NHL Approves Expansion and Releases Official Expansion Draft Rules

Expansion Draft

After years of speculation and a drawn out application process, the NHL has finally announced that the city of Las Vegas has been awarded an expansion franchise. The new franchise will be the NHL’s 31st team and will begin play in the 2017-18 season. This is the first time the league has expanded since the 2000-01 season when Minnesota and Columbus joined the league.

This long expected announcement affects the Vancouver Canucks in a number of ways. First, the Canucks will be gaining a new divisional and conference rival, as the Las Vegas team is set to join the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. Second, the team is set to receive a big fat cheque in the amount of $16.6 million as their portion of the $500 million expansion fee that Vegas will have to pay.

Most importantly, it means that there will be an expansion draft at the conclusion of next season, and the Canucks are assured to lose one player. There has been plenty of speculation on this topic as well, but today the rules were officially released. Let’s take a look.

The expansion draft rules are available at the NHL’s website, but several media members also tweeted out succinct summaries of them today.

We’ve had a good idea of what the rules would be for quite a while, and we’ve even spitballed how the Canucks might handle it. However, now that we have official confirmation (which includes some minor changes), it seems like a good time to go over how this affects the Canucks again.

The obvious answer is this: the Canucks are bound to lose one member of their team, as Las Vegas is required to pick one player from each team. But let’s go through this in temporal order.

The expansion draft will occur in two different parts: the 30 current teams will submit protected lists on June 17th of next year (immediately following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final), followed by Las Vegas submitting its list of selections three days later.

At this point, it sounds like the whole thing will be more or less behind the curtain, so to speak, but I wouldn’t be surprise if some (or all) protection lists get leaked by the media. It shouldn’t be overly difficult to piece together large chunks of the majority of the lists anyhow.

Protection

Protected Lists
* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft: 
a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

This much has been available nearly since the expansion process was announced. Teams have the option of protecting either 11 players or nine players, which the difference being the possibility of protecting extra defencemen (or forwards) in the latter option.

* All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

Players with no movement clauses that extend into the 2017-18 season must be added to the protection lists. The Canucks have just two players with No Movement clauses: Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The wording of the rule seems to allow the possibility of a player waiving their NMC in order to be added to be exposed.

The chances of this happening are basically nonexistent. Even at 35 years old, the two Sedins are likely to be the best players on the Canucks roster next season, and if they don’t occupy two spots on the protection lists, they would certainly be the two best players exposed by the franchise, leaving a high likelihood that one is selected, and thus separated from the other. The chances of them allowing this to happen by waiving their NMCs is so ridiculously low that I can’t believe that I took the time to write this paragraph and outlining why it is so unlikely.

* All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

Players who have just finished their first or second professional seasons (either in the NHL or AHL) and are thus headed into their second or third professional seasons are exempt from expansion draft selection, and therefore are not required to be protected. I actually thought this rule was kind of silly because it seems to make this whole process far too easy.

Canucks players that fall into this category will include Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton, who otherwise would assuredly been on the protection list, as well as Thatcher Demko, Nikita Tryamkin, Troy Stecher and Guillaume Brisebois. Unsigned draft choices like Brock Boeser and this year’s top draft pick will also be safe. Young players that will not be covered by this stipulation include Sven Baertschi, Anton Rodin, Andrey Pedan, Philip Larsen, Brendan Gaunce, Mike Zalewski and Alex Grenier, who have all played numerous professional seasons since signing their first NHL contracts.

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.
iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

These stipulations are far easier to grapple with than the messy “proportion of the salary cap” stipulations that were suggested previously.

For the Canucks, defencemen and forwards should be simple. Luca Sbisa will fulfill the requirements, and Philip Larsen may as well, if he hits 40 games this season. Up at forward, Derek Dorsett and Markus Granlund are the most obvious candidates, but Anton Rodin, Emerson Etem, Brendan Gaunce and Alex Grenier could be in this category as well, depending on how many games they play in the coming season.

The interesting issue will be the third requirement – the one relating to goaltenders. It should be obvious that Jacob Markstrom will be the protected goalie. Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig will both be exempt while Ryan Miller and Richard Bachman will both be UFA’s. With no other goalies under contract for the 2017-18 season, the Canucks will have to find a goalie to expose in the expansion draft. This could be via trade (a la the John Vanbiesbrouck acquisition back in 1993 to protect Kay Whitmore) or some free agency signing of a non-exempt goaltender. Another option, which might be the simplest, is extending the contract of Richard Bachman into the 2017-18 season. Since there are no games played requirements for goaltenders, this would appear to be sufficient.

