Most teams have a busy off-season. Occasionally, a contender will sign a couple of guys and not do much else, but for a rebuilding team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, the summer is where the action is. This summer, the Vegas Golden Knights are ensuring everyone gets in on the off-season action.
Before summer comes the end of spring, and there are still some things on the go. Playoffs are on the go.
The NHL got right down to business with the Conference Finals and gave the Anaheim Ducks an entire day off before their opening game on Friday, May 12 against Nashville. The Ottawa - Pittsburgh series begins on Saturday, May 13. The league seems to be making doubly sure the Stanley Cup is awarded before June 15. This will be important for the timing of the expansion draft.
While the playoffs are ongoing, the World Championships is also moving along through the round-robin portion of the tournament where each team plays seven games.
World Championship Medal Rounds
Quarterfinals in Paris and Cologne. Game times are 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time.
The action moves to Cologne for everyone. Game times are 9:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time.
The bronze medal game is at 10:15 a.m. and the gold medal game is at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
Once this tournament is over, teams that weren’t willing to risk signing European free agents while they were playing may chose to do it now. This effectively marks the end of hockey outside of North America.
But inside North America, there is also the AHL playoffs ongoing.
The Marlies play, at minimum, two more games.
The game is in Syracuse, and start time is 7:00 p.m.
The game is in Toronto, and start time is 7:00 p.m.
Game seven, if necessary, is in Syracuse and also starts at 7:00 p.m.
There are two more rounds of the AHL playoffs, and it’s common that the Calder Cup is awarded after the Stanley Cup Finals are finished due to scheduling breaks. This could be an issue for NHL teams that want to do deals ahead of the expansion draft, but it will only affect two of them.
If you want to watch draft prospects, and who doesn’t, the Memorial Cup is in May. And Windsor, Ontario will be where you’ll see the scouts for a lot of NHL teams. Mike Babcock has said he will go as well.
The host team gets in the tournament automatically, so Toronto’s Jeremy Bracco will be there. The QMJHL champion is the St Johns Sea Dogs. The OHL champion is the Erie Otters, and the WHL champion is not decided yet at the time of writing.
Opening game of the Memorial Cup.
Championship game of the Memorial Cup.
With the Cup awarded at almost the end of May, the long junior season is finally over.
May 28 - June 3
The combine is in Buffalo this year and is well before the entry draft. If any Memorial Cup players in the finals are invited, they will have to hustle from Windsor to Buffalo to get there late. The scouting combine is a combination of physical and medical testing and interviews with the players by NHL teams.
UPDATED May 30: The fitness testing day is Saturday, June 3.
Now imagine it’s June, and you just want to go to the beach or watch some baseball. Nope, now it’s time to look at the roster with cold eyes and a hard heart and consider buying out players.
The buyout window opens on June 15 or 48 hours after the last game of the Stanley Cup Final, whichever is later. With the expansion draft looming right on the heels of this date, it was important that it be June 15 for sure.
From last year’s look at buyouts when it was a big issue for the Leafs, the rules are:
If a team wants to buy out a player, they must first place that player on unconditional waivers, and he can be claimed by any team in the usual way.
If the player has no-move clause, he can refuse the waivers, which simply means his buyout takes place immediately. He cannot avoid a buyout by any clause in his contract.
Once the player clears waivers after 24 hours and is bought out, he becomes a UFA.
An injured player cannot be bought out without their consent. This is not about Injured Reserve (IR) or Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), which are designations more about managing the cap and roster sizes during the season than they are health reports—an injured player does not have to go on IR ever, after all. Instead, this is about the actual state of health of the player.
There are no compliance buyouts anymore.
The Leafs are unlikely to be buying out anyone, and if Joffrey Lupul was too injured to play all year, he has to pass a physical or give his consent to be bought out now. It’s not absolutely impossible, but the motivation for the Leafs to do it seems weak.
For other teams facing the problem of players with no-move clauses that they must protect in the expansion draft, a buyout might be the best option. There might be some fresh UFAs created from this buyout period that are worth considering.
This buyout window closes on June 30.
The expansion draft process is complicated, and the timing is set up mostly to give Vegas time to make deals once they’ve seen the protected lists. There will be trades both pre- and post-draft. The usual pre-entry draft frenzy will get stretched over more time, and we can expect draft picks to get traded in the expansion draft trades and Vegas to be trading recently acquired players on the entry draft floor. Chaos will reign!
All teams have to submit their finalized protection lists to the league. This post from a few months ago outlines the rules on protection lists.
The interview period for the Golden Knights to talk to pending UFAs and RFAs that are exposed, which is any not exempt or protected, begins once they receive these lists. It lasts until the expansion draft itself, although the precise timing is not finalized yet.
Remember in that window, Vegas can sign an unprotected RFA like the player is its own. No offer sheet required. No compensation for the team— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 8, 2017
Any player signed in this period counts as Vegas’s pick from the player’s former team.
The protected lists will be made public, but the exact timing has not been announced. The General Manager of the Golden Knights, George McPhee, has asked the NHL for more time between receiving the lists and the draft itself. This seems unlikely to happen given the tight timing, and the need to give teams a buyout window ahead of their protection lists being due.
UPDATED May 30: The lists will be made public at 10 a.m. and Vegas has until 10 a.m. on June 21 to sign free agents who are not protected.
Vegas has to have their picks finalized and given to the league.
Expansion draft picks are to be made public in conjunction with the NHL Awards in a way that is not yet public. Is this the point at which you feel like this all seems a bit seat of the pants in terms of organization? I certainly do.
Okay now that that is all done, we can take a breath and rela—nope.
The awards show is televised from Las Vegas and, as mentioned, also includes a public announcement of the expansion draft results. If Marc-André Fleury is taken by Vegas, could he be the first Conn Smythe winner discarded by his team a few days later? Or just a Stanley Cup Final starting goalie dumped in the blue box the next day?
The Leafs have Mike Babcock and Auston Matthews up for awards, so they may be in Vegas instead of where they’d like to be. The highlight of this event for Leafs fans will be a careful examination of Auston’s tux. PPP has staff on this beat already.
June 23 and 24
The entry draft is in Chicago this year, and the first round is on the first day as usual. The Leafs pick seventeenth overall. Their second round pick, Ottawa’s, hasn’t got a number yet, but will be somewhere in the fifties most likely.
Lead up to Free Agency
The last part of June is the build up to free agency and is just like the week before Christmas. It’s about shopping, shaking presents, and seeing how much your budget is.
Qualifying offers are due to RFAs by 5 p.m. New York time. RFAs that don’t receive QOs and aren’t signed by July 1 become UFAs.
June 27 - June 30
UFA discussion period covers these four days. Remember last year when Steven Stamkos came to Toronto and Mayor John Tory and a Canadian Tire executive sat in on the talk? That’s what this period of time isn’t for. It is for the teams to talk to UFAs in a general way that does not in any way involve dollar amounts. Many people believe all teams religiously conform to that restriction at all times.
Don’t confuse this discussion period with the period Vegas had to sign other teams’ free agents. This is for all teams and all UFAs. But really, it’s for Kevin Shattenkirk to get some tours of executive suites.
It’s Canada Day! For everyone else. Okay, it’s moving day in Quebec, but what it really is, is the start of the biggest feeding frenzy in the NHL. Huge deals get signed with players many years older than Nikita Zaitsev, and everyone thinks it’s normal.
Free agent signings will then continue to happen on into the summer, first in a big bunch and then occasionally.
Now it’s summer, and going to the ballgame is a good idea. But there are some hockey things going on before training camp. Last year, the Leafs held a prospect camp in early July. They also had their rookie tournament in mid September. Arbitration hearings are usually in August, and there is a second buyout window late in the summer for qualifying teams.
At PPP, we will have our Top 25 Under 25 feature again, beginning sometime in July. But there’s a lot of bad trades to mock, window shopping of draft picks, and outrage over wrong choices between now and then.