Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

What the NHL's new Las Vegas team means for the Lightning

The National Hockey League is coming to Sin City.

Las Vegas was awarded an expansion franchise Wednesday after a unanimous vote by the league's board of governors, with the plan to start play in the 2017-18 season.

The franchise will pay a $500 million expansion fee — distributed equally among the other 30 teams — and join the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, playing in a 17,500 seat arena right off the strip; Quebec's expansion proposal was "deferred."

The NHL's first expansion since 2000 — when Minnesota and Columbus each paid $80 million — means an expansion draft will be held in June 2017.

And that will provide a challenge for all teams, including the Lightning.

Clubs will have the choice to protect either eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie, or seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. Each team will lose one player to the Las Vegas franchise, which will select 30 total (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders).

This draft will have a significant impact on moves that general manager Steve Yzerman and the rest of his peers make this summer and next season.

There are rules they have to follow.

All players with a no-move clause (partial or full) and under contract at least through 2017-18 must be protected (unless they waive them), with Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula the two Lightning players currently applicable to this.

All first- and second-year pros (NHL or American Hockey League), including unsigned draft choices, will be exempt.

Teams must also meet several requirements, exposing each of the following:

• One defenseman who is under contract in 2017-18 and had played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season or 70 or more games in the prior two seasons.

• Two forwards who are under contract in 2017-18 and played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season or played in 70 or more games in the prior two seasons.

• One goaltender who is under contract for 2017-18 or is a restricted free agent before that season.

So how does this impact the Lightning?

In net, the Lightning will have to leave either Andrei Vasilevskiy or Ben Bishop exposed; Bishop is entering the final year of his contract, so he isn't required to be protected. That's why there's been much speculation whether Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist with a $5.95 million cap hit next season, will be traded either this summer or before next season's trade deadline.

Whom the Lightning chooses to protect will depend heavily on some key contract decisions, with captain Steven Stamkos an unrestricted free agent July 1, Bishop, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat due new deals after next season. Nikita Kucherov is a restricted free agent this summer.

For Yzerman, the expansion draft will likely be considered when approaching trades or free agent signings this summer, weighing how they'll fit in with the exposed/protected list.

Let the fun begin.

Patrick Kane is MVP

Patrick Kane won the Hart Trophy, becoming the first player born and trained in the United States to be named the league's MVP. The NHL's scoring champion is the first Blackhawk to take home the Hart since Stan Mikita in 1968. Kane received three trophies at the NHL Awards show, adding the Ted Lindsay Award after his fellow players recognized him as the game's most outstanding player, and the Art Ross Trophy in recognition of his 106-point season. The Capitals' Barry Trotz, won the Jack Adams Award (best coach) for the first time in 17 seasons behind an NHL bench.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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