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Quick Expansion Draft Rules Update

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Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As anyone who has followed the expansion draft series knows by now, some of the rules can be very confusing. For some scenarios, the NHL never clearly laid out the specific guidelines ahead of the Vegas expansion draft.

While doing research for an upcoming article, Prashanth Iyer found information that contradicted something I believed to be true about the way unprotected free agents work.

It actually simplifies things, but it’s a little frustrating because, and you may want to sit down for this, the NHL has not clearly laid out how it works. During our Vegas Expansion Draft Series, I spent hours trying to find out exactly how unprotected free agents work.

Seattle can sign an unprotected RFA or UFA during a special 48 hour negotiating period that takes place between the time that teams submit their protection lists and the day of the expansion draft. Teams do not get compensation for Seattle signing an RFA like they would in the case of an offer sheet. If Seattle does that, the team the player is currently on will not lose an additional player in the expansion draft.

That is the information that I’ve been putting out since the Vegas Expansion Draft Series, and it’s accurate. But it’s not complete.

Apparently, Seattle can select an unprotected UFA or RFA in the expansion draft WITHOUT signing them during that 48 hour period. How do we know this? Because as Prashanth researched, it happened last time, even though the league never specifically said it could (as far as I could find).

Vegas signed two UFA/RFA players on 6/21, the day the expansion draft selections were announced, so you would assume those contracts were negotiated during the 48 hour window and announced on the 21st. Those players were Erik Haula and Deryk Engelland, if you are curious.

They also selected the following players who were on expiring UFA/RFA contracts:

Teemu Pulkkinen - RFA - Vegas signed July 6, 2017
Connor Brickley - UFA - Florida signed July 1, 2017
Chris Thorburn - UFA - St. Louis signed July 1, 2017
Jean-Francois Berube - UFA - Chicago signed July 1, 2017
Brendan Leipsic - RFA - Vegas signed July 15, 2017
Oscar Lindberg - RFA - Vegas signed July 4, 2017
Griffin Reinhart - RFA - Vegas signed July 15, 2017
Nate Schmidt - RFA - Vegas signed August 5, 2017

(The players in italics were selected as part of a trade.)

In many cases, this doesn’t change too much, but I wanted to make sure the information I present to you is accurate. Vegas only selected a UFA as part of a trade. The only real change from what I’ve been saying is that Seattle can select a RFA without signing them during that 48 hour period. I don’t think it changes much, if anything, of the predictions I’ve made so far because I’ve basically been treating RFAs as if they could be selected without being signed: If a team would be upset to lose one, they’ll protect them if possible.

It still makes sense in most cases for teams to not protect UFAs because what it really protects is the exclusive negotiating rights through July 28 (the day free agency opens for all teams this season, which is 7 days after the expansion draft.) If a player isn’t going to re-sign with their current team, they’ll want to test the market so all 31 teams can make offers, driving up the price. Of course, they may really want to sign with Seattle, in which case they weren’t going to sign with their original team anyway, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?