Cue the rampant speculation. When the Vegas Golden Knights were announced as an official NHL team on Wednesday, many expressed a belief that they already had several side deals completed. However, we may not know until after the Expansion Draft on June 21st.
In issuing the rules regarding transactions for the NHL’s newest squad, the league made note that Vegas and the teams with which they are doing business are not required to publicly disclose any moves. The Knights are free to agree to “bona fide transactions” with other clubs regarding compensation for selecting or not selecting players in the Expansion Draft. They’re welcome to make agreements to acquire picks, prospects, or players for their actions on June 21st. As always, they must report such transactions to the league, but they don’t owe the same information to the fans, the media, and most importantly, other teams. Vegas and it’s trade partners will be allowed to keep these deals private and reveal any information at their discretion.
No trades with the Knights can be official any time soon, since the team cannot acquire players until the end of their 2016-17 season, whether that be the end of the regular season or when their current team is eliminated from the playoffs. However, that won’t stop GM George McPhee from striking deals with several teams well before that point. By not having to disclose these moves, McPhee and the Knights’ front office will hold all of the cards. The team can make agreements with teams not to select players that they may have no intention of taking. They can negotiate with impending free agents with the knowledge that they’ve already agreed to acquire a different player from that team. There is a multitude of advantages to being able to keep their moves private, yet another loophole that the NHL has provided to it’s newest venture.
What it means for fans is that expansion news may not be as free-flowing as expected. While information leaks are still sure to occur, don’t expect many major press releases during April and May announcing agreements with Vegas. This is likely to make the Expansion Draft a much more exciting event, but it also means that a lot of guesswork and speculation is coming down the pipeline. Stay tuned for our coverage of the Expansion Draft process and previews of team protection plans coming soon.