James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Making Vegas’ team competitive quickly – How expansion draft will work

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So, it’s true: the NHL is adding a 31st franchise in Las Vegas starting in the 2017-18 season. The NHL aims to make that team competitive more quickly than any expansion team before it.

How will that expansion team come together and how will it affect the standing 30 NHL franchises? Here are some quick standout notes and figures.

(If you just want to see the full list, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

  • As expected, teams can protect one goalie and 10 skaters (seven forwards, three defensemen) or one goalie and eight skaters.

The league has already reacted to the one goalie issue, as Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray noted when trading Frederik Andersen.

  • Teams are basically out of luck when it comes to no-movement clauses. They need to protect players who have them.
  • There are protections in place so that recently drafted players can’t be poached. See the full details at the bottom of the post.
  • The Vegas franchise must select one (and no more than one) player from each of the league’s 30 standing teams. It must end up with at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. There are provisions to avoid “shenanigans” and loopholes.

  • Teams submit their protected lists on June 17, 2017 while the Vegas team will select its players by June 20.
  • Vegas will be involved in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery. They’ll have the same lottery odds as the third-to-last team from the 2016-17 season. They can select as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 6 in the 2017 NHL Draft.

One interesting tidbit that wasn’t mentioned:

Consider those the high points. Want every detail? Here are the full rules for the expansion draft, via the NHL:

The following rules were approved for the 2017 Expansion Draft:

Protected Lists
* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

* All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

* 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).

Player Exposure Requirements
* All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:

i) One 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.

ii) Two 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.

iii) One 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.

* 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.

Regulations Relating to Expansion Franchise
* The Las Vegas franchise must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players (not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules).

* The Las Vegas franchise must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.

* The Las Vegas franchise must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.

* The Las Vegas franchise 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.

* The Las Vegas franchise may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

The 30 NHL clubs must submit their Protected Lists by 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 17, 2017. The Las Vegas franchise must submit its Expansion Draft selections by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 20. The announcement of their selections will be made on June 21.

2017 NHL Draft Lottery

The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season.

The Las Vegas franchise’s First Round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft will be determined in accordance with the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery and, as a result, the Las Vegas franchise will be guaranteed no lower than the sixth overall selection.

The Las Vegas franchise then will select third in each subsequent round of the 2017 NHL Draft (subject to trades and other potential player transactions).

Report: Coyotes lock up Goligoski for five years, Datsyuk deal discussed (Update: Goligoski deal official)

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The Arizona Coyotes are currently the furthest team from the 2016-17 salary cap ceiling of $73 million, but that might not be the case for very long.

Multiple outlets indicate that the Coyotes have a five-year contract lined up for defenseman Alex Goligoski. ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that the deal would be in the “neighborhood” of a $5.5 million cap hit, which would put the total around $27.5 million.

Update: The Coyotes have officially announced Goligoski’s five-year deal. Arizona didn’t disclose his salary.

Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan backs up Custance while TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that it’s at least expected to be a five-year deal.

The Coyotes have been struggling for some time, yet an influx of new talent makes Arizona quite a bit more interesting. You can do worse than the puck-moving combination of Goligoski and Oliver Ekman-Larsson:

While demand keeps climbing for defensemen of Goligoski’s ilk, supply continues to shrink and shrink.

The Coyotes made a bold move in acquiring Goligoski’s rights for a fifth-rounder, but it could pay off. They’re expected to make this official during a press conference scheduled for Wednesday.

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Morgan floats another interesting nugget: there were at least discussions that the Coyotes might absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s $7.5 million cap hit for 2016-17.

It’s likely that Goligoski + Datsyuk would get the Coyotes close to the floor, although Arizona might be less inclined to do so now. Then again, the Coyotes are already absorbing Chris Pronger‘s $4.935 million cap hit, so they’re certainly not against the concept.

The Red Wings may want to at least keep the Coyotes in mind when making calls, although Arizona’s sights may now be set on guys who … you know, are actually slated to play next season.

So, who’s sweating the NHL salary cap the most?

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It’s only natural: once the $73 million cap ceiling and $54 million floor became official for 2016-17, fans asked “Where does my team stand?”

At such a modest bump from 2015-16’s $71.4 million upper-limit, teams aren’t exactly going to loosen their belts. Meanwhile, hitting the floor is tougher, but not astronomically so.

If you want to check out the situation for every team, consult General Fanager and Cap Friendly. For the sake of your scrolling thumb, consider this an abridged look at the teams sweating things the most.

One team above the cap

The only team currently above the $73 million ceiling is the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

That’s almost $1.5 million more than allotted.

It’s not necessarily a reason to panic, as Cap Friendly’s estimate is based on a roster size of 23 players. One would assume that the Penguins could place Pascal Dupuis‘ $3.75 million cap hit on LTIR, too. Eventually.

