BOCA RATON, Fla. - Scenarios for a potential expansion draft were delivered to the NHL's general managers Wednesday during the last day of their meetings.
The League said though the formulations were preliminary, the GMs were provided with the framework of the rules that will govern an expansion draft if and when the decision is made to add one or more teams.
"What I would say generally about them is that they are very similar to the expansion draft rules that we had previously, except it is designed and intended to create a somewhat deeper draft so the expansion club can be more competitive early on," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
Daly said existing teams would only lose the number of players by which the League expands. If the League adds one expansion team, current teams would lose no more than one player. In a two-team expansion scenario, they would lose no more than two players.
The League has not yet decided on whether to expand, nor is there a timetable. Las Vegas and Quebec City have filed formal applications to be considered for expansion franchises, but the NHL's executive committee is doing its due diligence on the applicants, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.
"It continues to go," Bettman said of the process. "As we've said, we are doing our deliberations. The executive committee is focused, but since we're not technically on a timetable, there is no urgency.
"As we have said all along, we wouldn't expand before the [2017-18] season, which means if we are going to expand for '17-'18 we've got to do something by June at the latest for '17-'18, but there is no requirement to adhere to any timetable, let alone that one."
According to the general managers, they were told they would be allowed to protect 11 players, including one goaltender. They believe it would equate to teams losing the equivalent of a top-seven forward, a second-pair defenseman or a goaltender capable of being a No. 1 starter.
In the most recent expansion in 2000, teams were allowed to protect two goalies from the pool of players available to the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Daly said first- and second-year pros would not have to be made available in any potential expansion draft. He also said unsigned draft choices would be exempt.
The status of players with no-trade and no-movement clauses still needs to be formulated after discussions with the NHL Players' Association, Daly said.
Salary-cap considerations also will play into the rules developed for any expansion draft, which would be the first conducted since the salary cap was introduced before the 2005-06 season.
"The other variation that makes this expansion draft different is we would contemplate having some thresholds based on salary to make sure that the expansion club can be competitive based on the ranges we have in the [Collective Bargaining Agreement]," Daly said. "Teams would have some obligation to expose a level of salary. And, in terms of drafting players, teams would have to draft a certain threshold of salary."
Though much remains to be decided about the format of an expansion draft, the GMs were happy to have a framework in place as they plan for the future of their franchises.
"None of us want to lose players under any circumstance," Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said. "We're trying to horde players. But we have a rough idea of what to be ready for, and really, it's difficult to plan for it now with the uncertainty of whether there is going to be expansion or not, but you kind of keep it in the back of your mind with every decision going forward."
The managers also received a new update on the salary-cap projections for next season. The League projects the salary cap will be around $74 million if the NHLPA agrees to use the 5-percent escalator option, which has been the case for the past several years.
The 2015-16 salary cap is at $71.4 million.