Congratulations, Las Vegas. You're about to get a new NHL team. So what is it going to look like?
As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman noted, the league wanted to put an expansion draft in place that would allow the team to become competitive quickly.
"We wanted to ensure that the new team would have better access to players than any of its expansion predecessors," Bettman said during his announcement Wednesday. "The team coming into the most competitive league in sports will have a roster that will be competitive more quickly than any prior expansions."
This has already put general managers of existing teams on notice, considering that there's a good chance they're going to lose a player they like a great deal in the expansion draft. Teams will have to submit their protected list by June 17, 2017 and Las Vegas will be expected to make their expansion draft picks on June 20, 2017. So we're now less than a year away from this.
Here are the basics about the rules for who gets exposed and how Vegas will be expected to draft:
- NHL clubs have two options when it comes to protecting players from the expansion draft: 1. Teams can protect a combination of seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR 2. Teams can protect eight skaters at any position and one goalie.
- Players that have "no-movement" clauses in their contracts must be protected unless said player agrees to waive his no-movement clause to be placed in the draft.
- Players that are in either their first or second year of professional hockey, all unsigned draft choices are not eligible to be selected in the expansion draft.
Here's what the Las Vegas team has to do:
- They must select one player from each existing club for a total of 30 selections
- They must select a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders
- The players Las Vegas selects in the draft must account for between 60 percent and 100 percent of the salary cap.
Thanks to the folks over at generalfanager.com, they've put together a tool that allows you to go through all of the hypotheticals, protecting players for existing teams and selecting those exposed to the draft for Las Vegas. Using that tool, this is one hypothetical roster I came up with. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
In fact, based on the roster projections I've seen and now completing one of my own, the commissioner may have oversold the team's ability for immediate competition. That's even with my one pie-in-the-sky-probably-won't-happen pick Rick Nash. There's no question they'll be in a better spot than previous expansion teams, but they'll have some challenges in building a roster immediately. The good news is, they will pick no lower than No. 6 overall in the NHL's entry draft, so they should land a pretty decent prospect right out of the gates as well.
Obviously, there are a lot of different variables that will make some of these situations change over the course of the season, but given what we know today, here's a look at what a team in Las Vegas could look like come next June with a full breakdown below:
|Rick Nash||Brooks Orpik||Jimmy Howard|
|Dustin Brown||Marc Methot||Michael Hutchinson|
|Colin Wilson||Paul Martin||Malcolm Subban|
|Jakob Silfverberg||Tom Gilbert|
|Mikael Backlund||Ian Cole|
|Cam Atkinson||John Moore|
|Brock Nelson||Michael Stone|
|Blake Comeau||Alex Petrovic|
|Mark Letestu||Stuart Percy|
|Antoine Roussel||Trevor van Riemsdyk|
|Phil Di Giuseppe|
This roster probably would not strike fear into the hearts of opposing NHL teams right away, but they also wouldn't necessarily get rolled over. Additionally, the younger players at the bottom of the forward lineup all have some offensive upside that will be affordable now while they grow into bigger roles with the team. There were also some players chosen to help populate the AHL roster, unless they progress in the next few seasons.
Per generalfanager.com, this roster comes with a total cap hit of around $67 million, but keep in mind the team can't roster all 30 players and some of them do not yet have their contracts for next season and beyond decided. There should be enough of a cushion for this group to still work, though.
With each existing team able to keep a maximum of seven forwards, the Las Vegas team is probably going to have a hard time finding players who can score goals for them. Most teams will be looking to protect their top six and that doesn't leave much here. That said, the Vegas team can take on some veterans on tougher contracts and fill the depth slots with younger, less expensive options, while also collecting some talent to marinate with their AHL team.
Rick Nash (NYR): This is the only pie-in-the-sky option you'll find on this roster. The Rangers probably try to trade Nash before potentially losing him for nothing. However, if he doesn't get traded, getting out from his $7.8 million cap hit would be a benefit to leaving him exposed as the Rangers may be forced into a reset soon. How next season goes will be a big decision point. Meanwhile, Vegas gets a proven scorer with some name recognition and a little experience with playing in an expansion situation.
Dustin Brown (LAK): This would be a very risky add for Vegas, given Brown has a $5.875 cap hit through the 2021-22 season and he's been in a bit of a career decline. The Kings surely would be glad to be rid of that, especially after Brown had the "C" taken away. But he has captained a team to two Stanley Cups and they won't find someone with Brown's level of familiarity with the Pacific Division.
Colin Wilson (NSH): The Preds have to do what they can to protect their top-four defensemen, so that means exposing more forwards. Wilson is a former first-round pick who has underwhelmed in the regular season, but has excelled in the playoffs over the last two years.
Jakob Silfverberg (ANA): There is a big if attached to Silfverberg's availability, but the strong two-way winger with one of the most dangerous releases in the league would provide some real value to the Las Vegas team's top six forwards.
Matt Read (PHI): A likely third liner, Read is solid enough at both ends of the ice and has a little scoring pop.
Mikael Backlund (CGY): An underrated two-way center, Backlund just had a career year for the Flames, but their need to protect the core of their defense likely makes him available and a good option down the middle for Vegas.
Brock Nelson (NYI): Losing Nelson would be a tough pill to swallow for the Islanders, as he just posted back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons. He could thrive in a featured role for this team.
Cam Atkinson (CBJ): Columbus may actually protect Atkinson, but it's tough to know for sure based on some of the other players they have to take care of. He has surpassed 20 goals in each of the last three seasons and would be an obvious top-sixer in this group.
