The Vegas Golden Knights officially know what their player pool looks like for the expansion draft, so let’s dive in and guess what their first roster is going to look like.
Greg Wyshynski, Sean Leahy and Justin Cuthbert of Yahoo Sports offer their NHL Expansion Mock Drafts, using the incredible team building tool on Cap Friendly. Seriously, try it. And then kiss your productivity goodbye.
The following teams are best guesses, using inside info, occasional logic and ye olde gut instinct.
Let’s begin with three caveats.
Caveat No. 1: I have no idea what’s in George McPhee’s head, other than the theme from “Shaft” playing on a continuous loop because he gets to be the baaaaaaaddest man in hockey for the next week, gleefully holding teams hostage for draft picks and prospects thanks to the NHL’s incredibly generous expansion draft guidelines.
Caveat No. 2: I built this team using the vague outlines of trades that have been reported as of Monday morning. We know the Anaheim Ducks and the Golden Knights have some level of draft protection in place – I’m going with the assumption it’s for Josh Manson rather than Sami Vatanen. We know the Columbus Blue Jackets have a deal to protect some of their assets. There are no less than three variations of a trade between the Golden Knights and the Islanders. So, all said, we did our best.
Caveat No. 3: I tried to read the tea leaves on some of the exposures. Like the fact that William Carrier was dangled out there by the Sabres, which would be an indication that he’s as good as gone so Vegas doesn’t snag someone like Linus Ullmark.
Alright, so what about this team?
There’s $69.4 million worth of players here, and obviously a good chuck of them are never strapping on a skate in Vegas. I could see Mrazek, Vatanen, Methot, Neal and Eakin flipped this summer; I could see Plekanec (a PTSD selection from the 2010 playoffs), Grabner, Perron and Stempniak flipped at by the trade deadline.
There are five players over 30, including Fleury, whom I’m still convinced is a done deal. There are five players signed through 2020, and 11 players that go RFA either this summer or next summer.
Among the tough calls: Pickard over Mikhail Grigorenko, but that’s a good young goalie with experience; Grabner over Antti Raanta, simply for the flipping; and Raffl over Michal Neuvirth, just because I’m not sure what level of nostalgia trip this is going to be for McPhee with ex-Capitals.
(That said: He’s totally taking Brouwer.)
Overall, it’s a good balance of players around which to start building and that will be sent away for future considerations.
Please remember this roster when the Golden Knights win the Cup in 2018-19 and Jonathan “No, I Can’t Believe The Panthers Didn’t Protect Me Either” Marchessault wins the Conn Smythe.
Using CapFriendly’s fantastic expansion draft tool, here are your 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights*, who will provide GM George McPhee with plenty of bait for next season’s trade deadline.
There are 11 players who will are scheduled to become UFAs in the summer of 2018, and even the six pending RFAs are attractive to other teams seeing as how they’ll be under control; so what more could GMGM want than flippable assets?
To sustain a competitive roster, the Golden Knights should build through the draft and you know there will be GMs will be fine with sending some picks and prospects Vegas’ way in exchange for players like James Neal, Joel Ward or Jonathan Marchessault. There are probably a few other names that could get something decent in return from a GM desperate to catch one of those final playoff spots or fill a void somewhere in their lineup.
*Many of these will likely not even come to fruition seeing as how we have to wait until later this week before we find out what side deals (Josh Manson, Brock Nelson) were cut so McPhee wouldn’t take certain players. Way to ruin our mock draft fun, NHL.
Let’s start in goal, and I suppose with the elephant in the room: Marc-Andre Fleury is still a quality netminder, and might be an even better ambassador, but he’s not the best option in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights.
George McPhee’s greatest advantage is the flexibility he has while working on a clean slate, and if he chooses Fleury, who has protection and severely diminished value on the open market, he’d be surrendering much of that freedom. Instead, he should load up on goaltenders who do possess value based on age, contract and ability, creating competition both in his crease and among teams looking for help in net. Petr Mrazek, Calvin Pickard and Antti Raanta will earn $6 million between them next season, or just $250,000 more than Fleury.
We assume that it’s going to cost the Anaheim Ducks dearly to keep Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson, and therefore their defensive core in tact. But is it going to cost McPhee, too? I’m not sure the first-round pick (plus?) the Golden Knights will likely receive as compensation was worth laying off a player like Manson, who would be a perfect complement to Marc Methot, Matt Dumba, and Nate Schmidt in my respectable (and very speculative) top four. McPhee is going to end up with a fleet of defenders who can play in the league, but I’m not convinced all these side deals will be worth passing on some.
The Golden Knights must accept a few of the big-money deals being dangled by pushy executives in order to hit the floor. What’s interesting, though, is that teams that are most desperate to shake one of these contracts seem to be in less of a position to do so because they have had to expose value elsewhere. (What’s one season of James Neal when you could have Pontus Aberg’s prime years?)
It’s the teams that don’t have much to lose that seem to have the most to gain. I could see Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri landing in Vegas because both would help the Golden Knights hit the minimum, they can be flipped quickly, and the club wouldn’t be passing on anything of significant consequence from Montreal or New Jersey.
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS