Haggerty's NHL mock expansion draft
Haggerty's NHL mock expansion draft
After a year of build-up and intrigue over the team name and speculation about which players might go unprotected for the expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights will begin taking shape this week. The process has already started as the other 30 NHL teams have submitted their protection lists and there is a trade freeze in effect for all teams aside from any possible deals brewing with GM George McPhee and the Golden Knights.
With that in mind, here’s a mock expansion draft with our best guess at the 30 players, one from each of the other NHL teams, who will be taken when Vegas announces its selections Wednesday night at the NHL Awards ceremony. It’s all got a little bit of a reality show feel to it, but then again it seems to fit right into the showy bombast that Vegas will feature on a nightly basis in its maiden NHL season.
In this exercise, we have Vegas taking 14 forwards, 11 defensemen and five goaltenders and then undoubtedly wheeling and dealing for more players and assets once the dust has settled.
Here’s the mock expansion draft with the Golden Knights expected to build up assets they can trade as the season moves along for a team that isn’t expected to compete right away in the Western Conference:
Anaheim Ducks – Sami Vatanen (defenseman)
Vatanen, 26, has been mentioned in trade rumors the past two seasons given Anaheim’s talented group of blueliners and its complicated salary-cap situation. Now, it would appear he’s going to be finally switching teams given his standing as one of the best players being made available in the expansion draft. He’s just a couple of years removed from posting 12 goals and 37 points for the Ducks and has some very viable offensive upside. Vatanen has been a steady top-four defenseman in Anaheim and finished last season with a decent, if not spectacular, three goals and 24 points in 71 games to go along with a plus-3 rating. Vatanen isn’t really built to be a No. 1 defenseman at 5-foot-10, 183-pounds, but he’ll certainly be in the running to be that kind of player for Vegas. The fact, that Vatanen is also signed for the next three seasons for under $5 million per season also makes him a pretty good value as the Knights go shopping for players this week.
Arizona Coyotes – Jamie McGinn (left wing)
McGinn was a dreadful minus-23 for the Coyotes last season but has long been a solid bottom-six forward capable of providing energy, physicality and a bit of secondary offensive pop. Just three seasons ago he had 14 goals and 27 points for the Sabres, and he still hasn’t even hit 30 years old despite a lengthy NHL career. On a normal NHL team bumping against the cap, McGinn probably wouldn’t be so attractive given his $3.3 million cap hit for the next couple of seasons. But for a Vegas team that needs to get up and beyond the salary cap floor, it might not be much of a big deal to select a player who can bring some character and experience to the table.
Boston Bruins – Adam McQuaid (defenseman)
McQuaid, 30, hasn’t been mentioned much in many other mock expansion drafts. Instead, it’s been Malcolm Subban as the popular choice. Subban has looked like a bust in both the NHL and AHL, so it would be very surprising if the young goalie is the choice after doing very little to prove his first-round worth in the B’s organization. McQuaid, on the other hand, hails from the same Prince Edward Island area as coach Gerard Gallant, played for Vegas scout Mike Foligno in his junior days with the Sudbury Wolves and brings some toughness, size and Stanley Cup experience on the back end. McQuaid doesn’t have the same kind of high upside as 24-year-old Colin Miller if the Golden Knights go after potential and promise, but McQuaid is a big, strong, stay-at-home defenseman that every team needs if it's going to be successful.
Buffalo Sabres – William Carrier (left wing)
Carrier, 22, posted five goals and eight points for the Sabres in 41 games last season and has shown good potential as a strong, two-way winger with good size at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds. He wasn’t shy about playing the physical game and would bring a bit of an edge to the Golden Knights. He’s certainly shown enough grit and production potential to take a flyer on him in an expansion draft, and Vegas will do just that rather than load up with another possible goalie candidate in Linus Ullmark. Even if he simply becomes a fourth-line winger with a little offensive pop, this could be a pretty good player for Vegas plucked from off the Buffalo roster.
Calgary Flames – Troy Brouwer (right wing)
Brouwer, 31, hasn’t been a success story in Calgary after signing a free agent contract, and hasn’t been able to tap into the same stuff that made him so effective in Chicago, Washington and St. Louis. The 6-foot-3, 213-pounder enjoyed a couple of strong 20-goal seasons with the Capitals under George McPhee when he was the GM in Washington, and that kind of familiarity and experience could go a long way when constructing an NHL roster. Brouwer is the kind of player that could be potential captain material for the Vegas team, and brings the kind of strength, winning pedigree and proven production in the past that should be valued. The only question is what Brouwer has left in the tank at this point in his career, and whether Vegas is willing to, no pun intended, roll the dice on three more years at $4.5 million for a player that appears to be on the downside of a solid NHL career.
