matthew Sekeres dropped some information on Alex Biega and the expansion draft:

My first reaction, along with many others was ‘What?’

That is a reasonable response, as at first glance it makes zero sense. After further investigation, it still makes little sense at this moment, but there is some reasoning behind it, I think. But it appears to be misguided.

We’ll start with the expansion draft rules, which are located here. There are some regulations outlined on who Vegas may select:

Regulations Relating to Expansion Franchise

* The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players (not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules).

* The Las Vegas franchise must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.

There is no definition on the maximum of each position that Vegas must select, just that they must take 14 forwards, 9 defencemen and 3 goalies. So, in theory they could just take 14 forwards, 13 D and 3 G and be on their way.

Furthermore, there is no definition about what a forward or defencemen is. We say that Alex Biega is a defencemen because he has played D for his entire career. But play him at forward, wouldn’t he technically be a forward?

A goalkeeper is outlined in the NHL rule-book, but not positional skaters.

Not that I necessarily agree with that, but that is a defensible argument and likely what the Canucks will use to say that Biega is a forward. As he is playing over healthy forwards.

But Vegas won’t have issue reaching either minimum.

Player Exposure Requirements

* All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:

i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.

This has been discussed ad nauseam over the last few months. But does relate here because, maybe the Canucks are trying to meet the exposure requirements on forward. However, at this moment, the Canucks have Derek Dorsett who meets the requirements. While forward Joseph Cramarossa, Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, Jack Skille, and Jayson Megna would meet the requirements once signed to a new contract.

This is another chance to re-iterate, having Biega meet the requirements does not mean that someone like Gaunce will be ‘protected’. Gaunce will still be exposed, and can be chosen by the Golden Knights. It just means there is another forward available. If that is what Biega is deemed as.

The argument can be made that by making this change, it allows the Canucks to trade Biega to another team who needs to meet the forward exposure requirements. At quick glance of the exposure lists on capfriendly.com – all other teams just need to re-sign one or two of their pending RFA to meet the requirements, and be on their way.

Toronto was a team who possibly needed a forward to meet the requirements, so they acquired Eric Fehr.

It’s a far-fetched plan, as the team who needed to meet the requirements could just make a deal with Vegas to not take a certain player. Not take on Biega.


The logical argument is that the Canucks want to have Biega deemed a forward, so that they can convince Vegas to take him. Offer a late pick, take Biega, protect Gaunce and move on.

But there is no reason to make Biega a forward to make this happen. If you choose to offer a pick to make sure Vegas doesn’t take Gaunce and takes Biega instead, it doesn’t matter of the position. You could just offer that late round pick to Vegas and have them select Biega.

The Golden Knights could just take 14 forwards from other teams, then take 13 defencemen (including Biega) and 3 goalies.

Furthermore, it requires the NHL to allow a change to a player’s position, although undefined within the rulebook, is still pushing the boundaries on what would be allowed. It’s highly likely that if the Canucks were to propose this, that the NHL would shut it down as it pushing the ‘convention of the game’. It’s unwritten, but it’s common and assumed knowledge.

If, and that’s a huge if, the NHL did let it happen – it’s impossible that they would then allow the Canucks to trade Biega, and the acquiring team use him as a forward.

It is thinking outside of the box a bit, but after looking into further, it’s clear that there doesn’t appear to be a logical or reasonable way that this ends with the Canucks obtaining any sort of benefit.

*Edit:

Since this post was completed, Dan Murphy from Sportsnet debunked this suggestion after speaking with GM Jim Benning.

Suddenly the confusion outlined above, makes more sense.

  • “The logical argument is that the Canucks want to have Biega deemed a forward, so that they can convince Vegas to take him. Offer a late pick, take Biega, protect Gaunce and move on.” I hope fans aren’t thinking that McPhee is an idiot and will accept trades like it’s NHL 94. McPhee is in a great position to exploit surplus prospects thanks to expansion draft rules that were designed to work in his favour. Teams like Minnesota have a major problem, guaranteed to lose a great defenceman. The Canucks will lose a good player or a good draft pick to protect said player so don’t blame Benning when it happens. He did a great job of solving the Granlund/Baertschi/Hansen problem at the trade deadline.

    • Neil B

      McPhee is on record that he will take other teams’ wish lists for unprotected players. “How much am I bid for Grubbaur/Jarnkrok/Ellis/Maata etc.”. If I want Silfverberg & can’t cut a deal with Anaheim, then I go to George with that offer, plus perhaps a sweetener on my side, and try to cut a deal with him. I’m guessing that the Vegas roster on June 22 will not make it past the draft on June 24 unscathed.

  • Carl Jung

    I’m not sure any other fan base would worry about potentially losing Brendan freaking Gaunce.

