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.
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.
- 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?
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