Carolina Hurricanes – Lee Stempniak (left wing)
Why shouldn’t Stempniak play for the 11th team of his NHL career? The veteran forward is well-traveled but has also shown an ability to continue producing and provide a strong, professional presence in an NHL dressing room. While the Golden Knights would clearly install Stempniak into their lineup to start the season, this is the kind of player you could see Vegas acquiring as a piece to be traded for other assets down the line once the regular season gets going. So, it might not be a long stop in Vegas for Stempniak, 34, but it could also be something to tell his kids about someday. Sixteen goals, 40 points and 82 games played is rock-solid production for the winger, who is aging like a fine wine.
Chicago Blackhawks – Trevor van Riemsdyk (defenseman)
The 6-foot-2, 188-pound defenseman is still young enough to develop into something greater than he currently is at the NHL level, but that’s still a pretty useful player. The 25-year-old has five goals and 16 points in 58 games with a plus-17 for the Blackhawks and is signed for under $1 million for the upcoming season, and would make a strong addition to the back end of an expansion team. Clearly, the Golden Knights could go in a different direction and select Marcus Kruger as well, but it would seem there are plenty of other veteran forward options out there in the expansion pool.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Joonas Korpisalo (goaltender)
Korpisalo, 23, has posted a 2.68 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 45 games for the Blue Jackets the past two seasons, and could form a really strong tandem with Marc-Andre Fleury if he were the guy. The word on the street, however, is that Columbus sent a first-round pick to Vegas to get the Golden Knights away from taking Korpisalo among a number of other players. The 6-foot-3, 182-pound Korpisalo clearly looks like he’s got a future in the NHL given his performance the past two seasons and that could speak to even greater value down the road whether he’s stopping pucks for the Golden Knights or the Blue Jackets.
Dallas Stars – Cody Eakin (center)
The Stars center had a lackluster season with three goals and 12 points for a Dallas team that really struggled, but Eakin is just 26 and has the ability to bounce back. He would be the perfect candidate to center the third line and provide some energy, grit and occasional offense within the game of a player that usually sports a non-stop motor. It might just be that it’s time for him to get out of Dallas to once again find his game, and provide the kind of bottom-six depth that any team needs if they’re going to win some games. Sure, Eakin has a cap hit over $3 million for the upcoming season, but he’s the kind of player that could provide good intangibles for a team that’s going to face their share of challenges.
Detroit Red Wings – Ryan Sproul (defenseman)
There’s a lot to like about this 24-year-old defenseman, who made his NHL debut with a goal and seven points in 27 games before succumbing to a knee injury last season. He averaged nine goals and 30-plus points in each of the previous three seasons in the AHL and the former second-round pick has shown he could have a future in the league as a skilled offensive defenseman with ideal size at 6-3, 205. Sproul is still on an entry-level deal and would give the Golden Knights a D-man they could take their time breaking into the lineup given some of the other blueliners they’ll be able to pick up along the way. People have made noise about Petr Mrazek being made available in the expansion draft, but this is the player Vegas would be smart to pluck from Hockeytown.
Edmonton Oilers – Griffin Reinhart (defenseman)
The 6--4, 212-pound Reinhart was a player that the Oilers gave up a pretty hefty package for at draft day a couple of years ago when they were looking to get bigger and stronger on the back end, but the 23-year-old hasn’t panned out yet as an NHL player. He’s appeared in only two games for the Oilers and hasn’t been able to crack the NHL lineup despite a pathway there if he showed he was ready. Still, he posted seven goals and 21 points in the AHL last season and has the size, tools and potential that made him a lottery pick for the New York Islanders just a few years ago. Given the players that Vegas might have to choose from on the Edmonton list, Reinhart seems like a cheap, high-upside selection that could pay dividends for them down the road if they’re patient.
Florida Panthers – Jonathan Marchessault (center)
An undersized center at 5-9, 174, Marchessault, 26, came on last season after moving from the Lightning to the Panthers and scored 30 goals and 51 points. He’s fast and skilled and the best “hockey talent” that Vegas will be able to obtain in the expansion draft. But Marchessault is coming off a career year and will be a big raise from his $750,000 salary following this upcoming season, particularly if he’s able to duplicate his goal-scoring. There seems to be no doubt that Vegas is going to take him and he’ll be one of the featured players on the new Golden Knights as they attempt to build something that can compete. It will be interesting to see if last season is a high-water mark for him, or if he can continue to improve those numbers in an NHL that’s wide open for fast, undersized and skilled players.
