A procedure in which new franchises entering the NHL take part in and pick players made available for selection by other teams to build their rosters. Each existing franchise is allowed to protect a limited number of players on their roster, leaving the unprotected players available for selection by an expansion team at the expansion draft.
Each expansion draft has its own set of rules, depending on the number of expansion teams participating in the expansion draft and the number of players teams are allowed to protect. In a recent NHL expansion draft in 2000, existing teams were allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards. The Atlanta Thrashers and the Nashville Predators, the two newest NHL franchises at that time, were allowed to protect all the players on their rosters because they had been in existence for less than three years.
Players left unprotected and made available for the expansion draft are players deemed expendable or not good enough by their teams. Therefore, it can be hard for expansion teams to be competitive immediately when they enter the league. Furthermore, teams wanting to protect more players than they are allowed can make a deal with an expansion team so that they do not draft an unprotected player. The expansion team usually receives one or more draft picks in return.