Late in the afternoon on trade deadline day, the Vegas Golden Knights officially announced that they are a full part of the NHL and open for business.
Unlike the rest of the NHL, however, Vegas has special rules about what sort of trades they can make, but the key point is that they can make deals related to the Expansion Draft.
The draft is in late June, after the playoffs, and many teams might want to pay to know in advance what they need to do with their protection slots. A team may offer Vegas something in exchange for selecting a specific player, or they may want to have Vegas leave a particular player alone. These trades are not finalized until the draft is done, and no player changes hands until then.
Making a deal with Vegas is not an exemption from the entire process, however.
Continued Compliance with Expansion Agreement: A Club that has agreed which Player it will lose in the Expansion Draft pursuant to a bona fide trade transaction shall continue to be obligated to comply with all other aspects and requirements of the Expansion Draft Rules (e.g., protection and exposure rules, compliance with critical dates, etc.).
And while teams can make deals right now related to the expansion draft, no player can actually be traded to Vegas until his season is over.
... should a team not qualify for the playoffs, the Golden Knights could begin trying to acquire players from that team as soon as April. Or if a team advances to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas might not be able to have a crack at any of its players until June.
Vegas cannot, therefore, offer a draft pick for James van Riemsdyk right now.
Not all seasons end at the same time, so Vegas will be a competitor in the market for all CHL and NCAA free agents and European players.
If a player finishes his college season and his rights aren't owned by another NHL team, he is fair game for the Golden Knights, immediately.
Similarly, if there are any players in European professional leagues or Canadian junior hockey whose rights aren't owned by an NHL team, as soon as their team's schedule ends, Vegas is allowed to sign them as well.
This is a little confusing regarding Canadian junior players since, CHL free agents can be signed right now. And the Golden Knights proved that when they made Duke the first Knight.
#Vegas @GoldenKnights make first player transaction in team history: signing Wheat Kings free agent F Reid Duke to an entry-level contract.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 6, 2017
We should expect that as soon as KHL contracts expire at midnight on April 30, Vegas may well have found some Russian uncut gems to try to polish up.
Vegas can also sign players currently without a contract, so we should expect them to lock up Brad Boyes any day now. Seriously, they could do a lot worse, and likely will.
The most interesting wrinkle in all of this is that what happens in Vegas may well stay in Vegas for a while. This is the official rule on disclosure of Vegas trades:
Disclosure: For purposes of transparency, any bona fide transaction will be subject to the League's usual disclosure procedures in the context of Player Trades (i.e., all Trade and Waiver-related details must be fully disclosed to the League and the NHLPA, but Clubs will maintain the discretion whether to disclose those details publicly).
So as long as the team making the deal is leak-proof, no one may know a deal is made until the Expansion Draft is final on June 21. A smart team will wait until their season is over, and while rumours will fly, we should expect to never know what Lou Lamoriello did until it’s all over.