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The One Troubling Expansion Draft Rule

The NHL Expansion Draft contains a web of rules both on the side of who can be protected by the 30 existing teams, as well as many requirements of which unprotected players can be selected by the league’s newest club.

There are simple rules like, “only one player can be selected from each team.” Slightly more complex rules like “Las Vegas must hit at least 60% of the salary cap.” And then there are the super in-depth ones, in some cases which we still don’t have all the answers.

On it’s face, this rule seems simple, but it’s really not.

The Las Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season. –NHL.com

Originally we thought that simply meant, George McPhee and his staff can only select 10 UFAs (unrestricted free agents). But in a recent interview with Brian Blessing on Sportsbook Radio, McPhee mentioned that his team was limited by how many RFAs (restricted free agents) they could select as well.

There are limits on how many of those you can take. Right now I think you can only draft 10 RFAs. But as we went through it, I think that’ll be the only real issue to keep an eye on, the number of RFA and contracted players you have because we met all the other requirements first time through, and there are a lot. -McPhee

So is it 10 UFAs and 10 RFAs? Or is it a total of 10? Either way, that’s just the beginning of the issues with non-contracted players.

In previous expansion drafts it was commonplace to “draft and discard” players. Since there’s a rule stating Las Vegas cannot buy-out any player’s contract until June 2018, a “draft and discard” would have to be done via trade or with a player not currently under contract.

In the NHL, there are a number of players whose rights are held by NHL teams, but do not have contracts with those teams. Many are youngsters who will be exempt from the Expansion Draft, but you better believe every team in the league has at least one player either still in college, over in Europe, or somewhere else to which they own but aren’t paying.

That’s where the 20 players under-contract rule comes in. If RFAs and UFAs count together, it’s going to be nearly impossible to “waste” one on a player they want to cast aside. This is where cap-specialist Andrew Lugerner and hockey operations analyst Tom Poraszka (aka GeneralFanager) come in. McPhee and his staff will be tireless trying to push the envelope on these rules, and it’ll be up to Lugerner and Poraszka to keep them legal. Just by that quote alone, we already can tell that was a point of contention in the first run-through and likely will again during the real draft in June.

My guess is they’ll have it figured out, but also, my prediction of a large number of head-scratching names on the final 30-man expansion list may have to be tapered. When they release those names, you’ll be able to go through and count exactly 10 non-contracted players, the mystery now remains how many are actually meant to be on the team, and how many are meant to take advantage of the rules.

Man, I love this stuff, is it June yet?

***

Oh, and by the way. This little nugget came out of ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun yesterday.

The Vegas organization will have a 48-hour window ahead of the expansion draft in June to speak with and sign any pending unrestricted or restricted free agents whom the 30 teams left unprotected for the expansion draft.

Sounds similar to what we’ve been saying, but it’s possible that window is now before the Expansion Draft, not during.

And if they do sign someone during the window, do those guys count as under-contract or not? So confusing, but yet so much fun!

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8 Comments

  1. Slack

    I’m guessing the 1967 expansion draft rules were not this complex. Ha!

  2. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    So is it 10 UFAs and 10 RFAs? Or is it a total of 10? Either way, that’s just the beginning of the issues with non-contracted players.

    Would Las Vegas have to give up draft pick/s for these RFAs as compensation? I don’t like the idea of an expansion team giving up unprotected draft pick/s for established players. The RFAs will be in their prime, but chances are the draft picks will be at the top of the round/s. Generally speaking, star players never leave via Restricted Free Agency. Teams of the RFAs have the right to match offer sheets.

    Ben Bishop is an interesting UFA. With the Raiders possibly coming to town, Foley might want to speed up the process by icing a competitive team as soon as possible. Bishop is an elite goaltender when healthy.

    BTW it appears that Joe Thornton is going to sign a 3 year deal to remain in San Jose.

    • No on the draft pick thing. Normally when another team extends an offer sheet to an RFA the current team can either match or let the player go and get a compensatory pick in return. In this case the “return” would be that player is the one and only player that can be selected off that particular team’s roster.

      Now, if Vegas selects a different player, then attempts to sign an RFA after the Expansion Draft, they would be subject to the compensatory pick.

      Make sense?

      • James

        @Ken Boehlke
        Wouldn’t teams just protect their top RFAs in the expansion draft, so they don’t lose them for next to nothing? I guess if Tampa Bay protects RFAs Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, two fine players might go unprotected in a knock-on effect.

        Tampa Bay is snug against the cap. There is not enough money to pay for everyone. With money to burn, Is there anything Las Vegas could do to pry Palat or Johnson away? For example, give Palat or Johnson an offer sheet before the expansion draft that Tampa Bay can’t really afford to match.

        Am I right in thinking that Tampa Bay can offer Palat and Johnson an extra year over Las Vegas? Giving them an advantage in negotiations.

        • Of course they could protect their RFAs, but in certain instances there will be situations where they will be exposed. In some cases teams may gamble that Vegas won’t be able to get a deal done and won’t want to risk taking on a player for just one year.

          • Bill

            Ken, can a team like CBJ buyout Hartnell before the expansion draft. Buyout window normally opens June 15.
            I understand if and why Foley negotiated not to allow a buyout this year on June 15.
            Bill

  3. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    ‘The Vegas organization will have a 48-hour window ahead of the expansion draft in June to speak with and sign any pending unrestricted or restricted free agents whom the 30 teams left unprotected for the expansion draft.’

    Just reread this paragraph. It makes sense now.

    For a moment I thought we were going to have a chance to steal core players away using our financial clout without giving up future draft picks.

    An underachiever like RFA Nail Yakupov seems like a more realistic target. He’s more likely to go unprotected in the expansion draft.

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