Just one year after being awarded an NHL franchise, Las Vegas will play host to the expansion draft on Wednesday, June 21 at 8 pm.
For months, speculation on how the Vegas Golden Knights plan to shape their roster has been a major ongoing story. The NHL’s rules for this expansion draft are clearly generous in terms of ensuring the Golden Knights don’t get left with the bottom of the barrel in terms of talent. As a result, the expansion draft has loomed large over the rest of the league. Some teams are in good shape in terms of being able to protect their best players.
However, others stand to lose a good player for nothing. Consequently, situations like that make this expansion draft fascinating. Some teams could end up working out a deal with either another team to ensure they don’t lose someone for nothing, or with Vegas to ensure a player they covet doesn’t get plucked by the Knights. In addition, Vegas’s approach should be very intriguing. Will general manager George McPhee go with young players? How many big contracts will they take on to ensure they at least reach the salary cap floor? Could they make several selections with the intention of flipping those players for draft picks, prospects, or other assets they covet? How many unrestricted free agents will the Knights take a run at during their exclusive negotiating window? In conclusion, there are plenty of directions for Vegas to go with this expansion draft.
On the next few pages, we’re going to show you each team’s list of players that have been protected and which players are available for selection by the Golden Knights.
You’ll notice the absence of some pretty notable names from the list of players below. There’s no Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, etc.
That’s because players that have played two or fewer seasons of professional hockey (including minor leagues like the AHL), will be exempt from the process. Only players that have been protected or unprotected will be featured here. Once you get through the lists of players from every team, The Scrum Sports’ NHL staff, including myself and editor-in-chief Trevor Grout, as well as special guest Erik Erlendsson from LightningInsider.com, will each provide our predictions of who we think will be unveiled as the inaugural roster of the Golden Knights.
Before we get to the lists of each teams’ protected and unprotected players and who we would take if we were Vegas’s GM, here’s a reminder of the rules of the draft as laid out by the NHL:
- The Golden Knights have an early 72-hour negotiation window beginning June 18 with unprotected restricted and unrestricted free agents. Leading up to the official unveiling of their 30-man roster June 21, Vegas can sign UFAs and RFAs during that period and include them as part of their expansion draft.
- Any player Vegas signs as a free agent during this exclusive window will count as his previous team’s “picked player” for the expansion draft. As a result, that team could not lose another player.
- After Vegas’ exclusive window expires, they can’t sign additional players until free agency begins league-wide July 1.
- Vegas must choose at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.
- The Golden Knights must pick at least 20 players already under contract for 2017-18.
- They must build a roster with a minimum payroll of at least 60 percent of the league-wide salary cap.
- Players with no-movement clauses must be protected by their teams unless the players agree to waive those clauses.
- Only one goaltender can be protected by each team.
- First and second-year pros (including AHL experience) and unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection.
- Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.
All three of us chose our teams without the knowledge of any side deals that Vegas might already have in place that haven’t been rumored over the last couple of weeks. Although it was reported that the NHL’s salary cap will go up to $75 million next season, we’re still going to use Cap Friendly’s expansion tool that lists the cap at $73 million.
With that behind us, let’s take a look at who’s available and who’s not, as well as who we would take if running the expansion draft for the Golden Knights. These are the official lists as released by the NHL on Sunday morning. All players being protected by their teams are listed in BOLD.