Talk of expansion is in the air among NHL executives this week as the Stanley Cup final heads to Game 6 in San Jose on the weekend.
Much of the discussion surrounds what would be the league's most complex expansion draft ever, the first since the league instituted a salary cap in 2005. Earlier this week, the NHL's 30 ownership groups were given more details about how that draft will function if, as expected, it is held next summer around this time.
The NHL's 31st team, in Las Vegas, is expected to be greenlit at the board of governors meeting on June 22 and begin play to start the 2017-18 season. That's a key concern for general managers of the existing 30 teams, as they could lose a key player in order to fill out the new team's roster.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has pledged that any new expansion team will be given a more competitive roster than they have in the past.
Las Vegas will be required to draft one player from every existing team, including at minimum at each position: three goalies, nine defencemen and 14 forwards.
Some of the other parameters for an expansion team that were recently released to teams include:
- Teams cannot reacquire players they trade after Jan. 1, 2017 prior to Jan. 1, 2018. This is to prevent teams from entering arrangements to “hide” players from the expansion draft. There will likely be a lot more guidelines as part of this rule.
- Teams have to expose at least two forwards and one defenceman who have played either 40 games in the previous season (2016-17) or 70 games in the previous two seasons (2015-17). Teams can only lose a max of one player.
- The expansion team must select players that have a total value of between 60 and100 per cent of the 2016-17 salary cap.
- The expansion team can’t buy out anyone it picks in the expansion draft until the following off-season (2018).
- The expansion team will be given the same draft lottery odds as the team that finishes third last in the league and cannot pick later than sixth in the 2017 NHL entry draft. It’s possible the expansion team could end up with the first overall pick, if it wins the lottery.
- Teams must protect players that have no-movement clauses active in the 2017-18 season. No-movement clauses active in 2016-17 will have no impact. There will likely be exceptions made for players with no-movement clauses who are out with career-ending injuries (i.e. Ryane Clowe and Nathan Horton). Teams are not expected to be forced to protect those contracts.
These guidelines are in addition to previously determined rules, the biggest of which was that all players with two years or less of pro hockey experience are exempted from the draft.
Teams will have a choice between protecting seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender (11 players) or eight skaters and one goaltender (nine players). The second option allows for teams to protect four defencemen but forces them to expose three more forwards in order to do so.
Over all, the fact the rule-creation process is this far along – and in the hands of the 30 existing teams – is another strong indicator that the NHL is serious about expansion.