Vegas is playing in the Stanley Cup Final in its very first year of existence and could very well bring the Cup to Sin City with one more good week of hockey. It has been suggested that the expansion rules tilted the ice too heavily in the Golden Knights’ favor, resulting in this year’s outcome.
Up for debate: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently said Seattle — expected to be announced as the next market to get a team — will abide by the same rules as Vegas. Is that fair, or should the NHL reconsider its process in light of what has happened this year?
First take: Michael Rand
This is a tough one because giving too much credit to rules tends to discredit the savvy work done by Vegas management and tremendous on-ice season the Golden Knights have had.
That said: When the Wild participated in the expansion draft in 2000 — and keep in mind, Columbus was also new to the league and part of the draft — one option teams had was to protect nine forwards, five defensemen and one goalie.
A similar option for teams last summer — when Vegas was the only team entering the league — was to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
That’s a big difference, and I think this year has proved the NHL went too far and should tweak the process.
Chris Hine: The expansion draft rules favored Vegas more than other drafts, but it’s not as if superstar-level talent was available. The pickings were still slim. Nobody looked at this Golden Knights roster last summer and said, “Yep. They’re going to win the Western Conference.”
Give Seattle the same set of rules. In a sport like the NHL, it’s important to drum up interest early so the sport can stick in that market.
Rand: I’m all for them being competitive. I just think the NHL went too far.
Sure, Vegas paid a high price ($500 million expansion fee compared to $80 million for the Wild) and Seattle will pay even more ($650 million). But that shouldn’t buy the type of talent Vegas had access to in the expansion draft.
Hine: That talent didn’t look this good before the expansion draft. William Karlsson had only 18 goals in his career before exploding for 43. Erik Haula had 29 goals this season — as many as he had the past two seasons combined with the Wild. There were no guarantees that these players were going to pan out or produce at the levels the did. The NHL shouldn’t punish Seattle because Vegas was good at picking players.
Rand: But the NHL also shouldn’t have to explain to the other 30 teams — the majority of which haven’t played for a Stanley Cup recently, if at all — how an expansion system that launched Vegas into the finals should be somehow duplicated.
Final word: Hine
I just don’t have any sympathy for other teams that had the ability to draft and develop players for years. Instead of complaining, other teams should use Vegas’ success as a moment to re-examine how they assemble a roster. If Vegas was able to get all this talent, why were the other teams willing to make it available?