Los Angeles Kings – Nick Shore (center)
The 6-1, 194-pound center is 24 and had his best season in the NHL with six goals and 17 points in 70 games and still should have some upside given his youth, talent level and the way he produced in a couple of seasons in the AHL. He could make a pretty good bottom-six center with perhaps some potential to play up higher in the lineup, but he’s also due a raise as a restricted free agent without a contract. It could be a number of different players taken from the Kings and some might even be a little flashier than Shore, but this would be a solid pick that can help the Golden Knights at the NHL level.
Minnesota Wild – Matt Dumba (defenseman)
The Wild couldn’t trade one of their defensemen to free a spot on their protection list, so it looks like they will lose a very good blueliner in either Dumba or Marco Scandella. Dumba, 22, was a former lottery pick of the Wild six years ago and posted 11 goals and 34 points in 70 games, while topping 20 minutes of ice time per game, and has the size, skills and upside to eventually be a franchise defenseman for the Golden Knights in a couple of years. There is some shine off his game because he didn’t quite develop into the player Minnesota expected, but he’s still very young and very talented. It’s got to kill Minnesota to lose a valued asset like this for nothing, which makes it ridiculous that they didn’t at least get some value in trades prior to the expansion draft rather than just giving Dumba away.
Montreal Canadiens – Charles Hudon (left wing)
The 5-10, 195-pound winger isn’t the biggest by any means, but he’s a good, high-upside selection from the Habs organization with plenty of physical D-men like Alexei Emelin already in the fold. He’s been good for 20-plus goals and 50-plus points in the AHL each of the past three seasons and certainly hasn’t looked out of place with four assists in six NHL games for the Canadiens each of the past two seasons. The price is right and there’s good talent there for Hudon, but it remains to be seen if he’ll pan out for the Golden Knights or anybody else in his pro career. But he’s worth a roll of the dice for Vegas given some of the other choices they’d have from the Montreal organization.
Nashville Predators – James Neal (left wing)
Neal is a nine-time 20-goal scorer and he’s coming off 23 goals for a Nashville team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, so he would seem to be one of the highlight players taken in this expansion draft. He comes with a $5 million price tag that will make him one of Vegas’ highest-paid players right off the bat, but Neal is also a player they could flip for other assets after utilizing his skills to begin next season. Whether it’s Neal or one of a number of other players from the Predators roster, the Golden Knights are going to get a very good player from Nashville. It will be a difficult adjustment for a player going from a loaded Nashville team to the NHL’s version of a start-up company, but that’s why they are called professionals.
New Jersey Devils – Ben Lovejoy (defenseman)
The right-shot defenseman is strong defensively, a solid leader in the dressing room and exactly the kind of player to add when you’re looking to build a team from scratch. He’s also the best of some slim pickings from a Devils roster that isn’t exactly bursting with talent on its unprotected list. He’s a good addition for both the intangibles and the experience factor to go along with his solid play. The 33-year-old is signed for $2.67 million for each of the next couple of seasons and would be a good veteran to either hold onto or deal to a contender for assets as Vegas is expected to do for much of the next couple of seasons.
New York Islanders – Brock Nelson (center/left wing)
The big forward is coming off a 20-goal season for the Islanders and has the kind of physicality and production that any team is looking for. He’s also 25 and still affordable at $2.5 million for this season before he’ll begin to get more expensive. He could be a player that Vegas either builds around or flips to somebody else. With Calvin De Haan also potentially available, unless the Isles are able to come to some kind of trade agreement with the Golden Knights, Vegas is going to get something good from the Islanders no matter which way they go.
New York Rangers – Antti Raanta (goaltender)
Raanta, 28, is coming off a strong season where he filled in the gaps when Henrik Lundqvist struggled with health and his own declining play and could be the kind of goalie that Vegas acquires to simply flip to another team. Raanta is coming into his final season before he hits unrestricted free agency and could be the kind of goalie that hits it big somewhere as a No. 1 after playing second fiddle to a lot of other goaltenders in his NHL career. He could also become the backup goaltender in Vegas for one more season before getting a chance to chase after his own No. 1 opportunity elsewhere.
Ottawa Senators – Marc Methot (defenseman)
Another strong candidate for the first captaincy in Vegas, Methot is strong, tough and a good team-oriented player and leader who will bring an immediate respect factor with him to Las Vegas. The Golden Knights could also make a grab at Bobby Ryan, but given the way he floated through the regular season before turning it on in the playoffs for the Senators, he might not be a very good fit for a Vegas team that needs to build from scratch. Methot, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of top-pairing defensive candidate that’s going to give all he’s got for as long as he’s in Vegas, or he could be a very strong candidate to be flipped for assets down the line to a competitive team where Methot could be a tough, valuable piece.
