It was announced today that the NHL will be publicizing the protected and available player lists for the 2017 Expansion Draft. The announcement comes after Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights, was interviewed by Puck Daddy about different aspects of their expansion and echoed the consensus from the general managers–that the lists should be kept private.
NHL has concluded Protected and Available Lists WILL be made public and distributed to media simultaneously with distribution to teams.
— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) March 29, 2017
2017 Expansion Draft
All 30 teams will have to submit a list of protected players to the Golden Knights by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 17th. The Golden Knights will have until June 20th (also at 5:00 p.m. ET) to submit their draft selections to the league. The selections will be announced on June 21st. The NHL will televise the Golden Knights’ announcing their selections.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) March 14, 2017
According to the NHL’s expansion draft requirements, teams can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goaltender.
Players with a no movement clause (NMC) cannot be exposed unless they agree to waive their clause. First and second-year professionals are also exempt from the draft, but unlike players with NMCs, they will not count towards a team’s protected players.
Private Protection Lists
At their annual meetings, the general managers recommended the league not publish protection lists. The general managers requested keeping the lists private to avoid damaging relationships with players that they expose. A player that is exposed may not feel valued by their team and if not selected by the Golden Knights could have a sour relationship going forward, particularly for those who already have strained relations from the arbitration process. It also could be demeaning to players–especially for players asked to waive their NMC.
The NHL also discussed with GMs whether or not they would reveal each team's protected list ahead of expansion draft. GMs said No. (con't)
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 8, 2017
Also, general managers could have been looking to avoid criticism from fans. By having their valuations of players broadcast, they risk negatively influencing a fan’s view of a player. However, concealing their protected player lists could fracture a team’s relationship with their fan base because it disconnects fans from their teams and the process.
Foley agreed with the general managers that the lists should remain private, “I’d rather not have them be public. I’d rather ‘we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise.’” He continued by saying, “I think the impact of us announcing the people we pick from our expansion draft picks – particularly if the list of unprotected people is not made public is more dramatic, it’ll be more of a surprise.”
The assertion that drama would make the expansion draft exciting for fans is not inaccurate–however, publicizing the lists before the draft would give the Golden Knights and the league much more attention. It has to be recognized that the NHL is an entertainment business. Giving fans something tangible (the protection lists) would not necessarily lessen the anticipation, instead it could further involve fans and expand draft’s promotion. Not releasing the protection lists would conversely diminish the fan experience.
The Golden Knights are likely to have a number of challenges being in an unconventional market and building a fan base has to be a priority. Keeping the process private would disconnect the Golden Knights to their fans, putting themselves at an early disadvantage in Golden Knights’ history.
Releasing Protected & Available Players Lists
Past expansion draft protection lists were publicized, but somehow today–when social media is so prominent and constantly circulates news–keeping the lists private was a consideration. Even Foley acknowledged how the lists could be leaked.
The NHL publicizing the lists controls the narrative. Now the league and Golden Knights can benefit from information that would have inevitably leaked.
With the lists being publicized, the relationship between general manager and player is at risk. However, this risk has decreased significantly. There was no official ruling on whether teams had to inform their players of their protection or exposure status, only players that are asked to waive their NMCs would have any insights into their standing with their team. If informing players of their status was at the discretion of the general managers and they preferred to not inform those protected that are not selected, then their motivation for keeping lists private is justified–but that is not to say it is commendable.
Not informing players of their status would be disingenuous and insulting if the lists were to leak. Had general managers not been diligent and not inform their exposed players and the information leaked, it would have been even more detrimental to their relationship than it would have been if they disclosed it with their players from the beginning.
Luckily, the NHL will be publicizing the lists of protected and available players–which is in the best interest of general managers and the Golden Knights. This provides Foley and the Golden Knights the opportunity to facilitate fan engagement in the expansion process. Additionally it stops general managers from alienating both their fans and players. Finally, the NHL decides to be transparent with teams, players, and fans on something.