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Expansion Draft Primer: Who Can Teams Protect?

NHL teams will have two options of how many players they can protect from the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

So many choices. So little time.

If there was ever a theme to the NHL Expansion Draft for the Golden Knights, this would be it.

After all, while most NHL rosters (23 players) typically add or replace 4-5 players per year, Vegas will almost entirely be stocking its roster during a two-day span.

This will happen during the Expansion Draft, which be hosted at T-Mobile Arena on June 21.

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At that time, barring trades and other player transaction possibilities (which we'll detail at a later date), the Golden Knights will select one player from every one of the NHL's 30 teams.

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As challenging as the decisions will be for our team, our opposition will have choices that will be nearly as difficult.

There are two routes teams can take when deciding which players to protect, and which players to be available for the Golden Knights.


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Option 1: 7 forwards-3 defensemen-1 goalie

The first option would allow teams to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie.

This means that any player that isn't protected beyond this is available to Vegas. This doesn't include players whose contracts are expiring this summer, players with No Movement Clauses or players on their entry-level contracts.

Entry-level contracts are a player's first professional contract, most commonly being signed for three years (including minor league seasons). This means we won't be able to select players at the very beginning of their professional careers.

But any player that doesn't fit one of these three exceptions would have to be protected by his current team, or else he'd be available to the Golden Knights.

"The easiest way to say it is, it's based on the asset mix of your team," Golden Knights director of hockey operations Misha Donskov said. "If you're only protecting three defensemen, you go the 7-3-1 route. That means you have more forwards on your team that you would like to protect. And ultimately, from your organization standpoint, is more important."


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Option 2: 8 skaters-1 goalie

The other options teams may select is to protect eight skaters, regardless of position, instead of choosing to guard seven forwards and three defensemen.

Intuitively, this doesn't seem to make sense, as conventional logic suggests that a team would prefer to protect as many players from our reach as possible.

Donskov detailed why a team may choose this second option.

"If you go the other route and protect an additional defenseman, you go the 4-4-1 route," he said. "From a hockey operations standpoint, you believe that among your group of players, it's important for you to protect an additional defenseman that ultimately is providing (more) value for your team and your organization."

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