    One thing is for certain: it does not matter which player the Canucks lose. It will be considered “bad asset management” by the loudest CA voices.

  • Sllew

    Maybe they don’t want to be forced to re-sign one of Gaunce, Chaput, Cramarossa, etc. before the expansion draft. Are we sure Dorsett’s injury isn’t considered a “potential career-ending” one?

  • dbaz86

    Im not sure why they are saying Dorsett is one of the forwards for the expansion draft.
    There is clearly a rule that says players who miss 60+ consecutive games are not eligible for the expansion draft. At the end of the season Dorsett will have 64 consecutive games missed, meaning he is ineligible.

    • Ryan Biech

      The language is as follows:

      * Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury).

      Dorsett does not have a career threatening injury and is expected to return for next season. So yes, he meets the requirements.

        • dbaz86

          Its easy for us to assume he will be back. Heck, Im sure he will be. I included him on my eligible list for the longest time
          Yet by the draft he wont be cleared medically, he will still be doing rehab.
          His C5 and C6 were fused, and he had a disc removed. There could be setbacks in rehab, he could start practicing again and feel off. Any of these could lead him to thinking, is it worthwhile to possibly make this worse or do I want to stop and be fine for my kids when Im order.

          • Braindead Benning

            You make some very valid points.

            Even if his surgery and rehab perform miracles (which I hope happens), I just can’t see him able to come back and play his typical physical style game?

      • krutov

        that specific language doesn’t relate to eligibility for expansion, it relates to whether the injured player can be used to count as the required exposed players.

        my reading is that missing 60 consecutive games is the bright line test for a potential career threatening injury. anybody who crosses that line does not count towards exposure requirements. it would then be open to vegas to challenge players with injuries who have missed less games on a case by case basis.

        i’d say dorsett is exactly the kind of player that would not be allowed. the canucks are in big trouble if that’s their plan.

        • Carl Jung

          If Dorsett is ineligible, the play would simply be to sign Gaunce and/or Cramarossa to a one year extension depending on whether or not Biega is classified as a defenseman or perhaps Sbisa is traded.

          Whether Vegas takes on the last year of Sbisa’s contract or selects borderline NHLers like Gaunce or Pedan, the Canucks are not going to lose anything valuable.

  • krutov

    that seems monumentally dumb and unlikely. if i am vegas and somebody tries that, i turn the tables and argue they have to play all 40/70 games in the position they are exposed at. then i argue a guy like biega playing both positions doesn’t qualify as an exposed defenceman or forward because he hasn’t played enough at either spot.

    canucks need to be careful on this. they need to get two eligible forwards under contract, and if they are trying to save gaunce, they ideally don’t want to sign him since vegas can only take 10 unsigned rfas. that means they need to sign two of chaput/ boucher/ cramarossa/ megna before the expansion draft. that could end up costing them if they wait too long and run into a smart agent or two.

  • OMAR49

    Another way to look at it is by using this ploy the might be able to protect Biega. Granted Vegas could take him in the draft and convert him to a D-man but that would leave them with 13 forwards and 10 D-Man. If they want to take a forward Gaunce, or just about any other forward on the team would be a better choice. So they don’t take Biega and he gets to come back next year as the teams #7 D-Man who, in a pinch, can also play forward.

  • Jack Manning

    I think it’s pretty clear. If Biega is a forward, then they don’t have to re-sign anyone that they don’t want to re-sign just to meet eligibility requirements.

  • Killer Marmot

    The assumption is that the Canucks are doing this solely because of the expansion draft. There could, however, have a second motive. They might be wondering if Biega would make a decent fourth-line forward.

    Why? Because there will be numerous players that could replace Biega at defense next season: Gudbranson, Juolevi, Subban, Pedan, and so on. He is imminently replaceable where he is now.

    It might seem like a silly idea, but they have nothing to lose by trying. And the Canucks conducted a similar experiment with Pedan last year. Even if it fails, it’s an interesting training exercise for Biega that could improve his play at defense.

        • DJ_44

          Nothing against Bulldog. But the only thing Ferland and Biega have in common is they hit on the forecheck. Ferland is on a big power forward, the clears space for linemates and has hands and puck skills. That and he shots the puck. Think a bigger, more powerful Burrows….. Who can throw’em with both hands.

      • Killer Marmot

        Wingers that have played defense can be quite useful. They allow an aggressive defenseman to move to the opponent’s net knowing that his winger can fall back into the defense position and not bugger it all up.

      • Neil B

        The idea of the utility D/F shows up every few years, especially on teams that have injury issues. Ken Klee did the same for a few years with the Caps; we did it with Weber just a couple seasons ago. More successful examples of course would be CHI & Buff, DET and Federov (going the other way), and, of course, Burns in Minny.