A few days ago, it was unofficially confirmed that the NHL gave the green light to expansion to Las Vegas, paving the way for a new team to enter the league for the first time since 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild became the NHL's 29th and 30th teams. The rumors about Las Vegas have been ongoing for years, and on June 22nd, Gary Bettman will officially announce that Vegas has earned the NHL's seal of approval to begin play in the 2017-2018 NHL season. And with an expansion team entering the league, hockey fans will be subject to the first expansion draft in 17 years next summer. While nothing has been confirmed by any league official, the rules of the expansion draft have been leaked out, and they are as follows:
The expansion team is required to select one player from every team including a minimum of three (3) goalies, nine (9) defenseman and fourteen (14) forwards.
Teams are not allowed to reacquire players that the team traded between Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018, so that arrangements are not made to "hide" certain players from getting drafted.
Teams must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman who played 40 games in the 2016-2017 season, or 70 games in the previous two seasons.
The expansion team must build a roster that reaches at least 60 percent of the 2016-2017 salary cap.
The expansion team is not allowed to buy-out anybody who was picked in the draft until the following offseason.
The expansion team will have the same draft lottery odds as the team that finished third-last in the league (11.5%), and they will not be allowed to pick lower than sixth (6th) at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Teams are required to protect players who possess no-movement clauses active during the 2017-2018 season.
While those guidelines could very well change by the time the draft rolls around next June, those are the rules as of now. With that, teams are already planning on how to protect the best 11 players on their roster and making sure they get value out of the ones they're required to expose. As is always the case with expansion, trades are going to be made within the year by teams who need to make tough decisions, in order to get the most value possible out of a player they would like to protect but don't have enough slots to do so. For that reason, doing a mock-draft for 2017 expansion in 2016 is pretty pointless. However, the time between the end of the Finals and the Draft is usually a dead time in the news cycle for hockey, so I might as well give it a shot. Using the Expansion Draft tool on General Fanager, you can go through each team and decide who they'll protect, who they'll expose, and who the Las Vegas team will choose from those eligible to be drafted. I went ahead and did that myself, and here's what I came up with:
Of course, the odds of the expansion draft looking anything like that are essentially zero. Trades can be made from now until next year's Entry Draft for teams to try and shuffle their players around. A majority of the players I selected would be RFA's in 17-18 or before, so the details of their contract still need to be worked out. But if the draft does look anything like this, we know one thing about the Las Vegas team: It'll have an elite group of defenseman. The Top 8 on that team are all players that are either good right now or will be by the time next fall rolls around. The forward group isn't great, but with a group of D-men like that, and solid goaltending from someone like Fleury, that's a competitive team. If the GM of the Vegas team uses analytics in his decision making, there could be even more value to be had. Not to mention the assets in terms of picks, prospects, and other roster players that LV could earn by agreeing to not select certain unprotected players from teams.
In the past, most expansion teams have been laughingstocks the minute they entered the league. While eventually they all turned it around, it took some painful times and hard lessons learned to make their way through. With the amount of talent that could be available in the upcoming Expansion Draft, Las Vegas might not have to do that. If you read the whole way through, congratulations! I thank you for reading my Fanpost, and if you have any questions about the availability of a particular player, or why I may or may not have chosen someone, feel free to ask in the comments below. Thanks again for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day.