The announcement of a new Las Vegas-based NHL franchise means every other team in the league will have to cough up one player to fill out the new squad, and according to the league’s expansion rules, there’s a good chance fans will miss those players when they’re taken.
The new, as-yet unnamed Vegas franchise will hit the ice for the 2017-18 season, after pulling together a roster built largely through an expansion draft next June. The Las Vegas team will submit a list of players for an expansion draft on June 20, 2017, and the league will make those names public the following day. Vegas will be allowed to pull from a considerable pool of names, although don’t expect them to have a crack at “stealing” a top-notch player like Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby or Carey Price.
Under the expansion draft rules listed on the NHL’s website, all 30 existing franchises will be allowed to protect a certain number of players in the draft, so Vegas won’t be able to assemble a squad of superstars. Each team has two options in the expansion draft: they can protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie, or protect eight skaters (forward and defence) and a goalie.
However, there are a few wrinkles in the rules that are meant to protect rookies and veterans with special agreements in their deals. Any player with a no-trade or no-movement clause must be included on his team’s list of protected players, unless he chooses to waive that clause. Additionally, “all first-and second-year professionals and unsigned draft choices do not need to be protected.” Based on that wording, young superstars like the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid will not require protection.
There are also a few smaller rules meant to address player movement before the draft and contract buyouts before the following season, but those rules are mostly in place to prevent someone from gaming the system.
Vegas will be entered into the 2017 entry draft lottery with the third-best odds to win, and will participate in the entry draft and free agency before the season begins.
The Vegas team will also be required to ice a team with a payroll of at least US$43.8 million, so it’ll have to choose a few players making decent money.
Essentially, the Las Vegas Black Knights (or Rattlers, or Smoking Aces, or whatever name they choose) will have the opportunity to fill out their team with a bunch of second- and third-tier players, including a few valuable skaters taken from deep teams that won’t have enough room to protect all their stars.
So what will the expansion draft mean for Canada? Here’s a quick look at the state of each Canadian team, based on information from the contract-tracking website, General Fanager.
The Calgary Flames have only three players with no-movement clauses, in star defencemen Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, and depth forward Matt Stajan. Youngsters Sam Bennett and Hunter Shinkaruk likely won’t need protection, but the Flames will need to shield the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton. They also won’t need to worry about making any hard decisions about their goaltending, as they don’t even have one goalie at this point.
The Edmonton Oilers will have plenty of flexibility heading into the expansion draft. The only skater on the team with a no-movement clause is defenceman Andrej Sekera, which will leave the Oilers with an anticipated two defencemen, seven forwards and one goalie to protect. That should allow them to protect prized forwards Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl, along with young defender Oscar Klefbom and goalie Cam Talbot. McDavid and defender Darnell Nurse should be exempt from the draft, although young defender Griffin Reinhart likely will need protection.
All three defenceman spots on the Canadiens’ protection list are already locked up with no-movement clauses owned by P.K. Subban, Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin. If they opt for the 10-player protection list, they should be able to fit in all of their key forwards, including Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. Carey Price, of course, will stay put as the Habs’ one protected goalie.
Like Montreal, Ottawa has three defenceman spots already spoken for by veterans with no-movement clauses. Dion Phaneuf, Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot all have protection, as does forward Bobby Ryan. That will leave the Senators with six more players to protect at forward, and one goalie to choose from Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond.
Toronto Maple Leafs
After management stripped the team of most of its valuable players last year, the Toronto Maple Leafs likely won’t have to worry too much about losing someone good in the expansion draft. Top youngsters William Nylander and Mitch Marner won’t need protection, and neither will the player the Leafs select first overall at the 2016 entry draft (expected to be Auston Matthews).
However, Toronto won’t be able to offload expensive veterans Joffrey Lupul or Tyler Bozak, as those players possess no-movement clauses, as does winger James Van Riemsdyk. Toronto is likely to protect its young, up-and-coming players like forward Nazem Kadri, and defencemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner.
The Vancouver Canucks won’t have a whole lot of flexibility in the expansion draft. Aging forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin possess no-movement clauses, as do forwards Brandon Sutter and Jannik Hansen, and defencemen Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Assuming Vancouver protects seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie, they’ll have to choose one of Luca Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson to protect on defence.
No-movement clauses may force the Winnipeg Jets to expose towering defenceman Tyler Myers in the expansion draft, as defenders Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart all have no-movement clauses that will take up the three defenceman spots. Forwards Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little have no-movement clauses as well, but the Jets should have plenty of flexibility to protect Mark Scheifele and others.
The Anaheim Ducks, may want to choose the eight-skater protection list, because their defence includes young stars Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm, as well as veteran Kevin Bieksa (who has a no-movement clause). The Nashville Predators also have four defencemen they’d likely want to keep, while the Chicago Blackhawks might find themselves unable to protect some of their younger players, as eight of their 10 protection spots are already spoken for by veterans with no-movement clauses.
Several teams also boast two useful goalies, but they’ll only be able to protect one. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins may have to make some hard choices between their veteran No. 1 guys and their young backups, while Dallas may be forced to expose Antti Niemi, since Kari Lehtonen has a no-trade clause.
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca | Photo: espn.go.com