Now that we are less than one week away from the start of the Vegas Expansion Draft process, the trade floodgates will open and we could see widespread player movement. As general managers scramble to minimize the effects of the expansion draft, teams will be more inclined and more willing to part ways with players and assets that otherwise would be untouchable. There are plenty of rumors circulating out of places like Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that this type of player movement and GM maneuvering could significantly alter the projected protection lists and therefore change which players are exposed and available to Vegas. It’s also possible Vegas general manager George McPhee will make arrangements prior to the draft involving players exposed by various teams; for example, if Team A wants player X from Team B, Vegas can select Player X from Team B with the intention of trading Player X to Team A. That being said, here are some of the options Vegas will consider when approaching each of the 30 teams’ rosters.
Relevant Expansion Draft Dates
Monday, June 12: Deadline for teams (not including NSH/PIT) to ask players to waive no-movement clauses (5:00pm EST).
Thursday, June 15: First buyout period begins. Deadline for teams to ask players that agree to waive NMC if they want to be placed on waivers for the purpose of a pre-draft buyout (11:59am EST).
Friday, June 16: Last day for teams to place players on waivers (12:00pm EST). Last day for players to waive NMC’s (5:00pm EST).
Saturday, June 17: Trade/waiver freeze and signing moratorium on NHL SPC’s (standard player contracts) enacted for 30 existing NHL teams (3:00pm EST). Deadline for teams to submit Protection Lists (5:00pm EST).
Sunday, June 18: Deadline for league to approve and distribute Protection Lists (10:00am EST). Opening of UFA/RFA interview period for Vegas to speak to all exposed free agents (10:00am EST).
Wednesday, June 21: Deadline for Vegas to submit draft selections, including contracts given to FA’s (10:00am EST). Official announcement of Expansion Draft selections at NHL Awards (8:00pm EST).
Thursday, June 22: Signing moratorium and trade/waiver freeze lifted (8:00am EST).
Vegas Golden Knights’ Options in Expansion Draft
The Anaheim Ducks very well could lose Jakob Silfverberg or Cam Fowler/Sami Vatanen. If Anaheim offers Vegas a pick and/or prospects to not take whichever player gets exposed, Josh Manson would be a possibility. However, rumors out of Anaheim indicate that general manager Bob Murray wants to protect Manson. It also might make sense for Vegas to try and sign unrestricted free-agent forward Patrick Eaves if Silfverberg/Fowler is not available.
As it stands now, the Coyotes have a lot of issues fulfilling the exposure requirements. The team only has three forwards that are even eligible to fulfill those requirements. One of those forwards is Jamie McGinn, who signed a three-year $10 million deal with Arizona last offseason. He had a rough year and could be a prime target for the Golden Knights. McGinn is a power-forward with scoring ability, and he could use a fresh start.
The final slot on the Bruins’ protection list at forward and at defenseman is subject to speculation. It’s likely that either Matt Beleskey or Riley Nash will occupy the seventh forward slot, and one of the Miller’s (Colin or Kevan) will be the third protected defenseman. The Golden Knights could consider going with whichever forward/defenseman is unprotected. However, there’s another option McPhee should consider. Goaltender prospect Malcolm Subban would be a great addition to the Vegas franchise. Not only could he be sent down for a few years of seasoning until he is ready to play in the NHL, but he is one of the more highly-touted goalie prospects in the game. Plus, the Subban name will fill the seats in T-Mobile Arena, which never hurts from a business perspective.
Tyler Ennis could be the Buffalo forward on the outside looking in. Some would argue Matt Moulson should be that player, but Ennis has not been able to get it together for the Sabres. He has ability and could get back to his game on a new team. His $4.6 million cap hit is a bit steep, but there’s a lot to like about his game when he is playing with confidence. His speed, skill and creativity are just a few assets he brings to the table. Otherwise, McPhee could try to sign unrestricted free-agent defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to an extension. Twenty-two-year-old William Carrier is another option if the Knights are looking for depth in the organization.