Without major players to re-sign (sorry, Justin Schultz), the Penguins’ situation isn’t as bad as it initially looks. Things will still be pretty tight, however, so expect regular Marc-Andre Fleury rumors going forward.

Teams sweating the ceiling

So, who else is heading for discomfort? The short answer is “the usual suspects.”

The Chicago Blackhawks gained some breathing room by moving Bryan Bickell’s cap hit, but they’re still gasping for air:

And … yeah, it would still be tough to grab Evgeni Malkin.

Maybe the Los Angeles Kings have a slightly better chance to retain Milan Lucic, but that situation is very much TBD, as LA Kings Insider notes here.

That slight bump might be good news for the Detroit Red Wings amid their efforts to get rid of Pavel Datsyuk‘s $7.5 million cap hit:

Long story short, contending teams with limited space and significant pieces to consider will sweat things about as much as expected. Again, these two resources are your friend.

Down under

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the teams that need to get to the floor, aka “Those who should be on Ken Holland’s speed dial.”

  • The Coyotes took a step closer with the just-about-official Alex Goligoski bump. They generally have a lot of spots to fill, too.
  • The Devils are closer after absorbing Marc Savard‘s roaming cap hit. A guy like Kyle Palmieri should help them beef up their salary base, too.
  • The Lightning will probably stand as big-spenders. The Bruins have plenty of money waiting to be spent, with the bigger questions being “Who gets the cash and who leaves?” The Panthers seem primed to spend like a contender, at least in relative terms.
  • Don’t worry about the Flames; Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan should eat up plenty of space.
  • The Jets and Senators rank among those teams trying to be budget playoff contenders, so they might not be far from the floor. They shouldn’t struggle too much, what with the need to re-sign guys like Mike Hoffman.
  • The Hurricanes may be a salary dump target, as they don’t really have major players to lock up and are at about $48 million.

Overall, there aren’t a ton of teams that should really sweat the cap floor, especially if someone actually accepts Datsyuk’s dead money.

Ultimately, the table is set for an intriguing off-season. The increase in cap space keeps free agent season alive, but the boost is small enough that teams might need to make bold trades to save space.

Buckle up.

The NHL’s salary cap for 2016-17 is $73M

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No more guessing or estimating needed: the NHL’s salary cap ceiling is set at $73 million for the 2016-17 season.

The floor is set at $54 million while the “adjusted midpoint” is $63.5 million.

It looks like the NHLPA did indeed agree to a 5 percent escalator that bumped up the cap from what would have been a very limiting mark. Breaking: not every player is happy taking one for the team, so to speak:

This represents a modest $1.6 million bump from 2015-16, when the cap ceiling was at $71.4 million.

Early guesses were that the cap would be at $74.5 million, but NHL GMs will need to settle for a point in between that overly optimistic estimation and last season’s upper-limit.

It doesn’t sound like GMs were relying on that early, incorrect $74.5 million prognosis:

This $73 million provides at least a touch of breathing room, yet we’ve already seen examples of teams needing to make some painful decisions, including the Chicago Blackhawks giving up Teuvo Teravainen to get rid of Bryan Bickell’s cap hit.

The cap wouldn’t be the only factor in moves around draft day and beyond, yet it would be one of the leading motivations for what some believe will be the busiest off-season in years. Stay tuned.

Want to know more about which teams are affected the most by the cap? Check out this post.

Sounds like Panthers won’t re-sign Montoya, who could be a nice find

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Every summer, there are players who slip under the free agency radar and end up yielding surprising returns for affordable contracts.

Could Al Montoya be a sneaky goaltending gem for teams that wait out the feeding frenzy stages of the UFA period?

We may get to find out, as the Sun-Sentinel reports that Montoya will likely join Brian Campbell as Florida Panthers turned free agents.

There were already murmurs of the Panthers wanting to move on from Montoya a couple weeks ago, even when the team seemed a little more optimistic about retaining “Soupy.”

When it comes to lower-tier free agents, it’s all about managing expectations.

Montoya isn’t likely to save a team’s bacon over and over again, yet he boasts reasonable potential to be either a nice backup or even a decent 1B option.

In 25 games for Florida in 2015-16, he went 12-7-3 with a nice .919 save percentage. He also managed a .920 save percentage in 2013-14 with Winnipeg.

Now, his 2014-15 work with the Panthers was a little rough (6-7-2, .892 save percentage), so it’s not to say that he’ll light the world on fire. His career .909 save percentage argues that he probably isn’t a backup who can become a true top guy like, say, Martin Jones.

Call them flashes of brilliance or glimpses of competence, but there have been enough moments that he could be the sort of backup who can grab subtle-but-important points. There’s even the possibility that he can hold down the fort when a No. 1 guy gets injured.

With Luongo getting up there in the years, the Panthers might require even more than what Montoya can provide. Another team – maybe the Anaheim Ducks with John Gibson more exposed? – would be wise to take a look at Montoya if he hits the bargain bin.