Blake Comeau (COL): Comeau would be a solid add to the bottom six. He had 36 points last season and could be a good performer in a third-line role for this club.
Mark Letestu (EDM): Another veteran depth forward, Letestu is an affordable way to get some extra experience into the lineup.
Antoine Roussel (DAL): Every team seems to need a villain. It's no longer the enforcer, but the pest. Roussel is just that with some scoring ability. He's had at least 13 goals in each of the last three seasons while specializing in getting under opponents' skin.
These following players are not yet signed to new contracts, so it's difficult to know where they would fit in underneath the salary cap and NHL lineup, but their youth makes them potentially valuable additions:
Jason Zucker (MIN): It would be just too perfect for the Las Vegas team to add the kid from Las Vegas, right? There would be some good players to pick from, but nabbing the local kid that already has one 21-goal season under his belt would help on the ice and in the marketing push. Zucker is still awaiting a new deal from the Wild as a restricted free agent presently.
Vladislav Namestnikov (TBL): It's hard to know where he'll fit in during Tampa's busy offseason, but if the Vegas team can add Namestnikov, they've got a potential top-six forward in the midst of his prime scoring years. Namestnikov took a huge step forward last year with 35 points in 80 games, including 14 goals.
Zemgus Girgensons (BUF): Another good bottom-six option, Girgensons is currently waiting on a new deal from the Sabres. The former first-rounder didn't have a good season last year, but he's shown flashes of the promise that made him a first-rounder in 2012. He has 70 points in 202 career games and will be only 23 at the time of the expansion draft.
Phil Di Giuseppe (CAR): The Hurricanes have to protect their young D corps, which likely leaves a player like Di Giuseppe available. He appeared in the first 41 games of his NHL career last season and had 17 points and showed some signs of promise.
Ty Rattie (STL): Dynamic in the AHL, there hasn't yet been a spot for Rattie to make an impact for the Blues. He'd be another high-upside, low-cost addition for a team that may be desperate for scoring. If there's not a spot for him in the NHL, he could be the centerpiece of Vegas' farm club.
The Vegas team is going to have some options, but based on what we could build underneath the cap, they're going to have to hope some teams leave unexpected players available for selection. There's not a ton of highly-productive blueliners out there that are likely to be made available, particularly among right-shot defensemen. Going for experience might be their best bet in the hopes of building a blue line through the draft or maybe in free agency in the ensuing years.
Brooks Orpik (WSH): The Caps will probably be happy to have shed the more burdensome years of Orpik's contract, while Vegas gets a reliable stay-at-home defenseman with a wealth of playoff experience and his name on the Stanley Cup. His best years are behind him, which makes him a riskier add here.
Marc Methot (OTT): Another experienced blueliner, Methot will still have two years remaining on his deal. He'll be 32 for the 2017-18 season, so he's no spring chicken, but also not on his last legs either.
Paul Martin (SJS): The Sharks have a great top-four right now that they'd probably like to keep intact. Martin is the obvious odd man out due to his age. That said, he continues to be one of the NHL's most dependable, consistent defensemen. He's also never missed the playoffs in his NHL career.
John Moore (NJD): The former first-rounder has bounced around a lot in his young career, but he seemed to find his game in New Jersey. He's also only going to be 26 going into the 2017-18 campaign.
Ian Cole (PIT): After helping Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup, Cole has some added value. He's also on a cap-friendly deal. However, adding him to this mix puts the Vegas team in a lopsided lefty-righty situation on the back end.
Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI): Another right-shot defenseman who has experience in a top-four role, van Riemsdyk is till reaching for his full potential. He had just 14 points in 82 games last season, but he came into the league as a standout offensive defenseman from the NCAA. He'd be a good fit here.
These players are still waiting on new contracts for the upcoming season:
Michael Stone (ARI): The Coyotes would be upset if they were unable to retain Stone, but they might not have a choice given who else they have to protect on their roster. Still awaiting an extension as a RFA right now, Stone would be a potential top-four option for Vegas on the right side if he ended up being left available.
Alex Petrovic (FLA): Petrovic probably gets an extension from Florida, but they won't be able to protect him in this draft. The big right-shot defenseman still has some upside to tap into.
Tom Gilbert (MTL): Gilbert could be elsewhere next season, but with him still in Montreal, Vegas needs right shot defensemen. Gilbert has some good puck-moving skills, but we'll have to see how he bounces back from last year's knee surgery.
Stuart Percy (TOR): More for organizational depth, Percy has yet to make a substantial impact at the NHL level for the Maple Leafs. He's had some solid showings in the AHL, however.
There are so many different directions this team could go with goalies, but their best bet might be to grab a stop-gap starter for the first year or two of their existence and find some younger guys that could potentially inherit the role in the future.
Jimmy Howard (DET): The Red Wings will undoubtedly try to offload Howard, but it may prove to be difficult. If that's the case, letting him and his $5.3 million cap hit go won't be a hard decision as Petr Mrazek has taken over the net. In Vegas, he'd be a decent stop-gap starter.
Michael Hutchinson (WPG): Getting a backup that has some good experience and still has starter potential would help. Hutchinson has 71 NHL appearances, but still has another level to get to. He'd be a decent safety net if Howard falters.
Malcolm Subban (BOS): Stuck behind Tuukka Rask, Malcolm Subban remains a strong prospect. His numbers took a bit of a dip this year in the AHL, but at 22 years old, he remains on track to be an NHL goalie. If the Bruins can't move him, they'll have no choice but to leave him exposed for the expansion draft. Perhaps this will be Las Vegas' chance to nab its goalie of the future.