VEGAS ORIGINAL 6?
Golden Knights invite rest of NHL to negotiate way out of losing key players
JAMES NEAL Forward, Predators Former 40-goal scorer coming off appearance in Stanley Cup final. ERIC STAAL Centre, Wild Veteran rediscovered scoring touch with 65 points in first season in Minny. JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT Forward, Panthers Broke out with 30-goal campaign last season in 75 games. MARC METHOT Defence, Senators Rugged rearguard veteran of 579 NHL games with Ottawa and Columbus. TOBIAS ENSTROM Defence, Jets Eighth-round pick in 2003 productive blue-liner with 302 career points. ANTTI RAANTA Goalie, Rangers Nice price, .922 save mark and 2.27 goals-against average in Big Apple last season.
Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee had difficulty containing his excitement in anticipation of the NHL’s expansion draft list being released.
“The most fun I’ve ever had in hockey,” McPhee said in a video posted of him driving to the team’s headquarters on Sunday. And that was before McPhee learned of the high-profile group of players he’ll have to choose from — limited to one from each of the 30 teams — in stocking the Golden Knights roster before submitting his list on Wednesday.
There’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie in Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury available and several 20-plus-goal-scorers in Nashville’s James Neal and Minnesota’s Eric Staal. As there’s a number of top defencemen exposed such as Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen and Ottawa’s Marc Methot.
“The issue for us isn’t going to be, ‘Can we fill out the roster?’ ” McPhee told reporters after the list was released. “It would be, ‘Do we have too many players?’ There are a lot of good players there.”
Vegas holds all the cards while the rest of the NHL comes to a full stop in awaiting McPhee to determine his selections over a three-day stretch during which the Golden Knights are the only team allowed to make trades and sign pending free agents.
McPhee wasn’t prepared to discuss individual players when specifically asked about Fleury, but noted there were no surprises based on the numerous mock drafts the Golden Knights conducted over the past few months. The one thing that didn’t materialize was a large number of trades happening involving players teams didn’t want to expose.
That leaves a deeper pool of talent available to Vegas.
Fleury was left unprotected by Pittsburgh after he agreed to waive the no-movement clause in his contract. The Penguins instead protected Matt Murray, who led them totheir second Cup in a row.
Vatanen, who will miss the start of the season after having shoulder surgery, and Josh Manson were the odd men out in Anaheim, because the Ducks couldn’t protect all of their talented corps of defencemen.
The Predators were forced to expose Neal, a 10-time 20-goal-scorer, because they elected to protect a fourth defenceman.
Other notable forwards exposed were Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec and Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz. As for defencemen, Minnesota exposed both Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella. Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian and Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis are also available.
The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents. Any pending free agent signed counts as Vegas’ selection from that player’s team.
The big variable is how many trades the Golden Knights will reach with teams to influence which player Vegas selects or avoids in exchange for draft picks.
“We’ve got lots of things lined up, but until we see everything, we don’t have anything,” McPhee said. He intends to inform teams whom Vegas is selecting in the event they want to strike a deal to have the Golden Knights choose another player.
There’s also nothing barring Vegas from making deals to select a player and trade him to another team.
Erstwhile Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the goalies Vegas could take this week.