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R.J. Umberger could give the Flyers a significant expansion draft headache

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His no-movement clause could come back to bite the Flyers in a pretty painful place.

Put your hands down, R.J. This isn't funny.
Put your hands down, R.J. This isn't funny.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we walked through how an NHL expansion draft might work, according to rules that were made public at the NHL's annual spring general managers meeting this week.

Most of it is pretty straight forward: in the event of expansion there will be a draft, teams can lose one player for each of the expansion teams added -- still unsure if that'll be one or two -- and you're allowed to protect three defensemen, seven forwards and one goalie. Players with two or fewer years of pro hockey experience are exempt.

One place the rules aren't clear yet are around those players with expiring contracts. The draft will likely take place in June 2017, in the period between the end of the Stanley Cup Final and the actual NHL Draft, which is always held the last weekend in June. That means it'll be days before free agency opens and the new league year begins on July 1.

So lots of players will be on the verge of free agency. The Flyers have a lot of contracts expiring that summer: Mark Streit, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and R.J. Umberger. Some of those guys will be re-signed before next June, but it's safe to say that many or most will not.

Richard Allen Umberger, Jr. is among those on that list who won't be re-signed. But he could still cause the Flyers a very large expansion-related headache.

We all know that the team's relationship with Umberger will end in June 2017 at the latest. He will not be coming back after his contract expires. But Umberger is one of two players under contract with the Flyers who has a no-movement clause, the other being Claude Giroux.

As we currently understand it, there's some debate within the NHL and the players union over whether or not players on NMCs will be exempt from the expansion draft process. The term "no-movement" seems to imply that they'd be exempt, but the league wants these players included. The NHLPA, of course, does not. It feels like the NHLPA is going to win that fight, if Elliotte Friedman's sources are correctBut will those players need to be included on your protected list? Via Sportsnet:

... does a player with a no-move clause count among the guys you have to protect? This is relevant because everyone is expecting Commissioner Gary Bettman to make any new team competitive. There will be no creation of patsies here.

Let’s say you’ve got three no-move clauses. Must they be part of your protection list because they can’t be selected? If yes, it increases the risk of exposing more of your roster.

It would make sense that these players would have to be included on your protected list -- otherwise, a team with four players on NMCs would be able to protect more total players than a team with one player on an NMC.

With a player like Claude Giroux, this is no issue: the Flyers would obviously protect him no matter what, so it's not much sweat if they're required to include him on their protected list. But with a player like R.J. Umberger it's significantly different: they don't want to protect him because they don't plan on keeping him any longer beyond June 30, 2017.

But if you're forced to keep players with no-movement clauses on your protected list, that means the Flyers would have to protect R.J. Umberger in an expansion draft.

That would mean one less spot for somebody they actually want to keep. When we ran through this exercise yesterday, we had Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl as the seven protected forwards. That left Matt Read and Nick Cousins unprotected, which can be debated for hours. But really this would all come down to protecting two of Laughton, Raffl, Cousins and Read.

If you're forced to protect Umberger, that means you can only protect one of those four. And that means three valuable players would be up for grabs by expansion teams as opposed to two. The Flyers could lose a player they really like because of R.J. Umberger's dumb contract.

Now, like we noted before -- we don't know the exact specifics of these rules, and it seems like the NHL and NHLPA are still working through it on their own. The NHL does tend to make up the rules as it goes along in a lot of ways, and it's fair to think that -- with the Flyers gently shoving them in the right direction -- they could make an exemption for a situation like Umberger's.

But maybe that doesn't happen, and maybe this could really hurt the Flyers. One way to get out of it would be to buy out the remaining year of Umberger 's deal this summer to avoid the problem all together. But I guess we'll see what happens. Could be quite the little headache.