Golden Knights in­vite rest of NHL to ne­go­ti­ate way out of los­ing key play­ers

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - Kevin McGran gives Ve­gas a hand,

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.

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