January 02 2017 09:00AM
When the Vegas Golden Knights make their selection from the Edmonton Oilers at this summer’s expansion draft, my guess is that it will be one of two players: Benoit Pouliot or Mark Fayne.
Superficially, neither is an ideal pick for Vegas, but Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has the ability to make such a choice worthwhile for the Knights, and presumably he also has the motivation.
One of the things working in favour of a Pouliot selection is the fact that there just isn’t going to be that much offensive talent available this summer. For most teams, a scheme which protects seven forwards makes sense, which is going to leave a lot of third-liners exposed.
Pouliot is obviously not a favourite of the current administration—recall that Chiarelli let him walk after a 16-goal season in Boston to make room for Jordan Caron—but he has more scoring ability than he’s shown this season. Entering this season he’d averaged 24 goals/82 games played with the Oilers and he only just turned 30 at the start of the year. This season hasn’t worked out for him, but as a reclamation project he makes a lot of sense for a Vegas team that is going to be woefully short of skilled forwards.
Having said that, Pouliot is also in the middle of an awful campaign and has two years left at a $4.0 million cap hit after this one. In some ways his situation is comparable to that of Teddy Purcell when Purcell wound up in Edmonton, and given his contract one must assume that his trade value is negative.
For the Oilers, offering an incentive to Vegas to make this selection makes sense. In some ways it works in the favour of the Golden Knights, who could collect some kind of future while at the same time adding a useful NHL forward who can play in all situations. For Edmonton, the obvious upside is clearing away the salary of a player the coach doesn’t seem to trust.
Fayne’s situation is similar to Pouliot’s in some ways. His value as a player is obviously lower at this point, but at the same time he has just one year left on his current contract rather than two.
For Vegas, the appeal is in landing a right-shot defenceman who can be thrown to the wolves for a while to buy time for younger players. There are going to be some decent blueliners available in expansion, but predominantly those players are left-shot options.
Working against this is Fayne’s contract and status. It’s more difficult to make a case for him as a reclamation project than it is for Pouliot. Additionally, while buying out Pouliot’s contract would be a major headache, the last year of Fayne’s deal isn’t really that costly. By my math, the cap hit on a buyout would be a modest $1.3 million in 2017-18 and then $1.2 million in 2018-19.
However, with Connor McDavid’s new contract kicking in for the 2018-19 season, Edmonton might well prefer to avoid the buyout entirely and just burn Fayne’s $3.625 million cap hit in 2017-18 and be done with it.
On the whole, this is a less likely scenario than a Pouliot selection, but it might work if the Oilers can move Pouliot in another deal (likely retaining salary in the process). In that event, Edmonton would be eager to remove Fayne’s cap hit and Vegas would be an obvious destination.
What it Would Take
As it stands, Brandon Davidson seems like the most likely selection for the Golden Knights. Edmonton won’t have trouble protecting its forwards, and Davidson fits the sweet spot of cheap, young, somewhat experienced and potentially capable of playing top-four minutes at some point in the future.
For the Oilers, convincing Vegas to take a Pouliot or Fayne would require offering enough assets to compensate the Golden Knights for a) missing out on Davidson and b) taking on the remaining dollars of a Pouliot/Fayne.
To work with, the Oilers have a full set of 2018 and 2019 picks. The club doesn’t own a second-rounder in 2017, but should have extra third- and fifth-round picks that year. In the Knights’ shoes, prospects make sense, too and Edmonton has some options there.
Such a deal would make sense for both teams. The Oilers would be able to clear money and keep Davidson in the system. Vegas would be able to add an established player, but more importantly stock up on picks and prospects. It’s likely to be a few years before the Golden Knights are really competitive, and so this expansion draft is likely to be almost as much about extorting futures from teams as it will be grabbing NHL-ready talent.