Philadelphia Flyers – Michael Raffl (left wing)
The 28-year-old had averaged 17 goals and 30 points in each of the previous two seasons before coming down with some injuries last season and could be a strong third-line winger. He plays hard and has been solidly productive when healthy, and is the kind of player that could fit in seamlessly in Vegas among the other veteran players. The 6-foot, 200-pounder managed only eight goals and 11 points in 52 games last season, t is signed to a very reasonable $2.35 million cap number for each of the next couple of seasons.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Marc-Andre Fleury (goaltender)
He showed he still had it with a strong .924 save percentage in Pittsburgh’s run to the Stanley Cup this season, and frankly deserves to be a No. 1 goalie elsewhere after being supplanted by Matt Murray. He’ll get that chance with the Vegas Golden Knights as a 32-year-old former No. 1 overall pick who's still got plenty left in the tank, and is also a great, selfless teammate who has been to the Stanley Cup mountaintop multiple times. It’s rare for an expansion team to get their hands on this kind of goaltender with this kind of resume, and the Golden Knights should jump all over the opportunity. He’s also only on the hook for two more years at $5.75 million, so it’s not like Vegas is really locking themselves into anything long term if things don’t work out as planned.
St. Louis Blues – David Perron (left wing)
Perron, 29, redefined himself last season as a hard-working, two-way player and finished with 18 goals and 46 points while playing in all 82 games for the Blues. Perron isn’t the same guy that scored 28 goals and nearly 60 points for the Oilers four years ago and he’s slowing down a bit, but he’s also still talented enough to continue at his current pace for the next few seasons for a Vegas team that could use his experience. One just needs to hope that it wasn’t a St. Louis thing that allowed him to regain his game and that it’s something he’ll be able to recreate in Vegas for a team that will be looking for plenty of identity players.
San Jose Sharks – Brenden Dillon (defenseman)
A left-shot defenseman with size, good NHL experience and the kind of tenacity that Vegas is going to be looking for in the early years, Dillon is a good get from the Sharks. The 6-3, 220-pounder isn’t going to blow anybody away with offensive numbers like the two goals and 10 points he managed last season and he isn’t going to energize the Vegas fan base with his presence either. But he’s only 26 and a strong third-pairing candidate who will be hard to play against. Those are the kinds of players that any successful team has to have.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Andrej Sustr (defenseman)
The Golden Knights continue to rack up young defensemen and this time they get a 6--7, 220-pounder who has carved out a pretty good career for himself in Tampa Bay. Sustr is coming off a season where he totaled three goals and 14 points in 80 games and continues to be strong, productive and solid at 26 with room to grow in Vegas. You can’t teach that kind of size and strength, and Vegas will have its choice of plenty of big, strong bodies to guard things in the defensive zone by the looks of the unprotected lists around the league. Vegas could go in another direction with Jake Dotchin who plays on the borderline and has been known to throw a cheap shot or two in his time, but either way, it looks like Tampa is going to lose a D-man.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Martin Marincin (defenseman)
Marincin, 25, has been good enough to get chances in Edmonton and Toronto and perhaps he’ll get a third NHL opportunity in Vegas as well. He hasn’t been able to seize any of these chances despite good size at 6-4, 203-pounds and the skills that made him a second-round pick. In fact, there was almost literally no progression in posting exactly identical seasons of one goal and seven points with the Leafs, but he’s a left-shot defenseman that should be able to play right away for the Golden Knights. This could be the last stop on the Marincin train, however, if he can’t start putting things together in Vegas.
Vancouver Canucks – Michael Chaput (center)
The Golden Knights would probably take a pass if they could on a Vancouver pick, given the unsatisfying choices on the unprotected list, but Vegas will take Chaput, 24, a good-sized forward with some potential. He posted only four goals and nine points in 68 games for the Canucks last season, but has shown a good track record in the AHL and could become a good depth player for Vegas.
Washington Capitals – Philipp Grubauer (goaltender)
Thus ends the Vegas run on goaltenders as they take a Washington backup who also happened to be drafted by the Capitals when McPhee was running the show in Washington. Grubauer looks ready to be a No. 1 goalie after getting away from a situation in Washington where Braden Holtby is the guy. Vegas could absolutely flip this restricted free agent to a team in need of a goalie for a nice return. It’s an interesting strategy to load up on goalies as trade assets and then start collecting draft picks and prospects. One expects McPhee is going to do a great deal of that with a team expected to build slowly in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg Jets – Marko Dano (center)
The former first-round pick posted four goals and 11 points in 38 games for the Jets last season and appears to be on track to be a productive NHL player after being traded several times already. The 5-11, 212-pound Dano, 22, has bounced between the AHL and NHL and has plenty of talent and some good stretches for the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Jets. But he should get a real chance at a bigger role in Vegas after entering situations with crowded forward groups in the past.