NHL Expansion Draft FAQ: Key dates and rules

With the NHL Draft right around the corner, HC’s Daren Millard and Doug MacLean discuss the difficulty of trading up, specifically the Vegas Golden Knights chances of landing the #1 pick and Nolan Patrick.

By next week, the 31st NHL team will have its first full, official roster — although even after the Vegas Golden Knights take a player from each team they are expected to trade some of them away before next season.

It’s all going to start happening fast and furious, with some key dates on the horizon between now and when the Golden Knights’ picks are announced during the NHL Awards Show on Wednesday, June 21.

Here we get you set with all you need to know about the NHL’s first expansion draft since 2000.


Thursday, June 15: The buyout window officially opens
Between Thursday and June 30, teams can buy out a player on their roster, although these aren’t compliance buyouts. If a team decides to buy out a player they will be on the hook for the penalty against the cap. That penalty depends on the player’s age, and is paid out over a period twice the remaining length of the contract.

• 1/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
• 2/3 of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout
• No cap benefit to buying out a 35-plus-year-old contract.

Teams will be interested in buying out a player with a no-movement clause ahead of the expansion draft if they’d rather use a protection slot on a different player. For instance, the Colorado Avalanche bought out Francois Beauchemin and the New York Rangers bought out Dan Girardi, two players who would have been automatically protected.

There will be no buyouts during the trade freeze (more on that later), but the last day a team can buy out a player is June 30.

Friday, June 16: Deadline for players to waive no-movement clause for expansion draft
Teams were required to ask any player with a no-movement clause to waive it for the expansion draft by Monday afternoon — you can find a full roundup of those requests here — but the players don’t have to give their answer until Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Friday also marks the deadline for any player to go on waivers prior to the expansion draft.

Saturday, June 17: Beginning of trade freeze, signing moratorium, deadline to submit protection lists

3:00 p.m. ET marks the beginning of a trade and waiver freeze that won’t be lifted until Thursday, the morning after Vegas’ picks are unveiled. Starting at this time, the 30 existing NHL teams will also not be allowed to sign or re-sign any players. The only exception here are the Golden Knights themselves, who can make trades with other teams, and begin negotiating with unprotected RFAs and UFAs on Sunday morning.

5:00 p.m. ET marks the deadline for teams to submit their expansion draft protections lists to the league office.

Sunday, June 18: Protection lists approved, UFA/RFA interview period opens

At 10:00 a.m. ET, the league is expected to make each team’s protection lists public as Vegas begins the selection process. At this time, Vegas can begin negotiating with pending RFAs and UFAs left unprotected by their clubs. If the Golden Knights sign one of these players in this window, it will count as their selection off that team’s roster for the expansion draft.

Wednesday, June 21: Deadline for Vegas to submit its picks, roster unveiling

At 10:00 a.m. ET, the Vegas Golden Knights must submit their expansion draft picks to the NHL head office and the NHLPA. At this time, the team must also submit any Standard Player’s Contracts signed with unprotected RFAs and UFAs over the expansion draft process.

At 8:00 p.m. ET, the NHL Awards Show begins. The full list of picks made and contracts signed by Vegas will be unveiled throughout the show.

Thursday, June 22: Signing moratorium, trade/waiver freeze lifted
At 8:00 a.m. ET, the expansion draft process officially ends and business continues as usual. All teams may commence trading and the Golden Knights’ exclusive negotiating window with RFAs and UFAs ends. Buyouts may commence for all teams, with the window for those closing again on June 30.


1. Ahead of the expansion draft, each team may protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defencemen) and a goalie. However, each team must also meet the following exposure requirements, per the NHL:

• One defenceman 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.

• 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.

• 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 a team chooses to expose a restricted free agent goaltender, that player must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

Players who have potentially career-threatening injuries or who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games cannot be left exposed to meet these requirements.

2. Vegas must pick (or sign) one player off each of the 30 rosters, including a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders. At least 20 of these picks must be players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.

The aggregate cap value of Vegas’s 30 picks must be 60-100 per cent of the prior season’s salary cap upper limit ($73 million).

3. Vegas may not buy out any of the players it selects until the 2018 summer buyout period.


Who each of the seven Canadian teams may protect and leave exposed to the Golden Knights:

• Vancouver Canucks

• Toronto Maple Leafs

• Montreal Canadiens

• Edmonton Oilers

• Winnipeg Jets

• Calgary Flames

• Ottawa Senators

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