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From The Ice

NHL Expansion Draft rules starting to leak

30 May 2016: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to Game One in the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The NHL won’t confirm anything regarding expansion for sure until June 22nd, when the league will provide one of three options; either both ownership groups that put in applications for expansion teams (located in Las Vegas, Nevada and Quebec City, Quebec) will gain new franchises, one of them will and the other won’t, or the entire process will be deferred to a later date.

With the expectation that at least one of the two groups will be getting a new franchise has come rampant rumors, of course.

Speculation regarding whether teams will be required to protect certain players – and where the cutoff will be to protect players – has run wild in the last few weeks. As a result, it sounds like the league has cleared up some of these rules for NHL general managers, and Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston has revealed what some of those rules are.

The biggest rule will be that, unsurprisingly, NHL teams will be required to protect players with no-movement clauses (although they will be allowed to ask the players to waive them). While members of the media had reported that no-movement clauses set to expire in the summer of 2017 would require protection in a potential 2017 expansion draft, though – as the draft would take place a few days before those clauses were set to expire – Johnston and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly cleared that up.

“Players holding no-movement clauses – including those modified by limited no-trades, such as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury – count against the protection limit, provided that those contracts and clauses extend through the 2017-18 season.

However, players with no-movement clauses on deals that expire June 30, 2017 like Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman or Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek wouldn’t have to be protected for a draft that is likely to be held a week or two beforehand.”

Teams would also be required to expose at least two forwards and one defenseman who met two requirements, as well; in addition to having played at least 40 NHL games in the season ahead of the draft or 70 combined NHL games in the two seasons leading up to it, the three players teams will need to expose will all have to be under contract for at least one season following the expansion draft.

This will prevent teams from only exposing players who took the ice for small fractions of the season or those who are pending free agents, anyways. It will also prevent another situation like the Guy LaFleur pick in 1991, when the Quebec Nordiques saw LaFleur – who had already announced his retirement for the upcoming season – drafted by the Minnesota North Stars.

Teams will be exempt from protecting their youngest players, with no protection rights needed for players with two or fewer years of pro hockey experience (meaning 10 or more NHL games per season at age 18 or 19 or any level of NHL or AHL play at age 20 or older).

The penalties for not following the rules, though? They could be fairly harsh; per Johnston, Daly suggested that the punishments could include losses of draft picks and/or roster players, with potentially both being taken for teams that fail to comply.

The league will officially reveal whether or not there will be an expansion draft for the summer of 2017 – and how many teams will be included in it – on June 22nd of this year.

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