This is one of the trickier teams as far as predicting the expansion draft. That being said, the Protection List in the Vegas Expansion: Pacific Division post remains realistic at this point in the summer. Keeping forwards Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Michal Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar and Micheal Ferland makes sense and leaves the team’s core intact. That would mean veteran forward Troy Brouwer would be exposed, but Calgary might not mind losing his hefty contract. McPhee traded for Brouwer when he was the Capitals’ general manager; though Brouwer’s stats were down this past year, McPhee trusts him as a leader and could value his presence on this transitioning club. If Brouwer is protected over Ferland, McPhee should take Ferland. Otherwise, Alex Chiasson is a solid depth forward with penalty-killing ability, and Hunter Shinkaruk is a prospect worthy of consideration.
As it stands now, Klas Dahlbeck is available. The defenseman likely will earn a protection slot, but the team will have to re-sign or acquire another defenseman eligible to fulfill the exposure requirements in order to protect him. That being said, assuming he is not available on June 17, Vegas will take a long look at veteran Lee Stempniak. He has one year remaining on his deal with a reasonable $2.5 million cap hit, and he has been able to mesh with many players on many teams over the last several years. He could be a strong transition player for the Golden Knights.
There are rumors swirling that suggest Chicago is trying to trade defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk prior to the expansion draft. Some rumors even speculate that Chicago will send TVR to Vegas if the Golden Knights take Marcus Kruger in the draft. Chicago is cap-strapped and desperate for room to breathe, so losing Kruger’s $3.083 million cap hit would relieve some of the pressure. At the moment, TVR is available and would be selected by Vegas. But general manager Stan Bowman will do what he can to maximize the Blackhawks’ momentum coming out of the expansion draft.
The Colorado Avalanche should and likely will ask defenseman Francois Beauchemin to waive his no-movement clause. He has one year remaining on his deal, and it’s highly possible he’ll agree to waive it considering how poor of a season the Avs had in 2016-2017. If the Avs do not have to protect Beauchemin, the team can use the 7-3-1 protection format and keep young players like Sven Andrighetto and Matt Nieto. Otherwise, the team will have to use the 8-1 format in order to protect Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov and Erik Johnson in addition to Beauchemin. Assuming nothing changes, Andrighetto would be an appealing option for Vegas. He’s a young, inexpsive forward who thrived in Colorado after the trade deadline, scoring 16 points in 19 games with the Avs. That’s production Colorado does not want to lose, but it would be an easy choice for Vegas. That being said, McPhee could still consider taking Swedish center Carl Soderberg. Vegas will have the least depth at center, and while Soderberg is on the older side and has a $4.75 million cap hit for the next three years, he could do with a change of scenery. He had two strong seasons in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 and has the ability to be a solid middle-six center.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Vegas Golden Knights could take defenseman Jack Johnson. He’s 30 years old and has one more year on a deal that carries a $4.357 million cap hit. However, he’s a veteran defender with two-way ability, and he could be a very stable rearguard for the new franchise. Columbus has a few other players McPhee will consider, though. For example, he very well may try to lure unrestricted free-agent forward Sam Gagner to town after the 27-year-old put up 18 goals and 50 points this season. Gagner could be a great signing for Vegas, and he could get more money from McPhee than Columbus will be able to offer. Some have doubted his ability to be a center in the NHL, but Gagner has displayed plenty of skill throughout his career. He will garner a lot of interest in the free agency market if he doesn’t reach a deal with the Jackets, so Vegas may take advantage of the early signing window available to them. Other than those two players, Vegas also may consider William Karlsson, Josh Anderson and Matt Calvert, as well as goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. Karlsson and Anderson are young forwards with a lot of potential, and Calvert is a small but sneaky player with underrated skill. Korpisalo recently signed a two-year extension that carries just a $900,000 cap hit. All in all, the Golden Knights should come away from Columbus with a very strong pick.
