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NHL Expansion Draft 101

Here's everything you need to know regarding the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft

by Julie Robenhymer @JulieRobenhymer / newjerseydevils.com

Thanks to the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights into the NHL, each of the league's 30 other teams - and yes, that includes the New Jersey Devils - will lose one player from their roster to help the Golden Knights fill out theirs.

That much is widely known about the expansion draft. What's not so easily understood are some of the rules and restrictions, some of which are different from past expansion drafts.

The good news is the Devils are perfectly positioned to cash in. So let's break it down.

Teams are able to protect up to 11 of their players from being selected by Vegas: seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or they can opt to protect eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goalie. 

There are some exceptions here. For instance, a player with a no-movement clause in his contract must be included on a team's protected list unless he waives it. Players with no-trade clauses only do not qualify as no-movement clauses and must be protected or otherwise will be available to be selected.

It's important to note that all players with less than three years of professional experience (including free agents) and all unsigned draft choices are exempt and not eligible to be selected. For the Devils, this list includes Joseph Blandisi, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, John Quenneville, Steven Santini, Blake Speers, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha, among others. 

Restricted free agents are also eligible to be claimed (and therefore must be protected if a team seeks to retain their rights), which for New Jersey includes Beau Bennett, Blake Coleman, Stefan Noesen, Damon Severson, Blake Pietila and Scott Wedgewood, among others. 

Each team must expose each of the following:

1. A defenseman under contract with 40 NHL games played during the 2016-17 season or 70 in the last two

2. Two forwards under contract with 40 NHL games played during the 2016-17 season or 70 in the last two

3. One goalie under contract or an RFA goalie who has received a qualifying offer

Las Vegas must select 30 players, at least 20 of which must be under a standard player contract (SPC). Of that 30, Vegas must select 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. Las Vegas must also reach between 60-100 percent of the 2016-17 salary cap.

Now that we know what the rules are, how can the Devils stand to take advantage?

There are opportunities here for the Devils to cash in, thanks to their abundance of cap space, draft picks and growing pool of prospects.

Every year, there are a number of teams who have some offseason maneuvering to do because they are either up against the cap and can't sign all their free agents, are short on draft picks or need to beef up their list of prospects. GMs typically make every attempt to work these issues out before or during the draft, but the expansion draft has put a rush on this timetable.

Let's start with free agents, because even if a team can sign or qualify them, that doesn't mean they have the room to protect them. Plus, if a team doesn't sign them, Las Vegas will have an exclusive 72-hour period (starting June 18, 10 a.m.) to negotiate with and sign any pending free agents (unrestricted or restricted) left unprotected by their teams before submitting their expansion draft selections by 10 a.m. June 21. If Vegas signs a free agent in that window, that signing counts as their selection from the player's previous team. 

Certain teams may have protection issues, such as having more defensemen than they are able to protect. Since those teams will likely not be able to protect everyone, they won't want to risk losing players for nothing and may look to trade for draft picks or other assets. That means a team like the Devils, who have 11 picks in this year's draft and available cap space, could offer up a deal to take on one of those available players. That player would then fall under consideration to be protected by New Jersey. 

It's easy to see the potential for things to get more than a little crazy before, during and after the expansion draft. Given the fact that every NHL GM was just in Buffalo for the combine, one can safely assume that conversations were had, trade seeds were planted.

Get ready. Between the expansion draft, the entry draft and free agency, this could be an interesting few weeks.

NHL Expansion Draft Key Dates
Date Event
June 15 Deadline for clubs to ask players with no-movement clauses whether they want to be placed on waivers for purposes of buyouts prior to the expansion draft
June 16 Last day to place player on waivers prior to the expansion draft trade/waiver freeze deadline for players to agree to waive their no-movement clauses for purposes of the expansion draft
June 17 Deadline for each club to simultaneously submit its protection list to Central Registry and the NHLPA
June 18 Deadline for Central Registry to approve and simultaneously distribute the protection lists to all NHL clubs and the NHLPA; Opening of the UFA/RFA interview period
June 21 Official distribution and announcement of the expansion club's selections in conjunction with the 2017 NHL Awards
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