Unrestricted free agents are going to play a major role in the Expansion Draft in June. We’ve discussed the exclusive negotiating window, the rule that a selected UFA qualifies as the pick from their previous team, and the possibility of “cheating” going on by gaming the NHL’s calendar.
But there was one minor detail that has a chance to become major when the selections are finally being made in the war room in Summerlin. I’ve previously called them “punt” or “draft and discard” picks, and now we’ve got a new name for them. Throw away picks, a term coined by George McPhee and most recently used in an interview on KDWN’s The Coaches Corner. (GMGM interview starts at 25:45)
What we have to be careful of is drafting an unrestricted free agent without having a contract in place. We are not gong to do that unless we are prepared to lose the player. It’s a throw away pick. Let’s assume it’s a team that doesn’t have much, and we don’t want to take on a big contract, you can just take on an unrestricted free agent and not sign him, do no harm to the organization with a bad contract. -George McPhee, GM
That’s right, Vegas can select an unrestricted free agent, or a restricted free agent who has yet to receive a qualifying offer, and never sign the player. It’s essentially a wasted pick, but there’s a massive benefit that comes with it.
In today’s NHL there are two major commodities, talent and cap space. Teams win consistently when they can maximize both at the same time. The Vegas Golden Knights aren’t going to be overflowing with the talent, but they do have the unique ability to control their cap unlike any of the Original 30.