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Inside the Sabres: Expansion draft doesn't affect trade plans

The NHL trade deadline is approaching, and there’s an added wrinkle that will affect the deals. The expansion draft won’t impact the Sabres, though.

At least not yet.

The league is holding its expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights in June. There are rules regarding experience, contract status and number of players exposed at each position.

Several teams will have to make moves by the March 1 deadline just to become compliant for the expansion draft. Despite rumblings, Buffalo is not one of them.

First, the basics of the expansion draft:

*Each team will submit a list of players that Vegas cannot select. The protected list can contain seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.

*All first- and second-year professionals, as well as unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection and will not be counted toward the protection limits.

*Players with no-movement clauses must be put on the protected list.

In addition, the NHL says teams must expose at least one goalie who is under contract for 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent available, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer.

The Sabres have four goaltenders with NHL contracts: Robin Lehner, Anders Nilsson, Linus Ullmark and Jason Kasdorf. There’s no way the Sabres will expose Lehner to Vegas after giving up a first-round pick to get him. Nilsson is not under contract for 2017-18, so he’s not eligible. Kasdorf is exempt from the expansion draft as a first- or second-year professional.

That leaves Ullmark, and there have been eligibility questions about the goalie. He is in his second season with the Sabres, which seemingly puts him on the exempt list. However, because he played professionally in Europe in his 20s, that counts as additional experience. He is not a first- or second-year pro and can be exposed to Vegas.

Having Ullmark allows the Sabres to protect Lehner and meet the expansion criteria without trading for a goalie.

Here are the Sabres eligible for the exempt, protected and exposure lists:

*Exempt as first- and second-year professionals – Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Alex Nylander, Hudson Fasching, Evan Rodrigues, Eric Cornel, Nick Baptiste, Vaclav Karabacek, Justin Bailey, Jean Dupuy, Brendan Guhle, Brycen Martin, Casey Nelson and Kasdorf.

*Must be protected – Kyle Okposo, who has a no-movement clause.

*Eligible for exposure – Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Cal O’Reilly, William Carrier, Justin Kea, Cole Schneider, Dan Catenacci, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Gorges, Cody Franson, Jake McCabe, Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun, Erik Burgdoerfer, Brady Austin, Lehner and Ullmark.

When Bogosian signed with Winnipeg in 2013, he had a no-movement clause that kicked in for the 2015-16 to 2019-20 seasons. According to a source, Buffalo chose not to honor that clause after acquiring him in February 2015, so the Sabres are not required to protect him.

Since trades will affect the players on these lists, we’ll examine the Sabres’ protection options closer to the expansion draft.

KANE AND THE NET

Kane is leading the Sabres in shots for the second straight season, entering the weekend with 132 shots on 179 attempts. He paced Buffalo with 271 shots on 362 attempts last year.

Although a common sight is Kane skating across the blue line and shooting from above the left circle, he was right Monday when he said, “I’ve always gone to the net.”

According to a website that tracks and graphs shots (https://dtmaboutheart.shinyapps.io/ShotCharts/), Kane has been within 35 feet of the net – below the top of the circles – on 60.4 percent of his shot attempts since coming into the NHL in 2009. He has been within 20 feet – between the faceoff dots – 33.4 percent of the time.

The percentages had dipped through his opening 120 attempts this year. He took 50.8 percent within 35 feet and 25.8 percent within 20 feet. According to the site, 90 percent of Kane’s goals have come from below the top of the circles.

The winger is on pace for 25 goals. That would be Kane’s highest total since scoring 30 times for Winnipeg in 2011-12.

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