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Las Vegas Expansion Alters NHL Schedule; Draft Rules Set

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The Islanders will have a balanced Metro schedule in 2017-18.

[company of some sort] Arena, the future home of the NHL's Las Vegas something-or-others.
[company of some sort] Arena, the future home of the NHL's Las Vegas something-or-others.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL made its expansion to Las Vegas official Wednesday afternoon, along with a host of details on how the process will work. Among the things affecting the New York Islanders are a change to their divisional schedule balance beginning in 2017-18, as well as, of course, the loss of one future player via the expansion draft set for June 20, 2017.

Schedule: 4 Games Each against Metro Opponents

In order to continue ensuring every team visits every other NHL arena in a 31-team league teams in the Eastern Conference will now have a fully balanced intradivisional schedule: 4 games each against all 7 other divisional foes.

That means the Islanders will have two home and away dates with each Metro opponent, a change from recent seasons when they would face some Metro teams five times.

They'll have three games against all eight Atlantic Division teams (2 home/1 away against four teams, 1 home/2 away against the other four).

They'll continue to play home-and-away sets with each Western Conference team, who now number 15 with the addition of Las Vegas.

Expansion Draft Rules

Expansion draft rules have leaked and been tweaked over the last few months, and the essential info remains as previously reported.

All 30 teams will lose one player to Vegas. (Through the expansion draft, we mean. Other players lost to Vegas are due to sin and vice.)

Who teams can (or must) protect:
  • Teams can protect either 11 players (7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender, or 9 players (any combo of 8 skaters and 1 goaltender)
  • All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who decline to waive such clauses) must be protected and will be counted toward the team's protection limit.
  • 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. (So, Mathew Barzal is safe; Ryan Pulock is not.)
What teams must expose:

In addition to the above rules, teams must make the following available to Vegas:

  • 1 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.
  • 2 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.
  • 1 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.
No Prongers nor Savards

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.

However, most teams will have enough trouble sorting out who they're protecting -- and thus expose a player or two they'd really rather not -- so the inability to use an injured player to meet the exposure requirements shouldn't matter much. But in this league, it never hurts to cover all loopholes.

What Vegas Must Claim

There is the threat of punishment for violations, too. In the rule about Vegas having to take a player from each team for a total of 30 players, it notes "not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules."

So don't break the rules.

Anyway, the league specifies a minimum haul for Vegas:

  • Minimum players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
  • Minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
  • Salary cap: 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.
  • Las Vegas may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

When is the Draft?

NHL clubs must submit their Protected Lists by 5 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 17, 2017. The Las Vegas franchise must submit its Expansion Draft selections by 5 p.m. EDT on June 20. The announcement of their selections will be made on June 21.

Finally, the Vegas team will be treated like the third-worst team for the 2017 Entry Draft, meaning their lottery position will give them no worse than the 6th overall pick, and  they will have the third pick in each following round.