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Photo Credit: © kylejgraybeal

Expansion Draft

The 30 NHL teams need to submit their list of protected players by 3 p.m. MST June 17th. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the list will be made public on June 18th, the same day it is distributed to all the teams. Las Vegas has to inform the league of their selections or signings by 3 p.m. MST June 20th, then the league will announce the team in a one-hour TV special in conjunction with the NHL player awards on Wednesday, June 21st.

I’ll be amazed if the league can keep all the selections quiet before they are announced on the 21st. The intrigue surrounding the expansion draft is ramping up. I wasn’t that interested six months ago, but now I find myself looking at every scenario and talking to various NHL people, management and players about the draft.

To submit a mock draft today would be pointless, because I think many teams will make trades, thus altering their protected list, so instead I’m focusing on the strategy Las Vegas might take when choosing their team.

The current 30 teams can protect a combination of seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie, or four forwards, four defencemen and a goalie. Players who only have two years of pro experience, or less, in the AHL or NHL do not need to be protected. Players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and other excellent young players don’t need to be protected.

The 30 teams need to expose two forwards and one defender who has played 40 games this season or a combination of 70 from the previous two seasons and one goalie who is under contract for the 2017/2018 season or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract, immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

Las Vegas also has some rules regarding which players they select.

  • They must select one player from each of the current 30 teams.
  • They have to select a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
  • They must choose a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
  • They need to choose players with salaries that total at least 60% of this season’s $73 million cap ceiling. The salaries of their 30 players need to total at least $43.8 million.
  • They cannot buy out any player they select until next summer.

Trades do not count as a selection, however, a free agent signing does. For instance, if they signed TJ Oshie, then they wouldn’t select a player off of Washington’s list.

Las Vegas GM George McPhee told me last month his team has conducted numerous mock drafts throughout the season, mainly to experience all the different scenarios and get a feel of how things might unfold between the 17th and 20th. McPhee admitted he is expecting to make numerous trades prior to the draft, but didn’t go too in-depth on his plan regarding signing RFA or UFA. The wildcard for Vegas is seeing what trades the other 30 teams make between them.

A source told me yesterday he is certain the Anaheim Ducks already have a trade in place for Sami Vatanen. Despite his injury, Vatanen is still a hot commodity and the Ducks will get a forward in return. Many expect Kevin Bieksa to waive his NMC, so the Ducks can protect Hampus Lindhold, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson. I wonder if they make him a deal saying waive your no-move clause and then the Ducks won’t buy him out.

VEGAS STRATEGY

I’d be surprised if they selected more than 14 forwards. I would use the four “extra picks” on D-men or goaltenders because Vegas will likely get a better return on a defender or a goalie than they would a lower end forward.

They could select a few goalie who doesn’t require waivers, however, they are splitting an AHL affiliate and it might be difficult to find adequate playing time for two goalies. Every forward and defender they select will require waivers, and I believe of the 30 players they select, we will see at least five of them traded before the season begins, and possibly more. They have already signed Russian free agent Vadim Shipachyov to a two-year, $9 million deal. McPhee has been very open how he plans to stockpile draft picks over for 2017, 2018 and 2019 to build a strong foundation. It is the wise move, and I suspect by the start of the 2019 Vegas will have their own AHL affiliate so they can groom and develop more prospects.

Goalies could be a hot commodity, especially if teams like Calgary, Philadelphia, Arizona and even the New York Islanders can’t swing a deal before the expansion draft. Vancouver could be looking, and I suspect the Rangers have to start thinking about a succession plan at some point. With Philipp Grubauer, Joonas Korpisalo, Antti Raanta, Linus Ullmark, Anton Forsberg and Jared Coreau and Calvin Pickard likely to be available unless they are traded prior, the Knights will have some good young goalies to choose from. And of course Marc-Andre Fleury will be moved by the Penguins.

Would Columbus rather trade Korpisalo before the draft and get a draft pick or prospect in return, or will they accept losing him if it means they don’t lose someone else? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in many team’s meetings in the next two weeks to hear their discussions and debates on who to protect, expose or trade.

Will the Wild trade one of their D-men prior to the draft, or will teams wait and see if Vegas is more willing  to accept a package of picks and prospects, rather than give up a bonafide forward for Matt Dumba per se?

