The Vegas NHL Expansion in the Salary Cap Era

It has been 17 years since the NHL had an expansion draft. In 2000 the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild came into the NHL with lackluster results. Columbus finished 28-39-9-6 while Minnesota ended 25-39-13-5, proving just how difficult a debut season can be.

A new NHL franchise in Las Vegas has already caught everyones attention, but it is the question of can the interest remain through the debut season and those to come. Will fans actually keep up with the Knights?

The Vegas Golden Knights is the NHL’s first expansion team in the salary cap era, this gives them an advantage over past teams with a faster time table to becoming a contender team.

Past expansion struggles prove it true…

Past NHL expansions have proven that it’s a tough time in the start. It happened to the California Golden Seals (who can forget those jerseys) and pretty much every other expansion team. They often look lost and dismal night after night during their debut season.

It is going to be a long time coming to build a championship team like the New York Islanders when they ruled the league back in the day.  For a few seasons they were the laughing-stock of the NHL. That roster however had future Hall-of-Famers Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy.  They became league’s next dynasty and won four straight Stanley Cups. 

The NHL is built for teams that have a young roster. Three weeks ago GM George McPhee announced the Kings first player transaction. They now have free agent forward Reid Duke under contract. Duke signed a three-year entry level contract with the Knights. Although looking for fresh young talent, it would be a smart move for them to jump on a couple of veteran stars. This would give them time to build up the organization and develop their own stars.


Expansions today have a fair shot…  

The NHL is doing everything they can to give the Golden Knights a fair shot. Hopefully the Knights become a success. This summer’s expansion draft guarantees them a roster of NHL-ready players who will be able to compete against top teams with veteran stars. Plus, the team has been awarded a spot in this June’s entry draft lottery with at least the sixth-overall pick. In my opinion, not a bad deal when you consider the $500 million entry fee.

The league was heard loud and clear when they said that Vegas isn’t going to be offered the dregs of the other teams as a house warming gift to the NHL. Franchises are going lose quality players in the process…something fans aren’t happy about. However, that means we will have an active trade market this summer.

The Vegas advantage…  

In the salary cap era it is expected that teams have one or two washed up players with big contracts that eat up the cap space making it impossible to make trades to improve the roster. Dumping salaries is the hardest thing, we have seen it time and time again. The Knights will come to be the ideal trade partner because they have cap space to play with.

McPhee would be wise to avoid players with 3 years and up left on their contracts. It doesn’t make sense to create a financial disaster right away. It will only wind up taking seasons to clear off.  While it is important to take on few big salaries so the new guys can work down in the minors, it is equally as crucial to have cap space flexibility.

We all want to see Vegas succeed. We can expect the Knights to have some star power on the roster to attract fans, but that doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success. The franchise has to give fans a quality team to watch on the ice. After all, success in the standings is the only way to create fan loyalty to a new team.

The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft is set to take place on June 18-20th.

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