NHL expansion decision expected in June, potential expansion draft rules announced

With potential NHL expansion on its way, a date has been set for the official decision. Though a final decision hasn’t been made, rules for an expansion draft were announced.

Sportsnet Elliotte Friedman writes that a decision regarding the number of expansion teams for the 2017-18 season will be made June 24-25.

Friedman reports if expansion is a go, general managers will be able to protect a fewer amount of players in a potential expansion draft compared to 2000. There are now different scenarios for protection. Teams can protect three defensemen, seven forwards and a goalie, or eight skaters of any position – only players with at least three years pro experience are eligible. If there’s only one expansion team, the most a current NHL team can lose is one player. If there’s two expansion teams, that number moves to two players.

That would be a pretty big change from the 2000 expansion draft. The previous expansion rules with Minnesota and Columbus meant teams could claim either one goaltender, five defensemen, and nine forwards, or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards. It’s why the 2000 draft was so underwhelming and barely had any quality players. As St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Amstrong mentioned, the league doesn’t want a hideous on-ice product. Under the new expansion draft rules, a bigger, more talented pool of players would be available.

Friedman reports there’s been no official word on how the draft will affect players with no-move clauses. He said it’s likely no-move players won’t be available for selection.

Friedman asked a general manager about the expansion draft and he responded with concern regarding no-movement clauses.

“I think,” he said, “We’re going to find out how much the NHL hates no-move clauses. They are going to $#%& us.”

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports teams must expose enough players to total of 25 percent of their previous season’s salary, so expect some dead weight – players like Dave Bolland, David Clarkson and Travis Zajac  – to be made available.

One hypothetical tough decision based on the rules, as ESPN’s Craig Custance points out, would be what the Penguins do between the pipes as Matt Murray may be eligible under the new rules. The 21-year-old appeared in one game in the AHL in 2013-14, and if it counts, he’s technically eligible to be claimed as he’d be a three-year pro. Murray is widely considered to be the best and most coveted goaltending prospect in the league and should he become available, it’s easy to imagine him being one of the first players claimed. In the 2000 expansion draft, the first six picks were all goalies.

Since only one goalie can be protected, Pittsburgh would be in a tough position and could lose him since they’d have to protect Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh could go with eight skaters and claim them both – but that means they’d expose two additional players to expansion. It’s possible Murray wouldn’t be eligible, but the situation shows general managers may be forced to make difficult decisions if they have depth in goal.

A decision on NHL expansion is on its way. Teams are going to have to make tough decisions regarding rosters moves and it will be fascinating to see how the process unfolds.

About Liam McGuire

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