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UFA And RFA Rules Still Not Finalized For Expansion Draft

In 39 days the Vegas Golden Knights will be on the Expansion Draft clock, having 72 hours to make their 30 selections and submit them to the league. The rules of this draft were made public on June 22nd of last year, the day Vegas was granted the franchise, yet still, 11 months later, there’s still confusion over exactly how this is all going to go down.

We get this question a lot so let me quickly summarize how this works, then we will get to what LeBrun is talking about. Hopefully by know you know teams can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie OR eight skaters and a goalie.  Among those nine or 11 can be restricted free agents (RFAs) or unrestricted free agents. If a player is an RFA it means other teams will have the opportunity to offer a player a contract and his current team can then match that contract to keep the player, or let him sign with the other team. Therefore, if an RFA is left exposed in the Expansion Draft, and Vegas selects the player, his current team cannot match the offer. In regards to unrestricted free agents (free to sign with any team on July 1st) there’s only one reason to protect them for the Expansion Draft, to keep Vegas from being able to negotiate with the player before July 1st. It’s not a very good reason, and no one is likely to do it, so expect many RFAs to be protected, and almost no UFAs to be protected. (Any questions? Read this. Still don’t get it, ask in the comments)

Now, to what Pierre is talking about. There’s going to be a moment, at some point in between June 17th and June 20th when free agents are no longer available to the Golden Knights.

Depending on how long that window is set for, it may slightly change the priority in which McPhee and his staff attack the 30 selections. As of right now, the Golden Knights are not able to speak to any player currently under an NHL contract. Once the draft starts, they can negotiate and sign deals with UFAs or RFAs and that would count as the Golden Knights selection from that players current team.

If the window ends early, Vegas will have to make that priority number one. Secure the free agents you want, get the contracts in place, and then move on to the rest of the Expansion Draft.

The confusing part is why this hasn’t been determined already. The Golden Knights have done multiple mock drafts in which they would surely have discussed when and how they plan on going after free agents. Odds are the timing won’t be too drastic a change that it will effect much, but if they take 24 hours off that clock, it’s not the best for Vegas.

One also has to wonder if this is a clue as to how many free agents the Golden Knights are looking at signing during the Expansion Draft; as opposed to afterwards on July 1st when free agency opens to everyone. McPhee has mentioned many times the point of the mock drafts is to flush out any questions they have about the rules and get the answered by the league. Maybe free agents barely came up because maybe it’s not a path they are looking to go.

Either way, for McPhee’s sake, hopefully they clear that timeline up, and soon. That way he can get a head start on the free agency “cheating” that’s almost certain to be rampant during the Expansion Draft.

Let the fun begin.


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  1. PhiSig 150

    We can sign an unprotected RFA and the original team can’t match and we don’t have to give up a draft pick? Sweet. So could we then trade the RFA to another team helping them circumvent giving up compensation?

    • Yes. Once Vegas picks the player, he is then property of Vegas. Then they can sign him (qualifying offer), or let him go (no $$$ on the books), or trade him in which case he would then become a pending RFA for the team he goes to.

  2. RJ

    Awesome info here. Lots of stuff I was confused about that this article makes very clear. Thanks Ken!

    I have a few expansion rules questions for you. Is there a deadline by which players will have to waive their NMC? If so is a NMC waiver an announced contract modification, or can teams withhold that information until they release their final protection lists? If we draft a player with a NMC that waived it for the expansion draft, does the waiver carry forward?

    There are about a half dozen players that could completely change the complexion of the draft. As an example Kevin Bieksa. If the Ducks have to protect Bieksa then they will either go 8-1 and we get Jakob Silfverberg or they go 7-3-1 and we get Sami Vatanen. Those are sweeeeeeet options. If Bieksa waives it then we likely choose between drafting Bieksa or Simon Despres or a middle prospect. The difference between these outcomes is HUGE. The sooner McPhee, McCrimmon, and we armchair GMs have waiver info, the more accurate our mock drafts can be. Additionally, does that waiver remain once they are in Las Vegas? If we draft Bieksa, can we trade him later, or does he have to waive his NMC again for us to move him?

    • I am not aware of a deadline to waive NMC’s. My guess would be that it is just kind of an assumed thing when the lists come out. As for a contract modification, it will likely not be announced that way as it’s not technically a true modification. It’s a one time thing and it goes back on the player’s contract if he is not selected in the Expansion Draft. I’ve got to find out that last part about whether the NMC comes with them. My assumption is that it does, however I don’t think it would matter too much here.

  3. PhiSig 150

    Can you explain how UFA in the NHL works to me? Darling and Bishop were both UFAs but they were traded to clubs for draft picks who then signed them to new contracts. Why do their previous clubs still have rights to these players? In the NBA players would have to agree to sign and trade. What is the benefit for the new club to trade a pick for an UFA who will be hitting the market in like two months? Is it just to have an exclusive negotiating window or can they now offer better contract terms similar to having Bird rights in the NBA? Were these deals done because of the impending expansion draft or were these just run of the mill deals typical for this time of year?

    • todd little

      Darling and Bishops were PENDING UFAs, meaning their old clubs held their rights up until July 1, 2017 so they were able to trade them for a pick instead of getting nothing in return come July.

      Yes, the new club is trading the pick to have exclusive negotiating rights until July 1. If Dallas can’t sign Bishop he is free to sign elsewhere in July and Dallas gave the pick to Los Angeles for nothing, essentially. A risk they feel like it’s worth taking. It worked for Carolina with Darling.

      There are no bird rights like in the NBA.

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