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The Anatomy of an Expansion Draft

I will be doing a series of posts on the Vegas Golden Knights to help understand likely scenarios for Seattle in just 15 months’ time when Seattle starts building their roster. This first post is taking a look at how Vegas approached their NHL Expansion Draft.

Pre NHL Expansion Draft

The Vegas Golden Knights were able to accumulate two groups of assets: 1) the right (and obligation) to select one player from each of the 30 existing teams in the Expansion Draft 2) NHL Entry Draft Picks. There are rules and requirements of the Expansion Draft, but that is a post for a different time. There were also a couple Free Agent signings before the Expansion Draft, but the focus of this first post is on the assets Vegas accumulated in that Expansion Draft. Vegas’s negotiations of Expansion Draft player selections also had a major impact to their Entry Draft Picks. As a matter of setting a visual baseline, here is simply what Vegas’s Expansion Draft selection and Entry Draft Picks would have looked like at the start. Just like all NHL teams, the Vegas Golden Knights are entitled to 7 NHL Entry Draft Picks per year.

I know this is a simple bar chart that probably doesn’t need to be a standalone visual but just bear with me a bit.

Requirements and Side Deals

The expansion rules stated that the Golden Knights were required to select one unprotected Expansion Draft eligible player per team in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. There was a lot of nuance in the expansion rules in regards to protecting players, but to keep it simple, let’s just assume one player must be selected from each NHL team. What is also allowed, which was used strategically by Vegas, is the negotiation of terms of their player selection with each respected team. This is commonly referred to as a “Side Deal”. An example of this was when Anaheim agreed to trade Shea Theodore to Vegas if Vegas selected Clayton Stoner in the Expansion Draft. Clayton Stoner was injured and would never play another NHL game. Theodore was a young up and coming defenseman for Anaheim. Vegas gets a young prospect while Anaheim would get the Clayton Stoner contract and financial commitment taken off their books. There was a total of 10 Side Deals in the Expansion Draft that netted the Golden Knights an additional 6 players, 10 Entry Draft picks, and signing rights to one player.

Summary of the Expansion Draft.

From a player perspective, this is how players were acquired in the Expansion Draft.

Notes: In the example above, Clayton Stoner would be considered “Expansion” while Shea Theodore would be considered “Expansion (Trade)”. Nikita Gusev was unsigned at the time of the Expansion Draft but his NHL rights were owned by Tampa Bay and traded to Vegas via a “Side Deal”. That asset is classified as “Expansion (Trade-Rights)” in the chart above.

Expansion Draft Detail

Shuffle the Assets

The makeup of the Golden Knights assets from the Expansion Draft would start to morph over time as the Golden Knights would start to shuffle things around. Keep in mind that an NHL roster carries 23 players and even with Vegas’s AHL team it was inevitable that Vegas would need to cut down its player assets.

At a high-level, there were 4 different scenarios that would play out of these player assets.

Start of the inaugural Season

Here is a final look at the players that were acquired directly or indirectly via Expansion Draft that would start the 2017-18 season as property of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Of course, one of the biggest stories with the Expansion Draft was how Vegas accumulated NHL Entry Draft picks. Draft picks were acquired in the Side Deals and the Flip-trades. Vegas would acquire a net of an additional 14 draft picks via Side Deals and trades.

The Seattle expansion might not look like the Vegas Expansion Draft, but the scenarios will be similar. Most pundits are forecasting that there won’t be a lot of Side Deals available for the Seattle Expansion Draft. It’s possible, but there will be teams with too many quality assets at one position that would require exposing those assets in the Expansion Draft. Teams could be motivated to trade a prospect or two, to keep Seattle from selecting an unprotected player. Furthermore, there will likely be salary cap issues of some NHL teams that can be exploited for Seattle. For more information on the Expansion draft rules, check out this post on NHL.com.

In the next post, I will dig into how these assets were used in the 2017-18 season. For players, it will be where they played and for the entry draft picks, how they were utilized (i.e. picks or trades).

John Barr
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