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NHL expansion draft rules still hazy for young stars

BUFFALO, NY – The NHL expansion draft process continues to gain some clarity, but there’s still much that’s unknown about next summer’s seeding of the Las Vegas franchise’s roster. 

For example, we now know there will likely be a window of opportunity for the Las Vegas team to make trades before the draft, in theory around June 1, 2017.

The purpose? To dramatically reduce the number of ‘handshake’ deals between the expansion team and the rest of the NHL, i.e. those agreements to compensate Vegas down the line for bypassing a player in the expansion draft.

“One of the reasons we want a player transaction window in advance is that those deals are legitimate deals. Clubs are getting value for making those commitments, but those commitments will be transparent and there will be bonafide player transactions as opposed to handshakes before they’re able to do those,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

So that’s illuminating. Less illuminating? The NHL expansion rules on young players and what constitutes “professional experience.”

According to the official rules for the expansion draft distributed at the Las Vegas announcement: “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).”

OK, so what’s a first or second-year professional?

One thing we know, for sure: “It’s really professional experience under NHL contract,” said Daly.

So those Artemi Panarin types can play a dozen years in Europe and the KHL and they won’t need to be protected if they’re in their first or second year on an NHL contract. (Specifically, it’s expected that Parnarin won’t have to be protected by the Chicago Blackhawks next summer for that reason.)

But what does that mean for, say, goalie Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins? You know, the Stanley Cup-winning netminder whose expansion draft status will determine the status of veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, going forward?

Murray, 22, signed his NHL contract in Sept. 2013. His first “pro” season was in 2013-14 with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the AHL, but he only played one game. Then he played 40 games in the AHL in 2014-15 and split time between the AHL and NHL in 2015-16.

So, based on NHL contract status, this will be his third year.  


“I haven’t looked at Matt in particular, so I couldn’t tell you what I know. What I know is the rule and how to apply it. I’m not going to apply it to particular players,” said Daly.

It appears Murray will have to be protected. But what’s the rule in general?

“It depends on a player’s age. And you’re talking about players that are under NHL contract. It’s really professional experience under NHL contract,” he said. “There are different standards for 18 and 19 year old players than there is for a 20 year old when it comes to pro years.”

Further clarification, we imagine, will be forthcoming. 


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.



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