It’s still a bit early, given how much could happen with rosters between now and June 17th of next year, but we could expect the Canucks’ protection list to look something like this:

Forwards (7)

  • Daniel Sedin
  • Henrik Sedin
  • Off-season free agent signing
  • Brandon Sutter
  • Bo Horvat
  • Sven Baertschi
  • Jannik Hansen/Anton Rodin/Other

Defencemen (3)

  • Alex Edler
  • Chris Tanev
  • Erik Gudbranson

Goalie

  • Jacob Markstrom

Exempt:

Jake Virtanen, Ben Hutton, Nikita Tryamkin, Thatcher Demko, Michael Garteig, Guillaume Brisebois, Troy Stecher, Joe LaBate, Jordan Subban, Ashton Sautner, Evan McEneny, Yan Pavel Lapointe, Anton Cederholm, Mackenze Stewart, and all unsigned draft choices.

Exposed:

Whoever of the following is not protected: Jannik Hansen, Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa, Philip Larsen, Anton Rodin, Emerson Etem, Markus Granlund, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Grenier, Alex Biega, Tom Nilsson.

Selection

Three days after the lists are submitted, Las Vegas will submit their list of selections based on the players that were left exposed. Here are the rules governing how they must make their picks:

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.
* The Las Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
* The Las Vegas franchise must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap.
* The Las Vegas franchise may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

I don’t even want to think about the salary cap implications at this point. As mentioned earlier, each current team will be losing one player. Interesting points here include the positional requirements, as well as the requirement that a minimum of 20 of the 30 selected players must be under contract for the 2017-18 seasons.

That indicates that Las Vegas team has the right to cherry pick some high end expiring contracts of off some rosters. This should work much the same as trading by negotiating rights to players (like the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers have recently done with Alex Gologoski and Keith Yandle), acquiring players on contracts roughly a week before other teams have the opportunity to negotiate with them, and without having to give up any assets. It’s a risky maneuver though, so you wouldn’t expect to see the expansion team make too many of those picks.

For the Canucks, it means that the expansion team has the option of selecting expiring contracts off of the Canucks – for next season those include Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins (assuming they survive the buyout window) as well as Ryan Miller. These aren’t exactly high end free agents and Las Vegas would be better off just waiting until July 1st if they actually wanted to bring those players on board.

Lottery and Scheduling

Another way that the addition of an expansion team could affect the Canucks is at the draft lottery.
The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season.

The Las Vegas franchise’s First Round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft will be determined in accordance with the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery and, as a result, the Las Vegas franchise will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall selection.

The Las Vegas franchise then will select third in each subsequent round of the 2017 NHL Draft (subject to trades and other potential player transactions).

Depending on our level of optimism, you may or may not believe that the Canucks will be in contention for Nolan Patrick (the concensus first overall pick in 2017) when the draft lottery goes down next April. The Las Vegas franchise will have the same odds as the regular season’s third worst team, ensuring that they fall somewhere in the 1-6 range at the 2017 draft, as well as receiving the third pick in each subsequent round.

Given that they’ll be divisional foes, the Canucks will be seeing a whole lot of the Las Vegas franchise going forward. We already have a pretty good idea of how often that will be:

Western Conference (Pacific Division – 8 Teams)
Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 6 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 3 Home / 2 Away
* 6 x 4 = 24 games
* 1 x 5 = 5 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 3 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 3 x 3 = 9 games

As divisional opponents, Vancouver and Las Vegas will face off either four or five times in the 2017-18 regular season.

I, for one, am stoked about this entire process. I love expansion – I think it’s good for the game, both in growth and dispersion of talent, and I love new logos and jerseys. Having the expansion draft on the horizon should also increase the amount of trade activity over the next few days, weeks and months, which is always something that I look forward to.

Now that we know the rules, it’s time for NHL teams to start looking ahead. After all, it’s never too early to start planning.

  • Hockey in the desert has been a huge success….

    Add in gambling and the NHL is opening up players to a lot……. Of temptations. Not a good move, with cities like Seattle, Portland that support hockey already

  • Hockey Warrior

    What are the odds that one of the Sedins gets taken in expansion draft at their ripe old age? Would it not be a strategy to leave both of them exposed given that they play much better together and protect some younger players?

  • Hockey Warrior

    It’s too bad the Sardines can’t be given to the LAS VEGAS ACES as a housewarming present – it;s a win win – they get a unique veteran leadership double act (and possible hall of famers) to help nurture the team in it’s infancy and we rid ourselves of an untradeable 14 million cap hit to upgrade the team with one (or two) YOUNGER superstar FIRST LINERS who can actually put up numbers on the PP… if only eh??

  • Is it possible Benning is a genius for having Sbisa and Dorsett in order to be exposed for this very reason? Is it possible he had this in mind when he extended them? If we HAVE to have players with a minimum game requirement, this is a great way to do so…

  • Good article with lots of info.

    So, both the NHL and AHL are considered pro leagues, but not the KHL. I thought 1 or 2 year players from the AHL were exempt. According to this, we are going to lose a good piece.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Do we know if players who have played in the KHL count as “first- and second-year professionals”? I’m especially thinking re: Tryamkin — why would those in the AHL not be exempt, but Tryamkin would be?

    Also wondering this re: Panarin in Chicago, since they have 8 NMCs on that team, including 3 dmen!

