The NHL is heading to Seattle, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper thinks it's great. Given the way the city supports the pro teams it has, he is surprised that only two of the big four leagues are in Seattle now.
"There's so much passion in the city, it's actually amazing it took this long," Cooper said.
The NHL's Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to expand to Seattle beginning in the 2021-22 season.
The Seahawks are known for their 12th-man fan support that registers on the Richter scale during games. The Mariners drew almost 2.3 million fans this year.
Also, Seattle's MLS Sounders are consistently at or near the top of the league in attendance (it was No. 2 this season, averaging more than 40,000 a game).
An NHL team in Seattle, which will be the league's 32nd team, also likely creates another exciting rivalry. Vancouver and Seattle are about 150 miles apart, and both cities have passionate fans.
"You have L.A.-Anaheim, or an Edmonton-Calgary, and now Vancouver-Seattle," Cooper said. "Especially with the amount of border crossings that both teams will do, it will just be great for the league, (and) for both teams."
This also means another expansion draft, following the one for Vegas in the summer of 2017, and another chance for a new team with a new name and a shiny new arena to have a chance to pluck away players from your team.
Teams, and their fans, have 2 1/2 years to get ready. Seattle's expansion draft, scheduled for the 2021 summer, will follow the same rules as the one for Vegas, the league said. But after the Golden Knights used that draft to build a team that reached the Stanley Cup final last season in their first year, general managers might re-evaluate how they approach the next one.
Seattle will select one player from each team excluding the Golden Knights (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies). The 30 teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.
The draft rules mandate that teams have to protect players who have no-movement clauses (which prevent a player from being traded or waived) at the time of the draft. Players can choose to waive those clauses, though. Players with no-trade clauses (which typically allow them to be waived but not traded) do not necessarily have to be protected.
Only three current Lightning players have no-movement clauses in their 2021-22 deals, according to the website capfriendly.com: forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, and defenseman Victor Hedman.
So if those players are still on the roster come 2021, three spots are already taken on the list of players the Lightning can protect.
Only nine total current Lightning roster players are under contract through at least 2021-22, capfriendly.com says. The others: forwards Ondrej Palat, J.T. Miller, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, and forwards Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli can become restricted free agents after the 2020-21 season.