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Expansion Draft Primer: Rules Will Breed Competition

How the Expansion Draft rules will produce a hyper-intense training camp this fall

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

The math of it doesn't seem to add up.

Except that it does.

The Vegas Golden Knights will select 30 players in the NHL Expansion Draft. But NHL rosters consist of only 23 players.

Based on this premise, that arithmetic of how the Golden Knights will construct the team's roster doesn't seem to compute.

After all, if our team selects 30 players, but can only carry 23 on our roster, what happens to the other seven players?

Likewise, if our team signs free agents, wouldn't that muddy the waters even further? Where if the Golden Knights sign six free agents, for example, and then have 36 players, wouldn't the limitations of a 23-man roster misplace 13 of our players?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as the Golden Knights participate in the Expansion Draft this June about how the relationship works between the amount of players we select and the amount we carry on our roster.

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The Expansion Draft allows us to add depth

They say that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.

If there ever was a third certainty, it would be that hockey teams experience injuries throughout the season.

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And if the Golden Knights could only select 23 players for their 23-man roster, the team would be left vulnerable when injuries invariably arise.

By selecting 30 players, the team has a built-in, seven-player cushion for when injuries come up.

Should our team add free agents to the fold, that cushion could grow into double digits, with higher-end free agents being virtually assured of NHL roster spots.

If the Golden Knights sign top-level free agents, they would slot into NHL roster spots and bump a few Expansion Draft selections down the totem pole.

Vegas may also sign less premiere free agents, who may be added either for the purpose of filling one of the team's bottom NHL roster spots or for the specific purpose of playing in the minor leagues.

The point is that circumstances will dictate that the Golden Knights bring far more than 23 players into the fold, which gives the team a lot of flexibility in the event of injuries.

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Where Will Our Extras Play?

Unlike football, where players a team has under contract but hasn't put on its active roster often stick with a practice squad throughout the season, a hockey team's "extra" players are generally part of its American Hockey League roster.

The AHL is the top minor league that feeds players directly into the NHL.

The Golden Knights decided on the Chcago Wolves as the team's AHL affiliate last month. The common thinking is that our "extra" players would play for the Wolves.

The AHL runs on a similar schedule as the NHL, with a virtually identical playoff format. So as players skate in the AHL, they are fully immersed into the routines of hockey season, ready for NHL duty.

NHL teams (depending on the player and his contract particulars) may call up or send players back to the AHL freely, without significant limitations.

The "extra" players that Vegas selects will probably end up in the AHL.


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The Expansion Draft will create intense roster competition

Based on the format of the Expansion Draft, Vegas will typically be selecting either the ninth or the 11th player off of another team's roster.

And by selecting 30 of these players, the Golden Knights should expect to have many players that are capable NHL players on other teams, who by virtue of the amount of capable players Vegas can select, will have to compete with other similarly qualified players to even have a roster spot.

For the Golden Knights, this creates a scenario where the team could have more legitimate talent than available roster spots.

Should it play out this way, our inaugural training camp could feature fierce competition to play for our team rather than in the AHL, which could ratchet up the overall quality of play based on the intensity.

Not to mention, while other teams' rosters usually have a few players that qualify as "bottom" players, Vegas has the chance to ice a team without any borderline talent.

Worth Noting

*NHL teams are allowed to carry 23 players on their active rosters that count against the team's salary cap.

They are, however, able to have as many as 49 players under contract.

Not every team has 49 players under contract, as to allow for more flexibility to add personnel as players become available.

Players that are selected in the Entry Draft who have not been signed to contracts do not count against this 49-player limit.

*Players under the age of 20 are rarely permitted to play in the AHL. Although there are exceptions.

For example, should a player be under the age of 20 and already played in college, he would be able to play in the AHL if he elected to sign a pro contract.

Or if a player under the age of 20 from a European professional league signed with an NHL club, he may be assigned to the AHL.

But still, under most circumstances, players under the age of 20 return to either their collegiate or junior team.

This means that in the Entry Draft, where players are typically 18-years-old when they're selected, that the Golden Knights selections will probably return to collegiate or junior hockey. And therefore, not be part of the team's "extra" players that are assigned to the AHL that can freely move up and down to the NHL.

These players count against the 49-player limit after signing a professional contract.

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