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And here we are, suddenly, the anxious summer days that lie between the end of the season we were so invested in and the next. Personally, I wasn’t ready for the season to end. But then again, I’m the sort that doesn’t sleep for fear of missing Khazakstan vs. Belarus in the World Hockey Championships.

Full marks to the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning the Cup. It’s trite to say now, but they’ve been the best team in hockey in the calendar portion of 2016 and it’ll be fascinating to see how they proceed from here. They’re the only team slated to be over the cap next season as currently constituted. Let’s take this with a grain of salt, however, and note they’re only about $2.5M over depending on how you calculate it. Pascal Dupuis will either officially retire or be functionally retired and placed on Long-Term Injury Reserve come September, either way his $3.75M cap hit will be gone.

Then boom, under the cap with a million or so bucks to spare! Call up Daniel Sprong and here we go, the fabled Sidney Crosby-era dynasty has begun! Well, yeah, maybe. There hasn’t been a successful Cup defense since the Detroit Red Wings did so in 1998. In addition the Wingsand the Penguins are the only two teams who’ve reached the Cup Final in consecutive seasons in the salary cap era, in which they coincidentally faced each other in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009. What makes this Pens’ roster any different?

Well for one thing, they whip the puck around better than anyone else. Nick Bonino, the center in the now-famed HBK Line, was able to generate a 51.5 Corsi-For percentage for Pittsburgh’s third line. Eric Fehr their fourth line center and winger was able to generate a 48 CF%, which is an indication of how much the Penguins were able to control the puck while they’re on the ice respectively. Bear in mind 50% is the de facto league-average proxy for whether or not a player is NHL-caliber. Yes, neither player ought to be the stocking horse we judge this team by but when you realize that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin generated a 55.1 CF%, merit begins to take hold.

Ask any fantasy hockey player and they’ll tell you there’s up to a pair of champions each season. There’s the regular season champ where a team finishes top of the table after player 90% of the schedule, and then there’s the playoffs champ. As currently constructed there’s only a handful of teams who could be both, but this team, along with San Jose, are the only two who can bludgeon you with depth. And as we saw, one team far out-classed the other.

Meanwhile, in the desert…

Speaking of heavy lifting, Bill Foley will have to choose wisely if he’s going to take advantage of the NHL’s attempt to make his Las Vegas hockey team legit come puck drop in 2017. Yes, the worst-kept secret in hockey appears as though it’ll come to fruition. Though nothing is official at least until the Board of Governors meetings on Jun 22nd. Here’s what we know about the expansion draft rules and regs, assuming Vegas will be the only new team:

  • Las Vegas will play in the Pacific division.
  • The other 30 teams can lose a maximum of one player.
  • Vegas must spend at least 60% of the salary cap, and cannot buy anyone out during their inaugural season.
  • Teams cannot reacquire a player for a year.
  • Teams can choose to protect any eight skaters plus a goalie; or, seven forwards with three defenders and a goalie; or, if a team really wants to keep four defenders, they’ll have to expose three more forwards. Again – teams can only lose a maximum of one player.
  • Vegas will be given the same odds at winning the draft lottery as the 28th placed team, and will not select worse than sixth in the 2017 entry draft.
  • Teams must expose at least two forwards and one defender who play at least 40 NHL games in 2016-17, or at least 70 NHL games from 2015-17.
  • Vegas must draft a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defenders, and three goalies and select from every other team.
  • As far as no-movement clauses are concerned, there’s at least one stipulation that allows teams to include them upon being given permission after a request is made. One ought to expect there to be more stipulations created to expand the pool of potential NMC’s to be added to the list.

Here’s the thing about having to protecting no-movement clauses though, it’s nonsense!

Players can have two types of specifically articulated movement-based limitations in their contracts. One is a no-trade clause, which is as the name describes. The other is a no-movement clause, which prevents teams from re-assigning, loaning, or selling the player to other leagues including the minors and overseas. Or, at least that’s the perspective the no-movement clause originated from. All the same, still ought to fail to open an avenue for another team unilaterally selecting the player off their roster. No-movement means just that, and the terms are constructed in such a way that cements the player on his team’s NHL roster thusly. This is an asinine event for both the NHL and its PA.

Lastly on the rules and regs front, players with at least two years of service (minimum of 10 games) but under the 40/70 threshold will be exempt from the expansion draft. The interesting wrinkle will be how other “professional” ranks are treated, such as the AHL and the KHL, which are not treated at true professionals by the NHL.

Bold prediction (sarcasm): Vegas will not be a haven for the other 30 teams to unload their mistakes on. With loyalties to no one but their own interests and only one selection available from each team, it’s difficult to fathom why or how a slot will be wasted on an albatross and an anchor of a deal.

In the mean time, let’s all enjoy a few hotdogs this summer. We’ve all earned it, right Phil?

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