I believe McPhee will draft 11 or 12 defenders. He has many left-shot defenders to choose from, but if he can land a few quality right-shot defenders, he could get a return by flipping them to a team before the NHL entry draft. There won’t be any top-pairing defenders available, but there will be many solid, proven NHL defenders, and NHL teams are always desperate for more reliable defenders.

I also think he will draft more than the minimum three goalies and then move one or two of them for future picks.

I don’t think it makes much sense to draft more than 14 forwards unless the trade market suddenly leaves that many good available. It is much easier to find UFA bottom six forwards than it is to sign a quality #5 defenseman. If I was McPhee I’d use 14 picks on forwards and the other 16 on a combination of D-men and goalies.

OILERS OPTIONS

  • The Oilers would love the Knights to claim Benoit Pouliot, but I’d be surprised if they grab him. Pouliot can play, and on an expansion team, he could be a second line player. He played on the Oilers second line when they were a 28th place team, but on a competitive team he is a bottom six forward. He can kill penalties and is good defensively. Due to their lack of organizational depth I’m not sure the Oilers can afford to offer up a draft pick to Vegas just to take Pouliot. Right now I think Griffin Reinhart, Jujhar Khaira and Laurent Brossoit are the top candidates to get claimed. They all require waivers, play different positions and all have some questions about what type of player they will develop into. I’d rank them Reinhart, Brossoit and Khaira, but it will depend on Vegas’ strategy. There are many left-shot defenders available and Reinhart isn’t noticeably better than many of them. I wonder if that means Vegas will look at Khaira or Brossoit.
  • At the draft combine this past weekend, McPhee said this about how his strategy has changed during the past eight months, especially recently as we enter the final two weeks.
    “When we first looked at the expansion draft and were going through it, we sort of had an idea of what we might be able to accomplish. But there are teams that really want to protect some people and protect their rosters, and they’re willing to pay a pretty fair price to get us to lay off certain people and go in a different direction.“There’s certainly been a lot of discussion, and most of the guys have been really forthright in what they want to do, who they’ll probably expose and who they’d like to protect. We’re trying to find ways to accommodate each other. We won’t be able to do that with everyone, but there will be some deals that happen.”We shouldn’t be surprised if Vegas ends up with two, possibly three extra first round picks over the next two years.

What strategy would you take if you were McPhee?

Which teams would you target for trades?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to offering up a draft pick to take Pouliot, it all depends on why draft pick it is. I wouldn’t give up a 1st to Vegas but a 3rd? I understand that the Oilers could use more prospects, all teams can. But the odds of a 3rd rounder making the NHL aren’t long. If they do make the NHL, we are talking what 5+ yrs minimum? With the Oilers looking to be a contender here either now or right away, I have to think 4 mill in cap space for the next 2 season is worth a heck of a lot more than a 3rd round pick who could easily never make it past the AHL.

    • Alberta Bound Edmonton

      Yes! Pete has a strategy that probably looks something like this. 2017/18: 1st in the west and minimum 3 Rd round of playoffs. 2018/19. Top 3 in the league and a cup appearance. 2019/20. First in the league and win the cup. Hopefully all this happens sooner than later but yes we give vegas a 3rd rounder this year to take Pouliot and walk away happy.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’d be very surprised they eat $8 million just for a 3rd round pick. The chances that pick pans out is very low, so why would Vegas make that deal and have to overpay Pouliot for two years? If it was only a 3rd rounder, then Chiarelli would gladly do it, but don’t see why Vegas would do it.

      • Consultant

        It’s seems possible they may believe Pouliot had a down year and think he could play some important minutes for them, he is a decent player after all, can pk and play in the top six. Then they trade him at the next year’s deadline for another pick. They may also understandably not be so excited about Reinhart, Khaira or other Oiler options.

        • Jason Gregor

          Oilers have very little depth, and this year’s free agent crop isn’t very deep. To give away to picks just to shed salary, when Oilers aren’t in cap crunch wouldn’t make sense to me. Oilers can keep Pouliot for another year. He can be decent in bottom six and on PK rather than give up two picks just to get rid of him. I don’t see the value in making that deal.

