NHL Expansion Draft Rules and Regulations

*This was originally published in May 2017

With NHL expansion to Seattle having recently occurred, the discussion around hockey will eventually turn to the deadlines for protected lists and possible players that teams will look to keep. With that, here’s a refresher for those interested in how the NHL Expansion Draft Rules work and how the NHL’s newest club will come to fruition.

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So, with that in mind, here’s how the NHL Expansion Draft will break down.

Protected Players List

The basic NHL expansion draft rules

For teams already in the league, they will have to submit a protected players list that Seattle won’t be able to draft from. To do this, they will have two options.

They can either choose to protect:

  1. Seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender
  2. Eight skaters (forwards or defencemen) and one goaltender.

Players who currently have no-movement clauses as a part of their contracts at the time of the Expansion Draft (and refuse to waive it) have to be protected by their respective franchise and will count towards the team’s protected list.

To add to that, all first and second-year professional skaters (including unsigned draft picks) will not be available for Seattle to select from and won’t be counted as part of the protected player’s list.

Players Available for Expansion Draft Selection

You will see some surprises:

With respect to the players that are available for Seattle to select in the expansion draft, each team must meet certain requirements.

2021 NHL Expansion Draft Seattle Kraken
Seattle Kraken draft picks (L-R) Jordan Eberle, Chris Driedger, Brandon Tanev, Jamie Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury and Mark Giordano following the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

They have to expose one defenceman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 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.

They will have to have two forwards available for selection who are a) under contract in 2021-22 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.

Finally, one goaltender from each club has to be made available. They have to be under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. However, clubs choose to make a restricted free agent goalie 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.

Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games may not be used to satisfy a club’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. The league may also deem these players exempt from selection. For example, the Detroit Red Wings would not be able to satisfy the Expansion Draft requirements by exposing Henrik Zetterberg (if he remains out of the lineup for the entirety of the 2020-21 season).

From there, we turn to the incoming franchise. How will the rules and regulations of the draft affect the Seattle franchise?

How the Seattle Franchise Will Be Formed

The team will select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players. However, if a team is in violation of Expansion Draft rules, Seattle could acquire additional players due to the penalty.

In addition, the new franchise will have to select the following positions – 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders. From the 30 players that Seattle will select, 20 of them will have to be under contract for the 2021-22 season. The players selected will also have to have a combined value of between 60 to 100 percent of the previous season’s salary cap ceiling.

While they will only have a select few to choose from for each existing franchise, Seattle won’t be able to buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft until after their first full season (or until the summer of 2022).

Following the release of teams’ protected players lists, the Seattle franchise and GM Ron Francis will have the opportunity to sign UFAs and unprotected RFAs within a 72-hour window. Following that, the team will be expected to have their roster in place.

With things still up in the air for the next couple of seasons, all of the exciting expansion events will certainly be front and center as the 2020-21 season comes to a close next year. While Seattle readies for their NHL franchise, other clubs will have a busy couple of seasons as they look to get their rosters set for yet another expansion draft. That being said, when the puck drops on the 2021-22 season, the NHL will be a 32-team league with a new arena and team for fans to go have a look at.