NHL Expansion: should the protected lists be published?

March 17, 2017, by

With the Vegas Golden Knights now confirmed as the NHL’s 31st franchise, one of the major story lines of this coming offseason will be each organization’s preparation for the Expansion Draft.  Even though the draft does not take place until June, the strategic implications for each club have been a hot button topic for both fans and media, alike.  Salary cap simulator and contract tracking site, CapFriendly launched an expansion draft tool back in November, and according to their figures, over 30,000 simulations have been run to date.  Needless to say, the upcoming draft has been of interest, pretty much all season.

During the general managers meeting in Florida a little over a week ago, a report came out that the league was considering not publicizing each’s team protected list ahead of the draft. For those who may not know, each team is allowed to protect currently rostered players in one of the two following formats of the team’s choice: 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender, or 8 total skaters (forwards/defensemen) and 1 goaltender.

The claim was that there was nothing to gain by disclosing to players their perceived value within the organization (or disclosing to other teams, for that matter) nor allowing other teams to have this disclosure influence their protection/exposure choices.

It is possible that players would have their relationships with their respective clubs damaged by the “embarrassment” of being left exposed for public display?  I suppose so, but these guys are adults who live their professional life under a microscope.  I’m sure a conversation explaining the organization’s strategy would cover any issues.  No, this is about GM’s protecting their own reputations.

The NHL has a big ask in their Las Vegas project.  They want NHL fans to embrace a new organization in a non-traditional hockey market, where very few people actually, you know, live.  They want you to forgive the fact that they passed over Seattle, Quebec City, Portland, Hartford or any other fan favorite destinations.  Then, they want you to be fine with your current team losing a player to this new franchise, and only be able to protect some of their assets.  Now, they aren’t going to tell you who the pool of players the new team can choose from?

Organizational maneuvering and hot stove activity have increasingly become the bread and butter of the hockey offseason.  Unless you are a serious draft watcher, you care about the draft more for the trades than you do the picks.  Even the venerable MLB Trade Rumors (the go-to place for all baseball related rumors, trades and signings) has launched Pro Hockey Rumors to fill this void for hockey.  It is an area of interest and an easy one for casual fans to follow and not be completely overwhelmed by the complexities of the sport.

If the NHL wants to capitalize on the growing interest in the expansion draft, they need to let fans in.  Clearly, the interest in there, why blow a major opportunity for fans to feel engaged with the process of a team they will likely never care about just for the sake of protecting GM’s?  I understand the GM fraternity’s desire for self-preservation, but if one of them makes a move that stupid in protecting or exposing a particular player, why should the viewing public never know?  Chances are they will, as that player will likely be chosen, or a superior player on the same team will be, leaving the original on the roster.  This is the same with every transaction that is made.  GM’s are judged.  It’s part of the job.

Are there advantages to be gained by now allowing other clubs to know your protected list?  Possibly, but my guess is that they are on the margins.  Other GM’s might think that you don’t value a player highly because you left him exposed.  The problem is that many players are protected automatically by their NMC’s or long standing service to the organization.  You mean to tell me an actual NHL GM would think that the Rangers want to protect Marc Staal?  None of this stuff is really a secret.

The run up to the Expansion Draft is going to see some roster maneuvering and trades for teams to become compliant with either the 7-3-1 or 8-1 rule for the draft.  To keep teams completely in the dark about who is exposed and who is protected does nothing but keep GM’s skittish of each other and keep fans on the sidelines of engagement with the process.  To lose viewership of the draft or fan engagement on social media during the entire process seems like a really shortsighted decision for the sake of the player’s feelings or the GM’s insecurity.  Everyone who works in this industry knows that this is an entertainment business and keeping fans in the dark for what should be a transparent process, is very bad for business.

"NHL Expansion: should the protected lists be published?", 4 out of 5 based on 6 ratings.


  1. BSBCommenter says:

    Very little people live in Vegas? Doesn’t it have one of the fastest population increases? Transplant fans, sure, but I think it’s a growing city.

    • Al Dugan says:

      If you include Las Vegas within Clark County, NV, you have a population of over 2 million. Las Vegas, itself, has slightly over 600,000.

      I am already planning on going to see the NYR play there next year..

    • jerry maley says:


    • Blue76 says:

      Just how little are they?

  2. Walt says:

    I understand that all these players are professional, but let’s face it, if your name goes public that you’re not protected, maybe, just maybe you don’t give that extra effort in the PO’s?????

    We can all say who will, or won’t be protected, but there’s always a chance that things change, based on PO performance, injuries, and lack of production. As an example of what I mean, what if Oscar goes crazy and scores 15 goals thru the PO’s, will management look at him differently?

    I realize that’s an awful large number of goals, but what if that happened, and Step didn’t score a point? What would you do as the GM? See where I’m coming from? Keep the list under covers until such time that it is required to make it public. Also, by making it know early on, other GM’s may figure out your strategy for the upcoming season, and may make a trade in order to make certain that we don’t get the same player.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      The lists don’t have to be finalized until June. At that point they should be made public.

  3. SalMerc says:

    My company doesn’t publicize who it thinks is it’s prize employees, so why should each NHL team have to post who their top protected players are? I disagree that they need to make it public. It is still a business and needs to be run like one, regardless that it is public facing.

    Did everyone see where Buch practiced with the 5th line yesterday?

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Apples to oranges, Sal. No one really cares what you do, what I do, what Walt does……. the NHL is not cut from the same cloth. The NHL has a real opportunity to conjure up fan interaction and participation, and it would be a shame if they stiff those of us who are particularly interested in the expansion draft process.

      • SalMerc says:

        We can’t forget that the owners still run this like a business to make money. We the fans lose sight of that all too often. Revealing those names could make contract negotiations a nightmare.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          More money could be made for the owners if this is processed is brought into the public forum.

          It’s the GMs, whose lives would be made difficult by removing the privacy of the process.

        • Chris A says:

          I’m not sure if this would impact contract negotiations, Sal. Player salaries are like water, they find their level. Comparable players and their contracts hold a lot more weight than if a player was not placed on the protected list.

          Let’s not forget that the arbitration process exists, and, as a tearful Tommy Salo will tell you, the owners have zero issue with bad mouthing one of their own players in a public forum if it means saving a few hundred thousand dollars.

  4. Al Dugan says:

    This is the same league that uses “upper” or “lower” body injury to describe anything from a hangnail to a decapitation. Also, this is a league who doesn’t publish salary info because the Commish doesn’t think anyone is interested. The hard cap impacts EVERYTHING your team does, and the lack of growth in the cap is embarrassing.

    You don’t think these lists are going to remain private? Someone will leak it to their advantage. But, the NHL should be proactive in getting it out there and making it interesting for all of us crazy fans.

    BTW, SalMerc is NOT on the list of his company’s prized employees. 😳😳😳. The reason: too much work time on blue seat blogs!!

  5. Expansion Nerd says:

    The expansion protection lists should absolutely be visible to the public. Why not?

    Why wouldn’t the NHL and Vegas want to make a show out of this just like the NHL Entry draft or Entry Draft Lotto?

    The capfriendly expansion site is OK, but I like better because you can save your teams and see all players stats when making your picks.