Earlier this week, the National Hockey League set the final guidelines for the Expansion Draft process, releasing the information to the public to begin the open hype train. The key dates are as follows:
- June 17th, 5:00 PM EST: Teams submit their final protection lists to the National Hockey League.
- June 18th, 12:00 PM EST: After being double checked, lists released to the Vegas Golden Knights for review & selection.
- June 21st, 12:00 PM EST: Vegas Golden Knights submit final selections to the National Hockey League.
- Evening of June 21st: Vegas Golden Knights announce their roster at the 2017 NHL Awards.
The lists of protected players are also expected to be made public at around the same time as the Golden Knights receive them. There was a significant debate in the fan, media, and staff communities as to whether publicising the lists was a good idea, at which point the league decided that it was.
It makes sense, too. Besides the “it’ll generate discussion” angle that most seem to drive home, it’s in the best interests of the league competitively. If the Golden Knights were the only team in the league to receive the lists of the 30 other teams, they’d have an extreme competitive advantage in knowing who each team values most and what their short-term outlook is. If you were to send them to all 30 teams but not make the lists public, somebody would eventually leak them out anyway, be it by accident or to create a negotiation advantage. Doing it this way, the league controls the flow of information, while ensuring no team gets a leg-up in terms of information.
Las Vegas will be able to select one non-protected player from each team; no more, no less. They can negotiate with free agents, restricted and unrestricted, that are left unprotected by teams in advance; should they sign those players, they’ll count as their selections. The Golden Knights must come to a total salary of $43.8 million (60% of the salary cap of $73 million) or higher spread among the 30 players they choose.
Teams are allowed to protect a goaltender and either a combination of seven forwards and three defencemen, or eight skaters. First or second-year professionals (defined as NHL or AHL, with ELC “slide” AHL players like William Nylander being exempt) are exempt from the draft. Each team must expose at least one goaltender that’s either signed through 2017/18 or a restricted free agent, to go with two forwards and a defenceman that fit those requirements and have played either 40 games this season, or 70 over the last two seasons.
Players with no movement clauses are automatically protected unless they waive them, and a list of players on Long Term Injured Reserver with little to no hope of playing hockey again has been provided to the league for exemption (in Toronto’s case, Nathan Horton is exempt, but Joffrey Lupul isn’t).
Any player selected by Las Vegas cannot be bought out of their contract in the first year, nor can players be traded back to the team they were selected by in that timeframe.
Teams are allowed to make “back-door” deals to ensure that valuable players that they aren’t able to protect aren’t selected, in order to not have to move the player. Rumours are already flying involving potential scenarios, but with so many teams being close to the edge with valuable players as it is, one wonders how many of these moves will occur.
While the Leafs’ protection list isn’t known with certainty yet, recent moves would indicate something along the lines of:
- Forwards: James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Connor Brown, Tyler Bozak, Matt Martin, Brendan Leipsic
- Defencemen: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Connor Carrick
- Goaltenders: Frederik Andersen
Toronto’s required exposures, in this case, would be covered by Eric Fehr, Ben Smith, Martin Marincin, Alexey Marchenko, Garret Sparks, and Antoine Bibeau. The Leafs’ most likely candidate to be selected in this case is likely Josh Leivo, though Marincin, Marchenko, or even a wildcard like Sparks, Kerby Rychel or Seth Griffith might be in the cards as well.
We’ll have more evaluation and opinion towards the process as the dates above get closer, but in the meantime, here is our previous big post on the subject from November.