The main dilemma in Dallas will be whether the team should protect Cody Eakin or Antoine Roussel. There are cases to be made for both, as explored in the Vegas Expansion: Central Division post. Either would be a strong pick for Vegas, though Greg Pateryn deserves at least a glance. The 26-year-old defenseman has one more year at a cap hit of $800,000; he played some solid hockey this season and could give the Golden Knights some organizational depth on the back end without straining the bank. It’s also a strong possibility that Dallas will offer picks and/or prospects in order for Vegas to take on the final year of Antti Niemi’s $4.5 million contract. There could be great benefits from doing so, especially since Niemi could be off the books next summer. In the end, the Stars will have to make an appealing offer in order for McPhee to even consider the idea. Dallas could end up buying out Niemi’s contract when all is said and done.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have several iffy contracts available for the taking, including the Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening deals. Though defensemen Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul could be possibilities, Sheahan could be the best option of the bunch. If nothing else, he (surprisingly) garnered widespread interest at the trade deadline and could be a useful trade chip later in the offseason. He’s also a dependable defensive center and will be a restricted free agent next summer. Don’t overlook goaltender Jared Coreau, though. While Jimmy Howard will be available (assuming the team protects Petr Mrazek), Coreau has shown a lot of promise and carries a cheap two-way deal for another season.
Originally, it appeared as though the Oilers might lose center Mark Letestu. That would be a significant blow to the team considering the success Letestu achieved in the regular season and in the playoffs, especially as a member of the team’s first power-play unit. However, general manager Peter Chiarelli signed Iiro Pakarinen to a one-year deal, which allows the team to keep Letestu on its Protection List. That means forwards Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian and Letestu will return to Edmonton next year. This will leave Benoit Pouliot and Pakarinen as the exposed forwards. Though Vegas could consider restricted free-agent forward Jujhar Khaira, Pouliot seems like a more likely fit. Getting his $4 million cap hit for the next two years off the books will only help Chiarelli and the Oilers moving forward. It’s possible defenseman Griffin Reinhart could be considered, but Pouliot makes the most sense.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Florida Panthers’ expansion draft preparation. Like with other teams, the Panthers may need to re-sign or acquire another defenseman eligible to fulfill the exposure requirements in order to retain other members of the team. In this case, the decision will come down to whether the team wants to protect and keep Jason Demers or RFA Alex Petrovic. Both defensemen are valuable assets; as it stands now, the team can protect Petrovic and expose Demers but not the other way around. Assuming Florida does not address the current situation, Demers would be an excellent pick-up for Vegas. The same can be said of Petrovic, though it’s hard to imagine the Panthers won’t do whatever they can to retain both defensemen. In that case, it could be RFA defenseman Mark Pysyk on the way out, or Jussi Jokinen/Colton Sceviour, whichever forward does not make the cut for the protection list. One of the defensemen would be the strongest option here, but Vegas will have choices.
Los Angeles Kings
The Golden Knights’ options when it comes to the Kings are a little more straightforward. If the Kings employ the 8-1 protection list format, which would allow the team to protect eight skaters and one goalie, then Dustin Brown could very well become the captain of the newest NHL franchise. Rumors suggest the Kings might offer up the team’s first-round pick in order for the Knights to grab Brown. If the team elects to go the 7-3-1 format instead, however, Vegas would be foolish to look much further than defenseman Brayden McNabb. It seems logical for the Kings to use the 8-1 format and protect Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli as well as Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and McNabb, with goaltender Jonathan Quick getting protected either way. Brown could be a great fit as captain for the new American franchise, and he is in desperate need of a fresh start. Not to mention losing his $5.875 million contract would help the Kings dramatically.
The Minnesota Wild will offer some of the most enticing options the Golden Knights will see in the expansion draft. Forwards like Eric Staal or Jason Zucker could be available, as could solid top-four defensemen Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or even Matt Dumba. Out of all these options, Dumba would be the best for Vegas to land. It would be very surprising if he is exposed, though. Based on the projected protection list in the Vegas Expansion: Central Division post, Brodin or Scandella seems like the most realistic option. Staal could be a dark horse in this race given the fact that Vegas will need top-six centers, but it’s risky to turn down a defenseman of this caliber for an aging veteran. General manager Chuck Fletcher could be quite active in the next week, however, so anything could happen.
