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Expanding your knowledge of the expansion draft

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What Seattle gets from the NHL will look awfully similar to Vegas.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The expansion draft is right around the corner-ish. Okay perhaps it’s still a ways off, but if you’ve read this article you know the NHL guaranteed, at least in private, the same player pool to the future Seattle franchise that was given to Vegas. So, what can we expect if the details of expansion remained unchanged?

In 2017 teams were given two choices in how to protect their players:

  1. Seven Forwards, Three defensemen, One goalie.
  2. Eight total skaters, One goalie.

If a team has a player with a no trade clause and that player has not waived said clause, then the team must protect that player during the process and will count towards the two limits mentioned above.

However, there are some players who do not need to be protected such as those in the first two years of professional play, or unsigned draft choices. These players cannot be taken by an expansion team and do not count against the non-expansion teams.

Does this mean my favorite Thunderbirds or Silvertips player can be targeted?

Everett Silvertips v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Well, maybe. If you have a younger player whom you are watching be aware of two things. The first season for the NHL in Seattle will be no earlier than 2020, so if you want that player here then you want them to start playing in the NHL by next season. Otherwise they just won’t have the exposure time. There is a caveat however, trades. Teams can directly trade players to the expansion franchise outside of the guidelines if the teams work out a deal. So, it’s not impossible even if your favorite local WHL player isn’t NHL ready right now.

What about Mathew Barzal?

Colorado Avalanche v New York Islanders Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

I hate to burst your bubble, but at this rate there is basically zero chance he’s left unprotected. Baring the not so triumphant return of Mike Milbury to General Management of the New York Islanders, it’s probably just not going to happen.

How will this affect the NHL at large?

Between now and the Seattle expansion draft we can expect many teams, with the Las Vegas expansion in their recent memories, to move away from no trade clauses. No trade clauses bind up the process for teams looking to protect players, especially those on the upswing trying to protect a younger assets. No trade clauses are often used when negotiating with veteran players in order to get a player to agree to a slightly lower salary in exchange for stability. Those teams that find themselves in a rebuild or with a lot of no trade clauses will suddenly find themselves hamstrung in protecting players they might not want to. Expect to see contracts with these clauses renegotiated as the second draft approaches. Teams aren’t likely to get fooled twice.

Team Exposure Minimum Requirements

In addition to automatically protecting players, teams have requirements on who they must expose. This helps to ensure quality players are exposed to the expansion team and their roster isn’t made up of all fourth line talent. At a minimum teams must expose the following:

  1. One defenseman who has played at least 40 games in the previous season or 70 games in the previous two seasons. In addition, for obvious reasons, the player must be under contract for the upcoming season.
  2. Two forwards with the same requirements as above.
  3. One goaltender. The goaltender has no minimum game requirements and does not need to be under contract for the upcoming season after the expansion draft. The only hard requirement is the goaltender must be a restricted free agent who has received a qualifying offer from his original club prior to the club submitting their protected list to the league.

In order to protect the expansion team from only being exposed to players with long term injuries, exposed players can’t have missed the previous 60 consecutive games nor have been confirmed to have a potentially career ending injury. If the exposing team wishes to use a player who has missed 60 consecutive games to fulfill an exposure requirement it requires approval from the league.

Restrictions and Requirements for Seattle

  1. In 2017 Vegas was granted one player from each of the 30 other teams. One unknown aspect is if Seattle would be granted 30 players from 31 teams, or one player from each of the 31. The latter seems more likely as it helps prevent the new expansion team from playing favorites.
  2. Seattle will be required to select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders total.
  3. Seattle must select a minimum of 20 players that are under contract during their inaugural season. This requirements seems a little redundant since all forwards and defensemen must be under contract and Seattle would be required to take 23 total skaters. However, since it was a requirement for Vegas, don’t expect it to disappear.
  4. Seattle’s expansion draft roster in the upcoming season must account for 60-100% of the upper limit of the salary cap from the previous season.
  5. Of the players chosen in the expansion draft, Seattle may not buy out any contracts until after the end of the first season.

During the last expansion draft, teams submitted their Protection Lists to the league for review, and after a three day review process Vegas received them.

If everything works out in the same manner for Seattle as it did for Vegas, there should be a pretty good team to cheer for come 2020. But even if the rules don’t change, the strategy could be extremely different. By staying near the 60% cap requirement and poaching as many young players as possible, Seattle could set itself up for long term success. And while it may be temping, we’ll save the mock draft for a later day.