Seattle will finally be getting an NHL franchise and will be joining the league in 2021, in case you live under a rock and haven’t yet heard. Now, 2021 is still a long way away, heck the NHL could even have a lockout between now and then (fingers crossed that we don’t have to go through that again).
The expansion draft process will be just like the one that happened with the Golden Knights. Each team can protect 7 forward, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie, or 8 skaters and 1 goalie.
The Golden Knights were given a crazy amount of draft picks and young players for taking on contracts that other teams were desperate to get rid of. Look no further than their trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus gave Vegas a first and second round pick, plus William Karlsson just so they would take David Clarkson and his ridiculous contract in the expansion draft. Karlsson went on to score 43 goals and add 35 assists in Vegas’ first season.
Same with the Anaheim Ducks, who gave Vegas young defensemen Shea Theadore just so they would take Clayton Stoner in the expansion draft. Theadore played a huge role on Vegas’ defence and is showing the potential to be a top 2 defensemen one day.
Now, it’s unfair to say that the Golden Knights didn’t get a little bit lucky in the expansion draft. The odds that Seattle will have another team want them to take their superstar goalie because a younger and cheaper option is outplaying him is very slim. It’s likely that Seattle won’t have a goalie of Fleury’s calibre providing elite goaltending for them right away.
The draft is also a two and a half year away, giving teams a long window to prepare their rosters for the expansion draft. There is a good chance we will see some more in-season trades during the 2020-2021 season that are clearly trades to help better both teams for the expansion draft.
NHL teams learned from the expansion draft with the Golden Knights, where they gave a new team some really good young players, still with a lot of cap space, and a wealth of draft picks. They were able to use some picks to bolster there team mid-season last year by trading for Tatar. Then in the off-season had the cap space to sign Paul Stastny (3 years, 6.5 AAV) and trade for and extend Max Pacioretty (4 years, 7 million AAV).
Now the Golden Knights might have overachieved a bit last season in making the Stanley Cup Finals, and they don’t have a wealth of cap space at the moment because of those off-season signings. However they are still set up amazing moving forward with a lot of prospects thanks to all the draft picks they were given. Vegas chose to fill up the cap space a little more to help them win right now, but they easily could have stayed with a ton of cap space and continued to use it to help their franchise like they did with the three way trade last year between the Penguins, Senators and themselves, where they were rewarded with Ryan Reaves for taking some of Brassards salary so the Penguins could afford him from the Senators.
NHL teams faced with the option of loosing a good player to Seattle in the expansion draft might think twice about trading away picks and prospects to protect him after seeing the position Vegas put themselves in after their expansion draft. Seattle will still have a competitive team, it’s just unlikely they will be set up for the future as well as Vegas is.