Decision time nears
With the NHL expansion draft at hand, the Vegas Golden Knights finally will have a roster,
The Vegas Golden Knights are on the clock to have their expansion draft list finalized by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday. Before then, they are the only NHL team allowed to make a trade.
They can sign another team’s free agents or make a deal to not select a player from a team’s available list. They also can make a deal to draft a player from one team and trade him to another. For example, the Golden Knights could make a deal to draft Marc-Andre Fleury and then trade him to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Golden Knights will draft one player from every team, and those players, plus the Golden Knights’ deals, will be announced Wednesday during the NHL awards show from Las Vegas. The most pressing questions about the NHL expansion process:
When the dealing is done, what will the Golden Knights have?
They will be more competitive than expansion teams of the past but probably not quite as competitive as the NHL hoped they would be.
They could — and that’s a big question mark — rank in the 1625 range among teams. If everything goes right and the goaltending is sound, perhaps Vegas could compete for a wild card.
More likely, Vegas will be just outside the playoff grouping. The Golden Knights should be able to improve at a faster rate than previous expansion teams because they will launch the franchise with a larger collection of future assets.
The presumption is they have completed deals with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks to stay away from specific players. The Columbus Dispatch has reported the Blue Jackets are believed to be sending a firstround draft pick to Vegas.
The best guess is that Vegas will end up with three first-round picks in Friday’s draft and perhaps 12 extra picks over the next three drafts. They will secure previously drafted prospects in their trades.
Should we expect the Golden Knights to have a highquality defense next season?
Let’s call it dependable. They could take Paul Martin, Marc Methot, Matt Dumba, Calvin de Haan, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Which teams should the Golden Knights avoid making a deal with?
The Nashville Predators. Unless the offer is overwhelming to keep James Neal in Nashville, the Golden Knights should draft Neal. He could be a good linemate for Vadim Shipachyov, the Russian Kontinental Hockey League star who has been signed to play on the expansion team’s top line. Because Neal has only one season left on his deal, the Golden Knights could trade him before the trade deadline and probably obtain a strong return.
The Golden Knights also might be best served to not make a deal with the Minnesota Wild and just take one of their available players, such as Dumba.
Which teams could be talking goalie trades with Vegas?
The Flyers and Winnipeg Jets for sure, and maybe the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks. Petr Mrazek, Antti Raanta and Philipp Grubauer are among the most intriguing goalies.
Which unprotected players are other teams going to ask the Golden Knights to draft and trade to them?
Fleury, Methot, Neal, Dumba, Marco Scandella and Jonathan Marchessault are chief among them.
Are there underrated players on the list?
Detroit Red Wings center Riley Sheahan might be one. Never mind his offensive struggles this season. He could be the Golden Knights’ rugged No. 3 center for the next 10 years. He is bullish, strong and boasts the skill to score 12 to 15 goals every season. Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo also might fall into that category. New York Rangers winger Jesper Fest had a strong playoffs (six points in 12 games). Given the right opportunity, he could be a productive offensive player.
Would the Golden Knights consider drafting Bobby Ryan from Ottawa?
Even though teams are always looking for more scoring, it’s unlikely the Golden Knights would consider Ryan because he has five years remaining on a deal with a $7.25 million cap hit.
The only way the Golden Knights would draft Ryan is if the Senators offered a deal that the Knights couldn’t refuse. It probably would take something such as a first-round pick, a high-quality prospect and retaining at least $2 million in salary.
Will Vegas be a dumping ground for unwanted contracts?
General manager George McPhee told USA TODAY Sports he would consider it if the price were right. You can presume that the Los Angeles Kings have talked to McPhee about Marian Gaborik or Dustin Brown. Word around the NHL is that teams will have to offer a king ’s ransom to get the Golden Knights to bite.
With six consecutive seasons of at least 20 goals, James Neal could provide the Golden Knights with punch.