The NHL's Pacific Division could be getting a whole lot tougher. With Seattle heavily in the mix to get an expansion team, there has been a lot of talk about what a potential expansion draft would look like with the Vegas Golden Knights already being one of the best teams in hockey in their first year. The answer? Exactly the same.
According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the NHL has no plans to change the expansion draft for a potential Seattle team, via TSN. That's bad news for the Pacific Division teams who are currently dealing with the Golden Knights, a Frankenstein's Monster of the NHL's best depth. If it happens again, NHL owners would likely be immensely frustrated that new teams keep getting their best depth pieces and try to step in.
Bettman says if Seattle gets a team the expansion draft process would be the same as it was for Vegas.— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) February 28, 2018
The rules on how the Golden Knights built their team are relatively simple. All teams' first and second year players are exempt, and players with no-movement clauses have to waive them. Each team has two options regarding which other players to protect. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters (includes forwards and defenders) and a goalie. For reference, that's two lines of forwards (plus an additional one) and a pair of defensemen (plus an additional one) -- or eight skaters total if teams heavily prefer one position. From there, the Knights could select one player per franchise to fill their roster.
The Florida Panthers might welcome the opportunity to do their protection list again, with the first one having some truly bizarre decisions. They gave the Knights Jonathan Marchessault on the condition that the Golden Knights also took Reilly Smith (and his contract). The result? Two first-line wingers with a total of 121 points.
If Seattle were to join the league, a shake-up would likely be in the cards for divisions, with the Pacific already having an additional team over the Central. The logical choice geographically would be the Arizona Coyotes, but if the NHL wants to avoid two expansion teams in one division, it would be unwise to rule out the possibility of moving Vegas.
Regardless of what the league ends up doing, presumably Seattle will be the last expansion team we see for a long time. A total of 32 franchises is a good number to settle on, and it's more likely we'd see franchises moving before new ones get added. Seattle is by no means a sure thing either. Backers of the team are hoping for a decision in June. They applied for an expansion earlier this month, and on Thursday they're having a season-ticket drive to show interest. With the immediate success of Vegas, it may help Seattle's odds, whether the rest of the NHL likes it or not.
The Golden Knights currently have 87 points and lead the Pacific by 10 points and are tied for first in the West. They're seen as legitimate Cup contenders already, and have achieved unprecedented success for an expansion team in any sport.