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NHL Adds Las Vegas as 31st Team; How This Affects the Predators

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

On Wednesday in Las Vegas, the NHL made official its expansion to Nevada and increase to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season. The announcement from League Commissioner Gary Bettman and Co. comes a day before the NHL Awards where Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber is up for the 2016 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone.

The 31st team to join the League, the Las Vegas franchise will be added to the Western Conference and fill its roster through an upcoming expansion draft. Once participants in their own expansion draft in 1998, the Preds will now see their roster potentially affected by the setup of the new Vegas club.

Some details announced today at the NHL’s press conference:

  • The Las Vegas franchise will play in the Western Conference and Pacific Division and is expected to announce its name later this year
  • The club will play at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, an approximate 17,500 seat venue for hockey
  • The current playoff format will be unchanged when Las Vegas starts play in the 2017-18 season. Three NHL divisions will have eight teams, while the Preds’ Central Division will be the only grouping with seven clubs
  • The 30 NHL teams must submit their Protected Player Lists (for the expansion draft) by 4 p.m. CT on June 17, 2017
  • Las Vegas will then submit its expansion picks by 4 p.m. CT on June 20, 2017
  • The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each of the 30 current NHL teams
  • The announcement of the selections comes on June 21
  • Las Vegas will participate in the 2017 NHL Draft with a selection no worse than No. 6 overall, due to the franchise being treated as if it had finished with the third-fewest points for draft lottery purposes
  • At this time the NHL has deferred the expansion application of Quebec City due to the weak status of the Canadian dollar, among other factors

How this affects the Predators:

  • The Preds will choose one of two options for protecting players in the expansion draft
    • a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
    • b) Eight players (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
  • Players with a no-movement clause in their contract, under expansion draft rules, must be protected
  • From the NHL: “All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).”
  • The Predators will play their new Western Conference rival, the Las Vegas franchise, three times in 2017, with the home/away balance to be determined with the 2017-18 schedule

From Preds General Manager David Poile:

On the expansion draft rules:

“If everybody has to lose a player, that means they get 30 players so that’s more players and if the rules are a little bit more in their favor than they were for us [in 1998], they should be more competitive than any of us have before, and I’m OK with that.”

On the immediate impact to the Predators’ roster:

“It could affect who we sign or who we don’t sign. It could affect, now let’s say you want to make a trade and you acquire a player, one of things I would have to ask myself and all of our staff, is this player for more than this year, will this player be a player we have to protect, will this player get taken in expansion? So if you give up your first choice for a guy and you had no intention or you couldn’t protect him because he didn’t fit into your top three defensemen or seven forwards then you have to think twice about that. You start thinking if you have a big player a valuable player, will you be making a trade during the season to sort of cut your losses? It’ll be a lot of things to take into consideration.”

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