This is an extremely interesting portion of the NHL Expansion, considering there are even more variables than the draft itself. Signing and trading players as well as navigating cap space for teams makes the market even more uncertain. Vegas could acquire their best player from this window as it allows them to negotiate with free agents before any other team has a shot at them.
Allowing the Las Vegas Golden Knights to negotiate with free agents who are left unprotected only makes sense, too. If this wasn’t a provision included in the draft’s rules, it would be entirely possible for Las Vegas to scoop up a pending free agent who goes unprotected — only to lose that player come the start of free agency if the drafted player has no interest in playing in Las Vegas.
When the expansion franchise is built, it needs to know that the players it selects will absolutely be staying with the organization following the draft. If that’s not the case, then selections could be wasted and the NHL’s desire to give the Las Vegas franchise a legitimate chance at putting up some wins in their first campaign could go out the window.
This does provide an interesting opportunity for free agents too. With Las Vegas being able to give the opening offer for those who go unprotected, free agents who go unprotected will be able to see what the market for them could offer, and not landing with the Las Vegas franchise through the expansion draft doesn’t necessarily keep them from signing with the club once free agency opens. Early insight won’t likely be a bad thing for pending free agents.
In theory, Vegas would want to avoid UFA’s in expansion as the likelihood of a veteran player remaining with a speculative team is low. That being said, some UFA’s and even RFA,s would consider joining the franchise and act as their teams contribution to the Golden Knights. Vegas has the cap space, and the room on their roster to fit role players who believe their potentials haven’t been realized on their team. If Vegas is able to sign a UFA or RFA from a team during this window, this player will act as the drafted player from the team.
This offers the possibility that players could be fall victim to the ‘sign and trade’ as well. Vegas frankly holds all the cards in terms of flipping players. They could sign a depth forward in their late 20’s and immediately flip them to a good team for a pick or two in order to stack their prospects. Unfortunately for Vegas they can’t be too good too quickly. Don’t expect the Golden Knights to make the playoffs anytime soon, but finishing closer to the top of the Pacific as opposed to the bottom does nothing to bolster their future prospects. While fans and players don’t want a bad team, having a bevy of skilled developing prospects benefits the franchise in the long run. By retaining their picks and generating young dynamic talent will be the best way to eventually become a playoff calibre team.
In a salary cap era, players are often pigeonholed by playing on skilled deep teams. Players that may not be protected by their teams would have the opportunity to sign into a more flexible market, as Vegas will need to also hit the Cap Floor. This means they must spend a certain amount of money on contracts every season in order to likely draft many young prospects from around the league. This could allow players to sign for larger contracts than they might receive from their respective teams.
Players like Kevin Shattenkirk, Martin Hanzel, Thomas Vanek or Patrick Eaves have been listed as top line players who will be UFA’s this season. A player like Shattenkirk is coveted around the league. But
scoring defenseman who can log serious minutes will cost teams upwards of 6 million dollars per year. That’s on a low scale. Few teams will have the space AND the need for a player of his skillset. Teams like Toronto have tonnes of young talent and cap room currently, but eventually they will need to sign their rookies. This means that while they have the need now, they won’t have the cap room long term.
This expansion window allows for George Mcphee to exclusively speak to several talented players who could make a huge contribution to his franchise.
The 72 hour window begins prior to the draft and after the protected list is released.
Here is a timeline for the next few weeks.
June 15th – buyout window opens
June 16th- last chance to place players on waivers
June 17th – 72 Hour negotiating window opens
Draft begins on the 21st.