At this point, I’m sure that most have heard that the NHL, and their board of governors, have voted to award a franchise team to Las Vegas, Nevada. They will start playing as the 31st team in the league at the start of the 2017-2018 season. This is very exciting news, not just for the 2.3 million people that reside in Las Vegas, but for the entire country and the entire league.
The Vegas expansion team will be the league’s first expansion since adding the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild in the 2000-2001 season. With this expansion, the NHL becomes the first of the four Major North American sports leagues to put a team in Las Vegas. They will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division and the 15th team in the Western Conference.
The Man Behind the Team
Although bringing the Las Vegas team in was a league-wide effort, a good majority of the credit for landing the team belongs to billionaire businessman Bill Foley. Foley leads the charge for the Las Vegas expansion bid and will be the franchise’s principal owner. He is also required to pay the league’s $500 million expansion fee before entering, which will be evenly dispersed to the existing 30 teams.
The Las Vegas team will play it’s home games at the T-Mobile Arena, located just west of the Las Vegas Strip. This arena was built with hockey in mind, allowing the fans to experience the game the best way possible. It can hold up to 17,368 for hockey games and is expected to fill every single seat during their opening season. As reported by NHL.com, Bill Foley says he expects 85-90% of the crowd at every game to be season ticket holders, which is just incredible. He says:
“I’m convinced were going to be full every night, and particularly after a year or two when we’ve really demonstrated a winning attitude and we are performing on behalf of the city of Las Vegas.”
The Expansion Draft
With the expansion of a new team, the NHL has announced the rules for the expansion draft that will take place next summer. The goal of this expansion draft is to give the Las Vegas team the best chance of being successful right away.
The Rules(Source: NHL.com)
Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:
a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).
All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).
Player Exposure Requirements
All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:
i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.
Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a club’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection by the League.
Regulations Relating to Expansion Franchise
The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players (not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules).
The Las Vegas franchise must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
The Las Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
The Las Vegas franchise must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap.
The Las Vegas franchise may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.
The 30 NHL Clubs must submit their Protection List by 5:00 P.M. ET on Saturday, June 17, 2017. The Las Vegas team must submit their Expansion Draft Selections by 5:00 P.M. ET on June 20 and the announcement of their selections will be released on made on June 21.
2017 NHL Draft Lottery (Source: NHL.com)
The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-2017 regular season.
The Las Vegas franchise’s First Round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft will be determined inaccordance with the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery and, as a result, the Las Vegas franchise will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall selection.
The Las Vegas franchise then will select third in each subsequent round of the 2017 NHL Draft (subject to trades and other potential player transactions).
With all that said, fans are bound to have mixed emotions about this entire process. Some may not like the location the NHL has chosen, others may not like the rules for the expansion draft and the number of players that each team is allowed to protect.
In my opinion, the move to Las Vegas is a brilliant one for a few reasons. It is a constantly busy city that thrives on money, power, and sports, and being the first professional sports team to land in Nevada surely means that just about every resident of the state will jump on their new team. This new team creates an entirely new buzz around the league, gets people talking and discussing the NHL more, and surely will expand business once tickets and merchandise for the new team are available for purchase.
As far as the Draft Lottery for the expansion I think that the league commissioner, Gary Bettman, was correct in saying:“The team coming into the most competitive league in sports will have a roster that will be competitive more quickly than prior expansions.” The goal of the expansion draft was to give the Vegas team the best odds of being competitive with the rest of the league right away, and I think that it does just that.
Fans may not like that they can only protect a certain amount of players, leaving the rest to be poached, but the rules about protecting the first and second-year players and players with “no movement” clauses make it much fairer for the existing teams. Whatever way you feel about the new expansion, it’s happening so you might as well sit back and enjoy. The next three to four years are going to be an exciting and revolutionary time for the NHL and their fans.