The expansion draft is looming. Teams have been planning for this event below the surface for months, but now that we are within half a year of the actual event, more public moves are beginning to be made.
Previous expansion teams, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators, among others, took a while before becoming competitive teams. The NHL has ensured this is not the case with Las Vegas.
For this draft, each current NHL team is allowed to protect only one goaltender, plus seven forwards and three defensemen OR any combination of eight skaters. Essentially, each team is either losing a decent goalie, a top-four defender, or a top-nine forward. First and second year professionals are exempt.
Due to these tight restrictions, which include games played exposure requirements, teams will be forced to make moves to ensure they get something back for unprotected players rather than potentially losing them for nothing. Trades are at a standstill for now, but these next few months are certainly going be a tricky, yet extremely exciting one for general managers and fans alike.
A way NHL teams are trying to weasel around requirements is signing current players, primarily upcoming free agents, to new deals in order to expose them.
The Canadiens and Ducks are the first instance of this.
Montreal re-signed goalie Al Montoya to a two year contract extension earlier this week. By doing this, they can expose Montoya to Las Vegas in the draft as their goalie requirement. Before the signing, Montreal would have been required to expose Carey Price.
The Ducks did the same with Dustin Tokaraki. He was signed to a one year deal in order to keep John Gibson safe.
Now that it is January, there are going to be plenty more of these signings. Players reaching both restricted free agency and unrestricted free agency on July 1st are now eligible to be re-signed by their current clubs.
As time goes on, and as the expansion draft gets closer, there is going to be a lot of maneuvering taking place in the NHL. This is only the tip of the iceberg.