The Montreal Canadiens acquired defenseman Brandon Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline, and he would be a great option for Vegas to pursue. The 25-year-old has another year at $1.425 million and has shown a lot of promise. Defenseman Jordie Benn could be a rugged veteran defender who could stabilize the back end and come at just $1.1 million against the cap for the next two years. The other main possibility involves taking on the final year of top-six center Tomas Plekanec. This would help Montreal with its cap issues, and it certainly would give the Golden Knights strength at the center position the team will be lacking.
Now that the Nashville Predators’ season is over after a hard-fought Cup run that ran out of steam, general manager David Poile will have some decisions to make. As discussed in the Expansion Drat: Central Division post, it’s quite possible the team will use the 8-1 format and protect the four best forwards and four best defensemen on the team (F: Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson; D: Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm). This will leave players like Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and Pontus Aberg available for the taking. Smith can be a 25-goal scorer and therefore could be a very strong option despite his weak 12-goal performance this past season. Aberg made a name for himself with some fine plays in the Preds’ playoff run, as did Colton Sissons with six goals and 12 points in 22 postseason games. Smith and Sissons stand out among these options.
New Jersey Devils
Assuming the Devils proceed with the 8-1 format suggested in the Vegas Expansion: Metropolitan Division post, Mike Cammalleri will be left exposed. He is coming off the worst season of his career and remains in a scoring slump going back to Jan. 6. However, Cammalleri has been an impressive producer throughout his career and could be a flashy player for the new team.
New York Islanders
The Islanders, like the Wild, could have one of the more impressive lists of players from which Vegas can choose. It will depend on what general manager Garth Snow does in the end, but players like defensemen Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield as well as forwards Josh Bailey, Ryan Strome, Cal Clutterbuck, Shane Prince, etc. could be available, as could goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Of those, the best options are de Haan and Bailey, and either could be a great pick-up for Vegas.
New York Rangers
Many believe the Rangers will lose goaltender Antti Raanta in the expansion draft. While this is certainly a strong possibility, there are other players Vegas could consider. For example, forward Michael Grabner, who scored 27 goals this season without playing on either of the Rangers’ power-play units. Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and Nick Holden are other options; Fast would be a solid and underrated pick, but it’s unlikely McPhee will go for a bottom-six winger over Grabner or Raanta.
The Senators will need to find a way to protect defenseman Marc Methot. It’s unlikely he’ll earn one of the team’s three protection slots with Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci taking those spots. That being said, as of now he is unprotected and will be an option for McPhee unless Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion offers Vegas a pick/prospect to not take Methot). If the team elects not to protect center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, he will be strongly considered, especially after his impressive playoff performance with eight goals and 10 points in 19 games. Aside from those two players, Vegas will take a long look at restricted free-agent forward Ryan Dzingel; he could be a dark horse in this race. Dzingel did not have a strong postseason but scored 14 goals and 32 points in his first full NHL season. Lastly, Alex Burrows could be a veteran forward that would help this team with its transition into the National Hockey League. At the age of 36, however, Burrows might not be as wise an option as the other players listed.
The Flyers will leave several forwards exposed that Vegas will consider. The best of these options is center Scott Laughton, who would make a solid pick-up for McPhee. Michael Raffl, Nick Cousins and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare could also be considered. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, it’s unlikely Vegas will take the contracts of Andrew MacDonald or Dale Weise off their hands, and Matt Read’s $3.625 million cap hit will not make him an appealing option. It will depend on how the Flyers construct the team’s protection list, but Laughton is the best option out of these players. If the team elects to protect Anthony Stolarz even though he tore his MCL, Michael Neuvirth will be a target for McPhee, who had him in Washington. Philly would be better off protecting Neuvirth since there’s no reason to believe McPhee will have any interest in Stolarz whatsoever.
The biggest question mark surrounding the Penguins now that the team has won its second straight Stanley Cup relates to the future of the Pittsburgh crease. As it stands now, Marc-Andre Fleury has a no-movement clause* and therefore cannot be exposed in the expansion draft, whereas Matt Murray is the only player who can fulfill the goalie exposure requirement. Pittsburgh wants Murray to be the goalie of the future, especially since he has two Cups to his name with just 62 regular-season games of experience. One of two things will happen: (1) Fleury will waive his no-movement clause or (2) general manager Jim Rutherford will trade him prior to the expansion draft to Calgary or another club seeking a no. 1 starter. Assuming Vegas does not take Fleury, McPhee’s options will depend on whether Rutherford uses the 8-1 format to keep defenseman Brian Dumoulin or Derrick Pouliot or whether he’ll go with the 7-3-1 strategy. If he uses the 8-1 strategy, forwards like Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust would be worth consideration, as would defenseman Ian Cole, who has been a very dependable defenseman for the Pens.
