The worst-kept secret in hockey is now official. The NHL will expand 32 teams as the league’s Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an expansion franchise to Seattle.
“Today is an exciting and historic day for our League as we expand to one of North America’s most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We are delighted to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family. And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL.”
When the league initially expanded to 31 teams, it was thought a 32nd franchise to Seattle was not far behind. The price tag for the new expansion team is $650 million, up from the $500 million Vegas paid for the Golden Knights.
The new Seattle team will begin play in the 2021-22 season in the Pacific Division. In addition, the league also officially announced that the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division in order to keep the divisions balanced at eight teams per division.
This will mean another league-wide expansion draft is coming during the 2021 offseason. The NHL has already stated the same rules as the Vegas draft will apply.
The Capitals currently have no players with movement clauses in their contracts meaning they will not be forced into protecting any player from that expansion draft. Washington currently has seven players on its NHL roster who will be still under contract during the summer of 2021: Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny. In addition, Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey and Jonas Siegenthaler will all be restricted free agents, meaning the Caps will retain their signing rights assuming those players receive qualifying offers.
There are some big names missing from that list as Alex Ovechkin’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the 2020-21 season and both Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby’s contacts will expire in 2020.
With an expansion draft looming, every signing any team makes from now until 2021 will be viewed through the prism of the expansion draft. Many veterans are likely to seek no-movement clauses while discussing new contracts which will protect them from the expansion draft. Are older veterans worth re-signing if it means having to protect them over younger in the expansion draft?
Seattle may not be coming to the league until 2021, but the impact of their addition is going to be felt right away when it comes to negotiating table.
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