The Las Vegas Golden Knights are set to become the thirty-first team in the National Hockey League. However, before Gary Bettman’s latest Sun Belt team can take the ice, they need players. How does this happen for a brand new team? Something called the Expansion Draft, in which all 30 other teams will put up all of their players except for unsigned draft picks and a handful of select players, which they will “protect”. The list of players with this protected distinction are removed from consideration as additions to Sin City’s brand new roster.
The teams, who submitted their list today, had two format choices in regards to their protected players. Their protected list could either include seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie; or, eight skaters and one goalie (again, excluding draftees, rookies, and sophomores).
One of the tricky aspects of this decision-making process is that certain players have no-movement clauses in their contracts, which means a team must agree to protect these players automatically. This means that the teams, with their limited protection list, must convince some of their players to temporarily waive this clause at the risk of being drafted.
The cards are not entirely stacked against the players, nor in the Golden Knight’s favor, however. The new team may only pluck one player from each existing team. They also must maintain a certain amount of salary cap space.
One of the marquee players not protected is three-time Stanley Cup Champion, Marc-Andre Fleury, who —after a highly successful run in Pittsburgh—has been supplanted as top net-minder by Matt Murray. Former 40-goal sniper, James Neal, has also been left up for grabs, as has one-time All-Star Bobby Ryan. Whether or not Las Vegas picks up one or all of these players is yet undecided. Teams have the option to swap a first round pick to the Golden Knights in exchange for more protections.
The Golden Knights may hit the jackpot and draft a strong line-up, or they may bust. NHL fans won’t know until Wednesday during the Joint Awards Show and Expansion Draft Special.