While the NHL decides whether to add any teams, league has already come up with a framework for a potential expansion draft.
The plan with the intent of having more competitive teams from the outset was distributed to general managers at their meeting Wednesday.
"If there's going to be an expansion you want the teams to be a little more competitive than perhaps they've been out of the box," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, according to The Canadian Press. "The notion has been that perhaps in the past if the team isn't competitive enough out of the box there's an initial enthusiasm and then it kind of wanes until the team re-establishes itself."
The idea for the expansion draft would have teams possibly lose one player if one team was added, and two players if two teams are added. The rules for protection of players would be tighter than during the last round of expansion in 2000 when Minnesota and Columbus joined the league.
Teams would be allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and a goaltender. Players in their first two years in any league and unsigned draft picks are all exempt.
"They want them to be somewhat competitive," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said of potential expansion teams in Las Vegas and Quebec City.
During the expansion draft for the Wild and Blue Jackets, 26 of 28 teams (recent additions Atlanta and Nashville were exempt) were allowed to protect either one goalie, five defensemen, and nine forwards or two goalies, three defensemen and seven forwards.
This time, it will be also be different because of the salary cap and contract implications.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly stressed that teams "may lose a good player, but it's only one" — under the one-team scenario.
Players with no-trade and no-movement clauses may see those protections fade under an expansion draft, a reality Daly said the league would discuss in more detail with the NHL Players' Association.
The NHL plans to discuss the grander plan with the union soon.
General managers, meanwhile, were told to expect a decision regarding expansion for the 2017-18 season by the June draft.
The expansion process for the current applicants could continue beyond June, but not for entry into the league before 2018.
"I know people want answers, but we don't feel any time pressure to do it," Daly said. "If we don't get this resolved by June and we still want to expand it's not 17-18 anymore, it's later. It'll take whatever time it takes."
The league also informed general managers that the salary cap for next season would rise only slightly, if at all, from the current mark of $73 million to perhaps as high as $74 million.