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!