After the incredible success the Vegas Golden Knights had in their inaugural season, the NHL announced Tuesday that it will welcome a new franchise to Seattle in the 2021-22 season.
What does that mean for the Blackhawks? A couple things.
With the league expanding to 32 teams, the Western Conference will see some realignment in its divisions.
Starting in 2021, the Central Division will expand to eight teams with the Arizona Coyotes moving in to make way for the Seattle franchise in the Pacific Division. An already tough division only gets tougher.
Second, there will once again be an expansion draft which will impact all rosters around the NHL.
When the Vegas team had their expansion draft in 2017, the Blackhawks were able to protect 11 players. The only player lost directly to Vegas in the draft was defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was traded shortly after to Carolina.
In 2021, the NHL will follow the same rules, with the Seattle team needing to select one player from every existing club except for the Golden Knights.
The Blackhawks – and every other team – have the option to protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goaltender. Or, they can protect eight total skaters and one goalie. The incentive to keep more than seven forwards or more than three defensmen – depending on the team – would result in the penalty of exposing more players to the expansion draft.
Players with no movement clauses in their contracts will be forced to be protected and count towards the allotted total of protected players.
First and second year players, as well as unsigned draft choices, are exempt from the draft and do not need to be protected.