We talked already about how teams, including the Maple Leafs, will make up their protection lists. We’ve talked about the kinds of trades Vegas can make, and we’ve run down the timeline of all of this fun, but we haven’t talked about the rules Vegas has to follow when selecting players.
Regulations Relating to Expansion Franchise
* The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players (not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules).
* The Las Vegas franchise must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
* The Las Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
* The Las Vegas franchise must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap.
* The Las Vegas franchise may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.
The first rule is obvious. Vegas must take thirty players, one from each team. If they sign a player who is an unsigned RFA or UFA during their special interview window, which runs from 10 a.m. on June 18 for 72 hours, that signing counts as their player from whichever team he was with. Therefore, Vegas can only sign one player from any given team during this period.
No matter what, no team will lose more than one player unless they decide to make a trade.
The second rule sets out how Vegas has to take a set number of players at each position. And a team can’t decide to call Brent Burns a forward or something like that to game that system. The positions are already defined.
The mandated number adds up to 26 players. So there are four wildcard choices Vegas can make. They can, if they like, pick seven goalies, not just three. And while that’s not all that probable, they likely will take more than three.
The third rule means Vegas just can’t just load up on UFAs and RFAs by signing a lot of deals during their discussion window. They can only take 10 that way.
The fourth rule is the tricky one. Vegas might want to focus on youth, players still within RFA age and on cheaper contracts to build their team. They do have to meet the minimum total contract value, and they can’t go over the cap. So they have to hit between $43,800,000 and $73,000,000, and that likely means taking some higher paid players on purpose.
That lower value is not quite the cap floor for next year. Assuming the cap does not go up, the floor will be $54,000,000. Vegas needs to get to that number by the start of the season, and there’s lots of ways to do that. They’ve already made a start by signing Vadim Shipachyov.
It’s possible for Vegas to get to that lower threshold, and eventually the cap floor, without taking on a really large contract. Small or medium ones might be something they consider. So Marcus Kruger or Marc-André Fleury, not Bobby Ryan.
The fifth rules says that Vegas can’t buyout players they take without waiting for a year. But a team might want to induce Vegas to take someone they likely will buyout someday. I’m sure Vegas would do that for a price. Vegas will likely do anything right now for a price.
The obvious unwritten rule here is Vegas can only take exposed players. So if you want to give Vegas an exempt player as part of a trade to get them to leave your exposed star alone, you still have to include an exposed player on your list for them to have as their pick.
The expansion draft isn’t quite a free for all. But it is flexible enough that Vegas can pick in so many different ways, even before they make trades to pick on demand, that predicting who will end up a Golden Knight is nearly impossible.
The results of the draft will be announced as part of the NHL Awards on June 21. Rumour has it they will be interspersed throughout the awards show, in dribs and drabs.