The expansion draft is likely on its way. The NHL is expected to make a formal announcement about expansion to Las Vegas and/or Quebec City prior to this month’s NHL Awards. The addition of any team through expansion will mean an expansion draft, the rules of which won’t be fully announced until after the expansion announcement, but details continue to leak out and gain clarity on what the expansion draft rules will be.
The league is hoping to make the draft work so that the new team(s) are able to compete sooner than past expansion franchise have been able to, forcing existing teams to expose more and better players than has been the case in the past.
Handling No Move Clauses
One big detail that has been clarified has to do with no move clauses (NMCs). Each team is allowed to protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goaltender (or eight skaters and a goaltender). All other players are exposed to the expansion draft. Teams will be required to protect any players on contract carrying a NMC, and they will count against the number of players that the team is allowed to protect.
This was important because player contracts technically expire on July 1 and the expansion draft is likely to take place a couple of weeks prior to that date. For instance, next summer, the likely date of the expansion draft, the Minnesota Wild will not need to protect Thomas Vanek, who will have just completed his final season on his current contract, which carries a NMC.
Additionally, Johnston clarified that players with no move clauses that include a limited no trade clause must still be protected. That covers players like Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury.
However, players with a NMC will be allowed to waive it, should they chose to do so. That could produce a situation, hypothetically, where L.A. convinces Dustin Brown to waive his NMC and then offers a Vegas franchise some incentives to draft Brown.
Another wrinkle has come up that wasn’t a part of any of the initial reports. Teams will be required to offer at least one defenseman and two forwards who are under contract for the 2017-18 season. Those players must have played a minimum of 40 NHL games in the 2016-17 season, or at least 70 games between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. Teams will also have to offer a goaltender who is under contract for the 2017-18 season or “an RFA-to-be in 2018.”
Of the 30 players that are selected by an expansion franchise, at least 20 of those must be under contract for the 2017-18 season, and there will be minimum on position. Friedman uses as an example that the expansion franchise(s) will need to select at least three goaltenders.
That last batch of rules is partly about keep the drafting teams honest, to avoid the weird shenanigans that can occur around an expansion draft, where the expanding team comes to a deal with another club to select a particular player (someone with an expiring contract or a retiring player, for example) in exchange for something else.
Toward that end, the expansion team will be allowed to trade any player selected, but players selected in the expansion draft cannot be traded to their previous team until January 1. They will also be prohibited from buying out any players selected until after the 2017-18 season. Lastly, there will be a guaranteed spot in the draft lottery for four years for the expansion club(s).
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has repeatedly stated that there will be penalties for teams who are not compliant with the expansion draft rules. He clarified that to Johnston, saying, “It’s a loss of draft picks and/or players.”
Further details on the expansion are expected prior to the NHL Awards on June 22.