As we approach the 2017 NHL trade deadline, it’s important to consider and understand the rules surrounding the Las Vegas NHL Expansion Draft set to take place in June. The expansion draft is sure to affect the trade deadline, as will tight playoff standings that should bring things down to the wire. But how will the expansion draft actually work? What are teams taking into consideration in preparation for the deadline?
The point of the NHL Expansion Draft is to build a lineup of NHL players for the new franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas will choose one player from each of the 30 existing NHL clubs. There are rules for the 30 NHL teams and there are rules for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
NHL Expansion Draft Rules for Existing 30 NHL Teams
First, let’s take a look at the NHL Expansion Draft rules for the 30 existing NHL teams. Let’s divide these rules into two categories that we’ll call Protection and Exposure.
In order for NHL teams to retain their star players and strongest assets, each team will be allowed to protect certain players from their respective rosters so that Vegas cannot draft them. This is the basis for the expansion draft rules for the 30 NHL teams. Each team must present a Protection List to the NHL by 5:00pm EST on June 17. Las Vegas must present its Expansion Draft Choices by 5:00pm EST on June 20. The selections will be released on June 21.
Each team will have two options to build a protection list:
1. Protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie
2. Protect 8 skaters and 1 goalie
Within these options, there is one very important factor: any player with any type of no-movement clause written into his contract must be protected by his NHL club (even if the NHL club would not want to protect that player under other circumstances). For example, Scott Hartnell has a no-trade clause in his contract. The Columbus Blue Jackets have plenty of talented players that need to be protected, and Hartnell is not one of those players. But unless Hartnell waives his no-trade clause, he must occupy one of the spots on Columbus’ protection list.
At the same time, there are players that are not eligible for the expansion draft and who therefore do not need to be protected. These eligibility technicalities are crucial to understanding who must be protected or exposed.
Ineligible for Expansion Draft
1. Any first- or second-year players are exempt from the expansion draft and do not need to be protected
2. Any unsigned draft picks are also exempt
After reviewing the specs of every contract with the NHL Players’ Association, the NHL released a list of players who must be protected, which can be found here. Notable names include Rick Nash, who will need to be protected because of the nature of the wording of his contract, as well as Antoine Vermette and Tuukka Rask, who are both eligible for the draft because their no-trade clauses expire just before the protection list is due.
But it’s not as simple as choosing a certain number of players to be protected. There is another set of rules for existing teams to take into account; we’ll call these Exposure Rules.
In order to give the Las Vegas franchise a fair shot of drafting legitimate NHL players, teams must “expose” certain types of players, which limits who can be protected.
There are three players (technically four) every NHL team must expose:
1. One defenseman who is signed through the 2017-2018 season AND who either played in 40 games in the 2016-2017 season or played in at least 70 games in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons
2. Two forwards who are signed through the 2017-2018 season AND who either played in 40 games in the 2016-2017 season or played in at least 70 games in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons
3. One goalie who is signed through the 2017-2018 season OR who will be a restricted free agent after his current contract expires before the start of the 2017-2018 season. If a team elects to make a restricted free-agent goaltender available, the goalie must have been given his qualifying offer before the June 17 protection list deadline
However, any player with a potential career-ending injury who has missed 60 consecutive games or who has otherwise been proven to have a career-threatening injury is not eligible for exposure requirements.
All teams must present a list of protected players to the league by 5:00pm EST on June 17 that consists of seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie. All teams must protect players with any type of no-movement clause; first- and second-year players as well as unsigned draft picks do not have to be protected. All teams must expose at least one defenseman and two forwards who are signed through the 2017-2018 season and who have played 40 games in the 2016-2017 season or 70 games in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. Teams must also expose one goalie who is signed through 2017-2018 or will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of his current contract before the 2017-2018 season; the restricted goalie must have been offered a qualifying offer before being used for the exposure requirement.
NHL Expansion Draft Rules for Las Vegas Franchise
The NHL Expansion Draft rules for the Las Vegas Golden Knights are much more straightforward and are outlined below.
- The Golden Knights organization must select one player from each existing NHL club for a total of 30 NHL players (not including any players related to Expansion Rule violations)
- The Golden Knights organization must select 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders
- The Golden Knights organization must select at least 20 players under contract for the 2017-2018 season
- The Golden Knights organization must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100 percent of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap. In other words, between $43.8 million and $73 million.
- The Golden Knights organization cannot buy out any players selected in the draft before the summer of 2018 (after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season)
The Las Vegas Golden Knights must select 30 players (one from each of the 30 existing NHL teams), with at least 20 of them under contract in the 2017-2018 season. The aggregate Expansion Draft value of those 30 players must lie between $43.8 million and $73 million. Of the 30 players, there must be at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. Lastly, the Golden Knights can’t buy out any of these 30 players before the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the NHL Trade Deadline and the Las Vegas Expansion Draft.
Featured Image Credit: Isaac Brekken-NHLI via Getty Images