Let the games begin.
On Monday, the clock begins to tick on the expansion draft to stock the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster.
And with that ticking clock, you can expect transactions to begin taking place as teams try to maneuver cap space and create room on their protected lists. They will also try to entice Vegas GM George McPhee to take certain players over other players, or to obtain players he might then trade to other teams.
It’s a complicated and tricky nine days coming up, in which McPhee can also use cap space as an asset – i.e. he can take a contract off the hands of another team (without actually having to pay the salary) in return for an asset of another type – a player, a prospect, a draft pick.
As you’ve read, teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie (and they must make a goalie available to the draft). Or they can choose – as Stanley Cup finalist Nashville might do – to protect eight skaters and one goalie, in cases where a team has more than three defensemen it wants to protect.
So Monday it begins, with the 5 p.m. deadline for teams to request players to waive their no-move clauses (players with no-move clauses must be protected). Side note: Pittsburgh and Nashville will have until 5 p.m. on the day following the last game of the Cup Final.
On Thursday, June 15, the first buyout period begins and clubs can ask players with no-move clauses if they would prefer to be placed on waivers for the purposes of buyouts.
The following day, Friday, June 16, is the last day a team can place a player on waivers prior to the expansion draft trade/waiver freeze, at noon. Players have until 5 p.m. to either agree or waive their no-move clauses for the purpose of the expansion draft.
Thereafter on Saturday, June 17 brings the trade/waiver freeze at 3 p.m., as well as a signing moratorium for all teams but Vegas.
Most importantly at 5 p.m. that day, teams must submit their protected lists.
On Sunday morning, June 18, the protected and available lists will be distributed to all the NHL teams at 10 a.m. Those lists will simultaneously be released to the media and thus the public. On that date, Vegas can begin interviewing restricted/unrestricted free agents left unprotected.
Then comes the big day, Wednesday June 21. That’s when McPhee will submit his selections – including free agents they will sign off unprotected lists between Sunday and Wednesday morning.
The selections – each team will lose one player – will be made public during the NHL Awards show starting at 8 p.m. that night, though surely some names will leak out before the show begins.
More dealing is expected to follow the draft, especially with the NHL entry draft Friday-Saturday, June 23-24, then free agency falling July 1.
So a slow summer for teams not still playing is about to speed up dramatically.
Some other thoughts:
1. It’s remarkable that Pittsburgh’s defensemen play so erratically, that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are all having luke-warm offensive series, that goalie Matt Murray has had some bad games, and here the Penguins are, 2-2 in this Final. It kind of sounds like Rangers-Ottawa, though that series turned south quickly at the end of Game 5.
2. So here everybody was all juiced up, with the over-played, over-hyped sidebar stories about Charles Barkley, Carrie Underwood, P.K. Subban’s breath, the tossing of dead fish, and a crazy good first four games. And now, the NHL goes into NBA mode with one in a span of five days, that being Game 5 Thursday night.
3. Congratulations to Manny Malhotra, who was named an assistant coach to new head coach Travis Green’s staff in Vancouver. Tremendous guy, Manny, who had a rocky start as a bally-hood Rangers draft pick with crazy expectations, then carved out a long, admirable NHL career.
When Manny was 18, he was talking to me and I agreed that I’d retire from my job when he retires as a player. Well, that’s not going to happen. Sorry, Manny.
4. NBC’s ratings have been fabulous for this Stanley Cup Final, well up from last year’s Pittsburgh-San Jose series with an average of 5.654 million TV viewers for Game 4. The ratings were big in Pittsburgh (30.9). Nashville (28.0) and Buffalo led the rest (11.2).
The phenomenon of Buffalo always being one of the best ratings markets in the league is hard to understand, but it exists. I asked Neil Best, a Newsday columnist who writes a lot about TV and media, if the bordering Ontario towns were included in Buffalo’s numbers, and he told me they weren’t. A mystery to me.
But surely that’s another reason why Buffalo will host the Winter Classic against the Rangers at Citi Field next New Year’s Day.