To the surprise of nobody, the NHL’s 32nd team will play in Seattle. The NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously voted in favour of Seattle’s expansion team on Tuesday, paving the way for the newest team to join the league in 2021-22.
The Seattle expansion vote by the Board of Governors was unanimous, not surprisingly. The NHL has its 32nd team.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 4, 2018
The unnamed Seattle team will begin to play in 2021-22. It was originally assumed Seattle would play their inaugural season in 2020-21, but the threat of a lockout and issues with their stadium being ready on time ultimately pushed them back one year.
Seattle will join the Oilers in the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes will move over to the Central Division. I want to say that I would rather have an expansion team than the Coyotes in the Oilers’ division, but given the immediate success that the Vegas Golden Knights have had, I don’t want to jinx it.
The Seattle franchise will begin play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and the @ArizonaCoyotes will realign to the Central Division. https://t.co/gYSiUWAreM #NHLSeattle pic.twitter.com/bT9myflZLF
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 4, 2018
Then, most importantly, there’s the expansion draft. It’ll be the exact same rules as it was with Vegas as teams (other than the Golden Knights, who are exempt from the process) will be able to protect either seven forwards, three defenders, and one goaltender or eight skaters and a goalie. Players with no movement clauses will have to be asked to waive in order to be exposed and players on entry-level deals will be automatically made exempt.
The Expansion Draft will have the same rules for Seattle as it had for Vegas, It takes place in June 2021. Vegas won't take part in it/won't lose a player.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) December 4, 2018
As I said earlier, it was originally thought that Seattle was going to join the league for the 2020-21 season, but them coming in one year later makes life a lot easier for the Oilers when it comes to dancing around the expansion draft.
As of right now, the Oilers have three forwards (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Milan Lucic) and one defenceman (Oscar Klefbom) signed beyond June 2021, which is when the expansion draft will go down. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell will become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2021. Since Evan Bouchard didn’t play more than nine NHL games this season, he’ll still be on his entry-level deal come expansion draft time.