    • SJ

      I think you might be right about Tryamkin – he may be eligible for exposure.

      Chicago does look pretty screwed – can’t figure out how they thought the Hossa contract was a good idea.

      It will be interesting to see how this team develops. Seems like there will be a big gap in their development system. Essentially they will have a whole bunch of (probably) older roster players from the expansion draft, then likely a handful of UFA’s to fill out the lineup. Beyond that, they only have the 2017 draft to build from, then subsequent drafts. It seems like they’ll be basically stuck with the expansion lineup for at least a few years while they build their prospect pipeline. Exciting stuff – will be fun to watch for sure.

  • Dan B

    Re 2nd year Pros,

    The NHL only considers it a pro season if the player had signed an NHL contract prior to playing in Europe. Since Tryamkin didn’t sign his contract until a few months ago, the clock starts then. Years in the AHL still count.

    It doesn’t totally make sense. The KHL is a pro league, so from reading the expansion rules most people would assume that he’d be exposed. But from the perspective on the NHL, his next year will be his second pro season.

    • SJ

      Are you sure about that? Chris Johnston of Sportsnet says exemption only applies to Euro Free Agents.

      Tryamkin wasn’t a free agent as he was drafted in 2014, and then played his KHL years. So that 2014-2015 KHL season should be first-year, 2015-16 second-year, making him eligible and requiring protection in the expansion draft, based on my interpretation of it.

    • You’re right about it being number of pro seasons AFTER signing an NHL contract, hence why Tryamkin is exempt and, say, Anton Rodin is not – Rodin signed a contract, played in the AHL for a few years.

      It seems a bit odd, but consider this: if they counted seasons in any pro league, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi would not be exempt, having already played two seasons in Finland’s top league prior to 2016-17. Sure, they’re top prospects, but what about a guy like Carl Grundstrom or Rasmus Asplund? They’re in the same boat. Imagine having to protect them or expose them.

      • TrueBlue

        Dag, that’s a really good point. Although I’m sure the NHL would simply amend the definition of a “pro season” to read something like “pro seasons only begin accumulating for a player after that player’s rights have been acquired by an NHL team, or once that player is no longer draft eligible.”.

        It would still affect European players like Puljujarvi & Laine if they went back to Europe to play another season on their respective pro teams after being drafted, but that would probably just lead to more creative use of AHL teams.

  • SJ

    They have to take 30 players but can only ice a team of 23 players. This should make it clear that some players that they take are from the CHL and other “non-professional” leagues that have signed an Entry Level Contract. You’re only allowed to protect 9 or 11 of the up to 50 contracts (less of course the exempt contracts of first and second year professional players). This should be very interesting!

    • SJ

      There’s nothing stopping a team from negotiating a deal with LV whereby LV picks a guy that they leave unprotected, like Sbisa, and then they trade him back immediately after the draft for a prospect-type guy that had been ineligible for inclusion.

      • TheRealRusty

        You sure about that? I recall reading somewhere that once picked a player can’t be traded back until after Jan 1st (or something to that effect)….

  • TheRealRusty

    @Natevk

    I can’t say that I’m sure that will be the definition of a pro season for the purposes of the expansion draft.

    But that is the definition of a pro season in the CBA for the purposes of free agency. So far, Tryamkin only has one pro season towards free agency, despite 2 years in pro leagues.

    Hopefully, the NHL will clarify this point.

  • SJ

    “All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).”

    Question about this.

    Boeser, for example, is exempt because he is an unsigned drafted player. However, what if we sign him after this upcoming season but before the expansion draft? How about if we pick someone like Dubois this year and sign him, but he doesn’t crack the professional leagues? Would he be exposed?

  • TrueBlue

    Thanks for this article, impressive speed of putting together with that much insight too! The rules are pretty similar to the leaked info, but still quite a few changes.

    One question: does it explicitly state that Vegas will be the “actual” 3rd place team for the draft and that the lowest they can finish is 6th? If Las Vegas gets “the same odds as 3rd place” and then none of the top four teams places in the 1-2-3 slots, then does that mean the non-Vegas 3rd place team would be bumped to 7th?

    Sort of like, “tie goes to Vegas”?

  • TrueBlue

    It would be totally awesome if one the insignificant team from Alberta move to Seattle than alignment would be complete. Imagine drive to Seattle, San Jose, LA, Anaheim and Las Vegas. Totally awesome road trip!

  • TrueBlue

    Las Vegas Losers or how about the Unworthy. Not interested in the further watering down of an already watered down league.

    Can we expect the return of Gretzky, Lemiuex and maybe Bobby Orr to fill out rosters with quality players and not just quantity.

    meh.

  • SJ

    I assume that Hutton and Virtanen’s short stint with Utica during the playoffs and in Hutton’s case before the Playoffs don’t count towards their first pro season?

    I imagine those player were paid for their time in the pro league.

    I also think that Daley confirmed that Nylander who played 45 (including playoffs) the same year and is NOT exempt.

    Is there a number of games played that constitutes a full pro season?