NHL Expansion Draft Rules - A Primer

A guide to all of the ins and outs of the Las Vegas Expansion Draft

Expansion is coming, and there are a whole lot of rules to follow along with.

Exempt Players

Probably the biggest point is who won’t be available for Las Vegas to select.


All players with fewer than three years of professional experience are automatically exempt from selection. This also includes unsigned draft picks, and signed players that have yet to play a game.

A year of professional experience is 10 professional games played under a NHL contract, including regular season and playoffs. For players who are aged 18 or 19* (on Sept. 15th of a given season), those specifically have to be NHL games. Everybody else it can be any league, as long as it’s under an NHL contract.

*The exception is a “19-year-old” player who turns 20 between September 16th and December 31st, and signed their first contract that same calendar year. For those players all games under an NHL contract count, no matter what league.

Injured Players

Players with a potential career-ending injury are also exempt from selection. The list of players who meet that definition is set by the league, and is as follows:

  • Dave Bolland (Arizona)
  • Craig Cunningham (Arizona)
  • Chris Pronger (Arizona)
  • Cody McCormick (Buffalo)
  • David Clarkson (Columbus)
  • Johan Franzen (Detroit)
  • Joe Vitale (Detroit)
  • Ryane Clowe (New Jersey)
  • Mikhail Grabovski (New York Islanders)
  • Pascal Dupuis (Pittsburgh)
  • Nathan Horton (Toronto)
  • Stephane Robidas (Toronto)/

The list is set, though presumably if a serious enough injury happens to a player between now and the draft it could be amended.

No-Move Clauses

Players with full no-move clauses aren’t exempt from selection, but teams are either required to get them to waive that no-move or protect them. There are 66 players on the list, with the only Senator on it being Dion Phaneuf.

Which brings us to...

Protection List

Finally, the point where teams actually get a say. Each team has two choices for what positions they want to protect:

  • Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie
  • Eight skaters and one goalie/

The obvious difference is 10 skaters vs eight, but less flexibility. Want to protect four D? You’re exposing three more forwards to do it.

Unsigned Players

Unsigned players with three or more years of professional experience are not exempt. That includes RFAs.

Exposure Requirements

Often confused with the exemption rules, teams also have to expose a minimum amount of experience at each position.


Teams must expose at least two forwards that are under contract for 2017-18, and have each played either 40+ NHL games in 2016-17 or 70+ NHL games between 2015-16 and 2016-17.


Teams must expose at least one defenseman that meets the same restrictions as the forwards - under contract for 2017-18, and has played either 40+ NHL games in 2016-17 or 70+ NHL games between 2015-16 and 2016-17.


Teams must expose at least one goalie that is either under contract for 2017-18, or is a qualified RFA. Unlike the skaters, there are no minimum number of games played for the goalies.

Can exempt players be exposed?

Nope - so that rookie who just played his second pro season and played 40+ NHL games

Selection Requirements

It’s not all protection lists and exposure requirements, Vegas has some rules that they need to follow as well.

How many players will Vegas be selecting?

First, the most basic point. The Golden Knights will pick one player from each of the 30 other teams in the league.

Can they decide to not take a player from a team?

No, they can’t. Everybody loses somebody.

Can they select more than one player from a team?

Yes - but only if that team screws up badly enough on following the Expansion Draft rules that they lose an extra player as a penalty. Teams that break the rules won’t necessarily lose an extra player to Vegas, as they could lose draft picks instead.

Are there rules about who Vegas needs to pick?

Yes. There are three different rules that the Golden Knights need to follow when selecting their 30 players.

  • At least 20 of the players must be under contract for 2017-18.
  • They must select 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. The remaining four players can be of any position.
  • The players selected must have an aggregate Expansion Draft value between 60 and 100% of the 2016-17 salary cap./

What exactly is “aggregate Expansion Draft value”?

We don’t actually know. Is it the straight up cap hit of the players? Is it pro-rated back down to 20 players, or 23 players? Is a player that is unsigned for 2017-18 a $0 hit or their 2016-17 hit?

Hopefully Vegas knows, but it’s never been defined publicly. The assumption seems to be that it’s the total 2017-18 cap hit of signed players.


There are a few other things to pay attention to.

UFA/RFA Negotiating Window

Vegas will have an exclusive* 72-hour window to negotiate with pending UFA and RFAs before the expansion draft. Any player signed in this way counts as the selection from that team for the expansion draft, and protected/exempt lists still apply.

This originally was a 48-hour window, but was recently extended.

*Other than the team the player is currently on, of course - they can still negotiate

Can they make side deals?

Yes, Las Vegas can make deals with teams in return for taking (or not taking) certain players in the expansion draft. These deals need to be above-board and all terms filed with the league, but do not need to be disclosed publicly. From a practical standpoint it will have to be public that there was a deal and any draft picks would have to be as well, but they don’t have to publicly reveal what they’re being paid off to do doing in return. Expect to see “future considerations” listed in the return column from Vegas on trade trackers.

Post-Expansion Player Management

Vegas has 30 players - what can they do with them other than assign 7-10 of them to the AHL?


The Golden Knights can trade any player selected in the expansion draft, but not back to the team that they were selected from until January 1st, 2018. No word on if any no-trade clauses would still be in force.

Update: Despite being what everybody thought was the rule, the Golden Knights can trade players selected in the expansion draft back to the team they selected them from. The rule about January 1st 2018 actually applies to players already traded between January 1st 2017 and the expansion draft, who cannot be traded back to the team that traded them away until that date.


Las Vegas cannot buy out a player taken in the expansion draft until the 2018 off-season.

Important Dates

Here’s the timeline on how everything will go down.

June 12th

  • 5 p.m., Deadline for teams to ask players to waive their no-move clauses/

June 16th

  • 5 p.m., Deadline for players asked to waive their no-move clauses to make a decision/

June 17th

  • 3 p.m., Expansion roster freeze starts - no buyouts, signings or trades that don’t involve Vegas
  • 5 p.m., Teams must submit their protection lists to the league/

June 18th

  • 10 a.m., Protection lists are delivered to the Golden Knights
  • 10 a.m., 72 hour window to sign unprotected pending UFAs/RFAs begins
  • Protection lists will be made public (likely shortly after 10 a.m.)/

June 21st

  • 10 a.m., Las Vegas submits their selections to the league
  • 8 p.m., Selections will be revealed as part of the NHL Awards show/

June 22nd

  • 8 a.m., Expansion roster freeze ends - teams can resume trading, signing and buying out players/
The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, explained

The Expansion Draft explained, this time in video format

Posted by Silver Seven - The unofficial Ottawa Senators blog on Thursday, June 1, 2017

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