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NHL Expansion Draft 101

Details on how the Vegas Golden Knights will select their players and how that relates to the Avalanche

by Erin Hodges /

The 2017 NHL Draft is this weekend in Chicago, and much of the spotlight has been on the some of the top draft prospects in this year's class. However, before those picks are made at the United Center, a special draft will also be conducted.

For this upcoming season, the NHL announced there would be a 31st team joining the league, the Vegas Golden Knights. The club will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division and the 15th in the Western Conference; the Eastern Conference has 16 squads.

With a new team, comes the NHL Expansion Draft, something that has not been done in 17 years since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined in 2000. Simply, the new franchise must pick one player from each of the rival 30 teams to have a roster going into the entry draft and next season.

However, the Golden Knights do not have the ability to choose just any player they desire. They must choose based on rules set forth by the league.

Below are of the main rules and some explanation of the 2017 Expansion Draft.


Exposed Players

  • All 30 current teams are required to "expose" a list of players that the expansion team may choose from
  • Each team had to submit its available players by last Saturday, June 17, at 3 p.m. MT. The list of players available must conform, at a minimum, to the following rules:
    • One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
    • Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
    • One goaltender who is a) under contract in 2017-18 or b) will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18.
      • Sub Rule: If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club's protected list.
  • Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a club's player exposure requirements, unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection by the league.

The lists of exposed players were made public on Sunday, June 18, at 8:30 a.m. MT.


Protected Players

  • Each of the 30 teams submitted a list of "protected players" that may not be chosen by the expansion team on Saturday, June 17 at 3 p.m. MT. Each team has two options and can only protect the following:
    • Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
    • Eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goaltender
  • All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).
    • The deadline for a player to waive their no movement clause was Friday, June 16, at 3 p.m. MT.
  • The teams' protected lists were released to the public on Sunday, June 18, at 8:30 a.m. MT.

To simplify, the players on the released protected list cannot go onto the exposed player list available to Vegas. These players are protected by their club for a variety of reasons, such as contracts and/or no movement clauses.

Also, first- and second-year professionals and unsigned draft choices are also protected.

An exemption to this is that a team can make a trade or side deal with the Golden Knights in order for them to not choose a certain exposed player. That team would still have to include the player on its exposed list, but Vegas would not select the individual as it received other assets in the trade instead (ex: entry draft picks).

The Avalanche went with the second option of 8-3-1, and there are no known side deals between Colorado and Vegas at this time.


Golden Knights Rules

  • The Vegas franchise must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players.
    • Vegas must choose at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
    • The four remaining picks may be from any position.
  • Position titles are made in the exposed lists and the expansion franchise may not change the player's position to get around this rule.
  • The Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players that are under contract for the 2017-18 season.

This means of the 30 picks the Golden Knights get from the released exposed lists, 20 must currently have an active contract with a team.

  • Vegas must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100 percent of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap.

For the Golden Knights' 30 picks, the overall team salary must come between $43.8 million and $73 million--last season's team payroll range.

However, that lower value is not quite the cap floor for next year. For 2017-18, the floor is $55.4 million, while the ceiling is $75 million. Vegas will need to get between those numbers for the start of the season.

  • The Vegas Golden Knights may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

This rule makes it so Vegas can't buyout players they take without waiting for at least one season to do so.

  • Once the exposed lists are released by the 30 current teams, Vegas will have 72 hours (until 8 a.m. MT on Wednesday, June 21) to make its 30 picks.
    • The Golden Knights will announce the picks later that night.
  • Vegas may choose to sign any free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, who are left unprotected by their club during the 72 hours after the exposed players lists are released.
    • If they Knights sign a player who is an unsigned RFA or UFA during the special interview window (beginning 8 a.m. MT on June 18 and lasting 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.

In other words, signing a free agent (UFA/RFA) would equal a "pick" from the player's previous team. Otherwise, those players will follow standard protocol and enter the free-agent market on July 1. No matter what, no team will lose more than one player, unless they decide to make a trade with the Golden Knights.

The picks will be announced during a special NHL Awards/Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 21 at 6 p.m. MT. The awards and draft will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and SportsNet in Canada. 

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