      • Bills Bills

        How many 6’3″ 200+ players that can skate going to be available by the expansion draft? Pouliot is overpaid, we know he needs a million knocked off the books. But you are right on a 28th place team he can play top 6 and in any situation without getting crushed by the large and dominating western teams. They may not want to pay him but there are a lot of good depth players that are going to be made available by other teams. Is JJK going to make more of an impact on an expansion team than Pouliot for the next couple years? Or ever? He’s unproven and unknown.

  • RJ

    I get the same sort of feeling that you see close to the trading deadline every year, at the draft or at the start of free agency.

    I’ve seen a few mock drafts that suggest that LV will select up to seven RHD. Obviously, they’d need to trade some of them. I’ve seen more than one suggest that they’ll select more than three goalies. People will need to make moves with the available goalies. There could be so much activity!!

    Then I spend the day watching coverage, and something like Kerby Rychel getting traded for conditional draft picks is the highlight of the day. I’m going to wait and see whether there’s a lot of trades.

  • russ99a

    I agree, it will take a painful asset for Vegas to pick Pouliot.

    He has a down year, clashed with McLellan at times, and the Oilers reportedly tried to move him all year with no takers.

    It would be wise for the Oilers to pony up, not only for the cap room but they could lose Broissoit instead, who’s rounding into a decent backup after years of development.

    I could see a swap of this year’s Oilers first for their second or next years second likely, and even something as creative as Reinhart as the sweetener to get them to take Pouliot.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    My Vegas strategy would include being the middle man on defensemen. Once the lists are announced I’d see who wants what defenseman and what they’d pay. Assuming it is enough I might end up drafting as many as 12 of them, dealing 3 and planning on having 2 who are waiver exempt this year.

      • Gravis82

        That’s ridiculous. He played like crap.Whos to say that if he wasn’t playing we would have won that game in regulation and not needed that goal? Who’s to say that he wasn’t a drag on that line and didn’t cost us the 1 or 2 goals (either in goals against or goals for that didn’t happen) that we needed to get by the ducks??? Goes either way, but we all know he didn’t play well at all, and that all that matters. Bad trade. Cant just cherry pick the situations to suit your narrative. That trade was a mistake.

    • Jason Gregor

      Possibly, but would you prefer that, or would you have preferred Oilers defeat Sharks and get into 2nd round. Desharnais played massive role in game five OT win. Scored the winner and added an assist. Davidson sitting in pressbox that night would not have helped them. Just to get to 2nd round made trade worth it in my books.

      • Action Jackson

        As the butterfly flaps its wings…tough to say what would have happened. Regardless, it was nice to be in the position as a buyer not a seller. It will be weird getting used to buying expiring assets though for futures.

  • O.C.

    I was following along until I read this:

    “Trades do not count as a selection, however, a free agent signing does. For instance, if they signed TJ Oshie, then they wouldn’t select a player off of Washington’s list.”

    If NHL Free Agency for Oshie opens on July 1st, and the expansion draft is 10 days before that, how does the NHL piece this all together?

  • Clayton

    I think the piece that keeps getting missed isn’t what pick would the Oilers have to give up to have Vegas pick Pouliot, but also what pick could Vegas get if they picked say Reinhart and traded him to another team? Vegas is also having conversations with teams about what they can get in trade for guys they pick from other teams. If they find they can get a 2nd for Reinhart…why would they take a 3rd to have to take Poulliot.

  • madjam

    I have Vegas taking Pitlick over Khaira , and Reinhart is low on the Vegas totem pole . Pouliot unlikely at his price even with a 3rd round pick. Pitlick cheaper , more productive , and more NHL proven than Khaira .

    • Jason Gregor

      Why would Vegas draft a UFA? They either sign him before the expansion draft, otherwise they risk picking him and then losing him less than two weeks later for nothing. Also Pitlick has played 31, 37, 31, 49 and 44 games the past five seasons between the NHL and AHL. 58 of them in the NHL. His injury history is a major concern for teams. Sadly, few teams would consider signing him for more than one year at a time until he can prove he can stay healthy for an entire season.

    • ricardo2000

      Reinhart has to be evaluated against other defence men in the NHL. Additionally, players will be selected not just for their immediate value, but also as trade bait for players currently protected or unavailable.