*Marc-Andre Fleury has agreed to waive his NMC, according to multiple reports
San Jose Sharks
The Vegas Golden Knights could try to pry one of San Jose’s unrestricted free-agent forwards Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau. However, it’s extremely unlikely McPhee will be successful in doing so. Both athletes have made it very clear over the years that they and their families have no intention of leaving the San Jose area. That means Mikkel Boedker and the three years remaining on his reasonable four-year $16 million contract could be a prime target for Vegas. Goaltender Aaron Dell could be a surprise choice, and don’t count out former Capital Joel Ward, who has one more year at a $3.275 million cap hit.
St. Louis Blues
Goaltender Carter Hutton would be a great option for one of Vegas’ three goalie selections in the expansion draft. St. Louis would love to enter the 2017-2018 season with Jake Allen and Hutton as the team’s duo in the crease, but Hutton will be one of the goalies McPhee will take a long look at. Another possibility could see Vegas take a chance on former first-overall pick Nail Yakupov, who is a restricted free agent. He has had a disappointing stretch in the NHL but has the potential to be a lethal sniper if he can get his act together. Depending on the final protection list, David Perron would be a great choice if he is available. Otherwise, Vegas could consider Dmitrij Jaskin for organizational depth. It’s unlikely Jori Lehtera will be considered even though Vegas will be looking for centers.
Tampa Bay Lightning
If the Lightning do not move Jonathan Drouin before the expansion draft, Vladislav Namestnikov or Alex Killorn likely will be available for the Golden Knights. Either one of those forwards would be a fantastic addition to the team, and McPhee would be crazy to pass on either.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs do not present many sound options for McPhee to juggle, though that’s only because most of the team’s talent is too young to be eligible for the draft. There are a few options on the roster, however, including Kerby Rychel, Martin Marincin and Matt Martin. None of them will be a game-changer, but each could provide Vegas with depth. It’s unlikely McPhee will pursue signing free agent Brian Boyle, so one of the other players is more likely.
The Canucks will be able to protect most of the team’s core by using the 7-3-1 format. A few options Vegas can consider include Reid Boucher, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Biega and Luca Sbisa. Biega might be the best choice with just a $750,000 cap hit through next season, but he could earn a spot on the Canucks’ Protection List.
It’s very, very likely Philipp Grubauer will be a Vegas Golden Knight on June 21. The 25-year-old restricted free-agent netminder has a history with McPhee and has a lot of potential. He wants to be a starter in this league and could very well have a chance to start in Vegas. While Washington would love to keep Grubauer as Braden Holtby’s backup, the team will accept losing him in the expansion draft if players like Nate Schmidt and Jay Beagle can stay. Brooks Orpik will be unprotected as well, but his $5.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons will deter McPhee.
If the Jets go ahead with the 8-1 protection list strategy and protect four forwards and four defensemen, it’s highly likely Mathieu Perreault will head to Vegas. Perreault was drafted by McPhee in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and is signed for the next four years on a deal that carries a $4.125 million cap hit. He scored 45 points in 65 games this season and could be a great addition to the Vegas franchise. He has four straight 40-point seasons in his four seasons away from Washington. McPhee could also consider forwards Joel Armia, Marko Dano and Andrew Copp, as well as Shawn Matthias, if Perreault’s cap hit is too high to manage. If the Jets use the 7-3-1 strategy, defenseman Tyler Myers would be a steal for McPhee.
Check out HFL’s Vegas Expansion Series
Vegas Expansion Draft: Pacific Division
Vegas Expansion Draft: Central Division
Vegas Expansion Draft: Atlantic Division
Vegas Expansion Draft: Metropolitan Division
Featured Image Credit: John Locher-AP