I know we’re all dreading it. Every team loses a player to the Vegas Golden Knights in their upcoming expansion draft. It’s the nature of life. An NHL expansion team was rumored for a while but a Vegas expansion team was made official last June. GM George McPhee and Head Coach Gerard Gallant will choose their players from June 18-20, 2017 and the results will be announced on June 21st during the NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena. Whoever they pick will join current Golden Knights Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov.
The Expansion Draft rules themselves are a little stickier and more confusing but not difficult to understand once you figure them out. The Knights will be the 15th team in the Western Conference and will play in the Pacific Division.
The 30 “existing” NHL teams have two options they can choose from when they decide who to protect. They can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goaltender. What teams do is entirely up to them and will have to make strategic decisions based on salary cap space, players with no-movement clauses, who they can afford to expose, etc. There are a ton of others rules somewhere and we’ll get to them too.
All players who are currently playing and have no-movement clauses in their contracts must be protected, unless the player chooses to waive the clause, and they will count towards the team’s protected list limit. This rule does not apply to no-trade clauses.
All “first- and second-year professionals” (essentially players who were rookies this past season or the season before) and any unsigned draft selections are automatically protected and Vegas cannot choose them.
In addition to these requirements, each club has to expose a certain number of players who meet a certain number of specific requirements: 1) one defenseman who is under contract for the 2017-18 season and played in 40 or more NHL games this past season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the past two seasons, 2) two forwards who are under contract for the 2017-18 seasons and played in 40 or more NHL games this past season OR played in 70 or more NHL games the past two seasons, and 3) one goaltender who is under contract for the 2017-18 season OR will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of their current contract immediately prior to the 2017-18 season.
So these rules are a little trickier but not too bad. Teams have certain requirements to meet when deciding who they want to protect and who they want to expose but they have to expose a defenseman, a goaltender, and a pair of forwards that meet these requirements, and they can protect anywhere between nine and 11 players (depending on which way they decide to go).
There are several players who are officially exempt from having to be protected (mostly because they’re on long-term injured reserve and haven’t played in the league for some time): Dave Bolland (ARI) , Craig Cunningham (ARI), Chris Pronger (ARI), Cody McCormick (BUF), David Clarkson (CBJ), Johan Franzen (DET), Joe Vitale (DET), Ryane Clowe (NJD), Mikhail Grabovski (NYI), Pascal Dupuis (PIT), Nathan Horton (TOR), and Stephane Robidas (TOR). Arizona must be relieved that they don’t have to protect those three players.
Every team has to submit their protection lists by June 17, 2017 at 5PM EST. The lists will be made public so the world can see who other teams value (and fans can decide whether or not to be angry at their team’s management).
If you want to play around and see if you can figure out who Vegas might choose from each team, CapFriendly has a really good tool here: https://www.capfriendly.com/expansion-draft. You can also look up different salaries and how much cap space each team has in order to figure out what kinds of deals might be made during the next month.
The team’s selections will be revealed during the NHL Awards on June 21, 2017. This decision doesn’t make any season to me; imagine being at the Awards and finding out there that you’re going to Vegas and you’ll be playing for an expansion team in their first season? Ouch.
The New Jersey Devils are in pretty decent shape when it comes to who they’re going to protect and who they might lose. More likely than not, they’ll choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. There’s no chance that they won’t choose to protect Cory Schneider. They’ll definitely protect their main forwards but the remaining ones and the defensemen are slightly less set in stone but figuring out who they might protect is going to be fun.
Don’t forget to tune in to the NHL Awards to find out who your favorite team is going to lose!