  • JOFA

    I’m looking forward to seeing a team that’s destined to lose a really good player go out and acquire more good players prior to expansion.
    If a team like Minnesota were to add a Jenner or a Vatanen, would losing Coyle or Dumba sting as much? If Washington were to add a De Haan or a M. Subban pre-draft, could they stomach the loss of Alzner or Grubauer? What if the Ducks could add a couple more ‘Silferberg or Manson’-esque type players and then let McPhee decide who he wants most. (You may not like my examples but hope you get my point)
    Nobody is taking about this being an opportunity for good teams to get better by addition and most are forgetting the fact that no matter how stacked the roster only one player is going to Vegas.
    Thoughts?

    • NoBuBlackOPS

      So if MIN brings in Jenner or vatanen what are they giving up cause yeah it would sting less if you brought one of them in and then loose Dumba or coyle in expansion. But to give up assets to bring in assets only to loose assets in expansion seems odd to me unless all your giving up is picks cause. I’m not gonna be looking to trade young players that are exempt from the draft to bring in someone I have to protect. Especially if I like that player as a potential cheap young player under club control for years to come. For example if I’m MIN all I’m offering for vatanen is draft picks and possibly fringe NHLers likely not enough to get vatanen.

  • madjam

    Some clubs could be hit harder if they try to trade exposed players by trading to other clubs other than Vegas . Anaheim , Washington , Islanders , Nashville , Montreal , Rangers ,Tampa , Ottawa and even Pittsburg . Example : Anaheim trades Vatenen , but it costs them also Silfverburg . Thus they lose both for trading one . O’Shie traded to another club and they likely lose D.Orlov to Vegas as well . Hamonic and lose Pulock as well , Ellis and they lose Zucker as well , Radulov and they lose another player as well , Grabner and another player as well , Komarov and another player , Killorn and also Namestikov , Methot and another player as well , Fleury and another player . McPhee has some of them over a barrel so to speak , if he is willing to use his leverage and comparative advantage .

  • RedMan

    fans from 30 teams are all expecting Vegas to take their worst dead weight overpriced bad contract players… because there’s a draft 3rd round “sweetener” to make is sooooo appealing.

    keep dreaming.

    expect something more like “your garbage” for a first round pick AND a legitimate prospect…

    this allows vegas to fill out their prospect depth. otherwise, they are taking the best player available on your team either to fill their own roster spot or to flip to another team as a “sweetener” for a real player.

    • That's My Point

      If Vegas takes all the bad contracts or players that the 30 teams don’t want anymore with a 3rd round pick then Vegas gets to pick all 31 players in the 3rd round.

  • Matty39

    Hey Jason, is this a possible scenario? With the number of rumoured RH Dman that are reportedly available and the Oilers need if another RH Dman I could see the Oilers moving a Forward in Eberle to the NYI for Hamonic. That leaves the expansion list going to 8 skaters and leaving Kassian available. I believe the Oilers might send Las Vegas a draft pick with the agreement of take another available player don’t pick Kassian and for not taking Kassian here is a 6th round pick. I think it is a scenario in which the Oilers can move Eberle, get the RH Dman they want and still expose and subsequently keep Kassian.
    What are your thoughts on this scenario?

  • nuge2drai

    If Vegas does not want Reinhart or Brossoit than they will most likely take a 3rd rounder in exchange for taking Pouliot.

    Better for them to take a draft pick than a player they have no value for.

  • Action Jackson

    Seems like we have everything surrounded. What about Eberle though? We wouldn’t give him away, but as a more complex deal, say we will trade you Eberle for a 3rd if you take Pouliot. Not sure how I would feel about that, but it would solve problems for a forward needy team.

  • lab16

    By protecting Lucic(NMC), Eberle, RNH, Letestu, Maroon, Leon, and Kassian. That pretty much covers the 1st 3 lines. Leaving only Desharnais and Pouliot unprotected. Yes we lose a player, but so will everyone else.

    The strategy that Vegas will employ will be the 3 best goaltenders (1 non waiver).

    Then they will take without any reguard for feelings; the best 13 defencemen they can get where half will go to the minors and sit there in purgatory until January 1st, 2018. At that point, Vegas will have an auction for DMen where the highest bidder wins, one Dman at a time. They will rake in pick/prospects one after another.

    The mandatory 14 forwards will be younger talented players who will not require waivers; or UFA’s they intend to use right away. Having pillaged the league for defenders, the forwards will be the easiest to develop. Then they are free to sign more UFA’s after the draft if they can. Sure they can, for $$$. It’s going to be fun to watch some teams squirm.