Barring any changes, the National Hockey League intends to keep each team’s protection list for the 2017 Expansion Draft private. At the general managers’ meetings in Boca Raton, it was discussed whether or not teams would announce their list of players protected from the Vegas Golden Knights and expansion draft. Although no final decision has been made yet, the consensus so far, as expressed by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, is that the lists will not be publicized.
2017 Expansion Draft Procedure
Leading up to the expansion draft, fans will get to see what transactions teams make to meet the exposure requirements. However, once all 30 clubs submit their protection lists to the league on June 17, fans will have to wait for the selections to be revealed on June 21.
The NHL’s requirements mandate that of their 30 draft picks, the Golden Knights select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. Only 10 picks may be pending restricted free agents (RFAs) and unrestricted free agents (UFAs). The Golden Knights will have a 48-hour window prior to the expansion draft to sign pending unrestricted free agents—those signings will count as an expansion draft pick towards the team that held that player’s rights.
The cumulative cap hit of the 30 acquired players must be at least $43.8 million (60 percent of the 2016-17 salary cap).
Concealing Protection Lists
There is some sense to the NHL general managers not wanting to disclose their protection lists, such as not wanting the public to know their valuations of their players.
From the perspective of the players, protection lists may be something they prefer not to be broadcast. Maybe general managers decided against publicizing these lists because it would be something the NHL Players’ Association would take issue.
If a team is asking a veteran to waive their no-move clause (NMC)—since all players with effective NMCs have to be protected unless they agree to waive them—that may be demeaning to a player and could fracture relations between him and management. Ideally, those situations are not broadcast for fans to see, especially if it could taint how a fan views a player or management.
A general manager’s decision of who to expose could be contentious with fans as well. Rather than risk damaging the relationship between team and fan, the general managers may have seen this as the safest option.
NHL Should Publicize Lists
Past expansions drafts did publicize expansion protection lists, so why change that at a time when it is incredibly difficult to keep information concealed? The lists will inevitably leak, which will only reflect poorly on the NHL for not releasing the information in the first place.
The Golden Knights have some disadvantages in being an expansion team in an unconventional market and not having an established fan base. By publicizing the draft as much as possible, it would draw the attention of those in the Vegas market—along with the attention of the entire league.
Fans have been speculating which players will be protected, exposed, and drafted by the Golden Knights since the NHL’s announcement of expansion. By formally announcing which players are available, Golden Knights fans could get acquainted with the player options and more accurately speculate about the future of their team. It invites fans further into the process of building a new franchise and gives fans insights into how the Golden Knights’ management assesses talent. Seeing what direction management chooses to go in with their player selection after seeing the available options will also help fans form an identity for their up-and-coming franchise.
The expansion draft has been anticipated by fans since it was announced, and keeping it private only diminishes the fan experience. The NHL should be looking to work on their disconnect with current fans—not widen it.
Furthermore, the NHL not publicizing the protection lists exemplifies the barrier between the league and fans, similar to when Commissioner Gary Bettman denied fans had interest in player salaries. Had it been prefaced that the information was not being released in an effort to protect the players, it would be more understandable since the players are the league’s greatest assets.
From a business standpoint, broadcasting the protection list gives the NHL even more coverage opportunity, which would only help promote both the Golden Knights and NHL overall. The league is missing a chance to capitalize on the expansion draft by concealing information that is almost certainly going to be leaked anyway.
Nevertheless, NHL players are public figures and have to face constant speculation about all aspects of their game, so while it may be preferred to keep this information private, the league should be forthcoming with fans. When the information eventually leaks, it will just increase the number of fans that look elsewhere for their information.
Graduated NYU in 2016 with a Masters in Sports Business. Covering the Vegas Golden Knights from New York.