If and when the NHL decides to expand, there will need to be expansion rules established to supply players for the new entry or entries.
While the league’s head office says absolutely zero conversations have happened yet on this front, it hasn’t stopped front-office executives from the 30 teams from pondering what’s ahead, and in some cases somewhat nervously.
As one executive opined to me recently, if the league is asking for $500 million or more for an expansion fee, you better believe it will try to give that new entry a decent chance to stock its roster.
So just how many players each club will be able to protect from the expansion draft is always fascinating fodder.
But there’s a new wrinkle on the horizon that didn’t exist in the last round of expansion in 2000, when Minnesota and Columbus got teams: There has been a proliferation over the past decade of no-movement clauses in players’ contracts.
A no-move clause not only means a players’ blessing is needed for a trade, it goes a step further and prevents a club from putting him on waivers or trying any other shenanigans to get rid of said player. It’s a powerful thing to have in your contract.
From section 11.8(c) of the CBA: “A no-move clause may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by trade, loan or waiver claim.”
Now as far as I can tell, nowhere in this section does it say anything about what that means for an expansion draft.
So the question one club executive recently asked me was this: “Are all the players with no-movement clauses going to be eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft or not?”
A fascinating question indeed, one that I posed to many people around the hockey world over the past few days and one that elicited varied responses and reactions.
I believe when the time comes, the NHL will conclude that players with no-moves are indeed eligible for the expansion draft, with the logic being that expansion rules override the clause in the players’ contract.
Having said that, I also think the NHL will discuss and negotiate the expansion roster rules with the NHL Players’ Association when the times comes, so this particular issue will no doubt arise.
You better believe there are clubs hoping they can get rid of a contract that was unmovable because of a no-movement clause by losing the player in the expansion draft.
“That’s going to be a real important discussion,” said one veteran player agent regarding the status of players with no-move clauses for an expansion draft.
By the way, I did find this clause in the CBA regarding a potential expansion draft as it relates to players, from section 13.7: “Expansion Draft, Team Relocation. Any Player forced to move as a result of being claimed in an expansion draft, or as a result of a team relocation, shall be paid $6,000. (This payment shall not affect or be credited against “moving expenses” to which the player might otherwise be entitled).”
Six grand! Who knew!
Other expansion nuggets:
Part of Quebecor’s presentation Tuesday to the executive committee of the Board of Governors was to detail a long-term business plan that accounts for the vagaries of an unpredictable Canadian dollar. Not surprisingly, there are some NHL governors concerned that a dipping Canadian dollar doesn’t seem healthy for Quebec City’s revenue potential. In fact, one member of the executive committee asked Quebecor just that. But Quebecor’s message on Tuesday apparently was that it can survive and still thrive regardless of the Canadian dollar. That’s a real important part of their sales pitch right now.
Don’t discount the presence and participation in Tuesday’s presentation of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. It remains an issue with some governors that Pierre Karl Peladeau, Quebecor’s controlling shareholder, is the leader of the Parti Quebecois and a separatist. Having Mulroney involved might calm some of those concerns. Well maybe, maybe not.
Commissioner Gary Bettman updated the Board of Governors on Tuesday about the expansion process and, according to one governor, cautioned not only that it’s a slow process but also that it is not a sure thing that the league will add a team or two. That message has been re-emphasized by Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly over the past month to anyone asking them about expansion. Is it just posturing to calm people down? Or is it the realization that they’ve got some teams that aren’t doing so well, so they better rethink adding to the family?
I still think the more likely scenario is at least expanding to Las Vegas, but that’s just my own conjecture.
What fans in Quebec City need to remember if they don’t score an expansion franchise this time around — and I’m not saying they won’t — is that perhaps there’s a franchise to be had via relocation.
More answers should come in early December, when the owners gather for their bigger three-day powwow at Pebble Beach, California. But even then, it’s not out of the question that the league will decide to slow down this process and wait until a June meeting to make a final call.
Understand this, not all owners and governors are on the same page with expansion. Yes, there are many who can’t wait to get their hands on their portion of that $500 million expansion fee. But as one governor said to me on Tuesday, what happens if the Vegas franchise is holding out its hands in five years looking for a revenue-sharing check? Not to mention the TV deals would get split up further with another team or two, lowering those portions to teams.
It is interesting to hear different takes on this right now.