Before you know it, the NHL Expansion Draft will be upon us. Las Vegas will have assembled a team for their inaugural 2017-2018 season. There is a lot of excitement for the upcoming hockey team in Las Vegas. What is interesting is the tough expansion calls ahead for NHL teams and Las Vegas.
Tough Expansion Calls for NHL Teams & Las Vegas
Because Kevin Bieksa has a no-movement clause the Anaheim Ducks will have to expose defensemen Cam Fowler and Simon Despres. It’s been no secret that the Ducks general manager Bob Murray has been shopping Fowler since the summer. It’s more likely than not the former first-round pick will be moved before the trade deadline.
If Fowler is still on the Ducks and exposed to the expansion draft, he could be a very attractive selection for Las Vegas as a trade chip. Fowler is signed through the 2017-18 season ($4 million cap hit) before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Las Vegas GM George McPhee could flip Fowler for a prospect and a draft pick.
The 25-year-old Despres, who is signed for another four years following this season ($3.75 million cap hit), could be a fall-back option for Las Vegas.
Due to the depth at the forward position along with a bunch of no-movement clauses, it’s hard to see a scenario where Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney protects Matt Beleskey. The 28-year-old left winger is a forward who can score 15-20 goals a year. Following this season the Ontario native is signed for three more years with a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit.
The interesting choice for McPhee is does he take a chance with goalie prospect Malcolm Subban? Subban the 24th overall pick in the 2012 draft, is just 22 and does have upside. No doubt the Vegas brass will be spending a lot of time in Providence to watch Subban’s development this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Because Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must protect veteran forward Scott Hartnell (NMC) either Alexander Wennberg or William Karlsson will be exposed to expansion. One thing is for sure the Blue Jackets will lose a talented youngster.
The Blue Jackets have a lot more invested in Wennberg who was the 14th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Las Vegas are not going to have that many opportunities in the expansion draft to select talented young forwards. Columbus will offer one.
Believe it or not, the Dallas Stars will give Las Vegas a couple of choices in terms of young defensemen. After Dallas general manager Jim Nill protects defenseman John Klingberg he has a tough decision to make. Nill can only protect two from Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak. It will be a very interesting call for Las Vegas to which young blue liner they select.
The Florida Panthers will have to expose at least one good defenseman in the expansion draft. Panthers general manager Tom Rowe will have to choose between Jason Demers and Alex Petrovic on who to protect. Another consideration is Jonathan Marchessault. While it’s early he does lead Florida in points the first two weeks of the season. If the 26-year-old right winger keeps this up he will be a strong consideration for Vegas.
The Minnesota Wild are going to have to expose two solid NHL defensemen in Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. Brodin is signed for the next four years following this season with a $4.166 million cap number. Scandella has three years left on his deal following this season with a $4 million cap number. Considering Brodin is just 23 years of age he is the clubhouse leader at this point.
New York Islanders
Because New York Islanders GM Garth Snow has to protect four defensemen (Johnny Boychuk – NMC, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic and Ryan Pulock), the Isles will only be able to protect four forwards. When it’s all said and done Snow will have to choose between Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, and Anders Lee.
Provided Strome bounces back this season the former fifth overall pick will be protected. That will leave McPhee to choose between Lee and Cizikas. Cizikas is a two-way third line center who plays every shift like his hair is on fire. Also, Cizikas has gotten better every year and is signed through the 2020-21 season with a cap hit of $3.35 million.
Lee, the product of Notre Dame Hockey, has scored 40 goals the last two seasons heading into this year. Remember, McPhee spent the last two years working in the Islanders front office so he knows their players quite well.
New York Rangers
For Las Vegas, it’s going to be hard to find a better expansion selection from the Blue Shirts than the soon to be 32-year-old defenseman, Kevin Klein. Klein is a solid two-way veteran defenseman who is signed through the 2017-18 season with a cap friendly number of $2.9 million. This is a great opportunity for Vegas to select and flip Klein for other short and long-term needs (calling the Edmonton Oilers). Klein will be exposed because the Rangers have to protect Dan Girardi.
Tampa Bay Lightning
With the quantity and quality of young forwards, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman will have to protect, it will leave both Vladislav Namestnikov and J.T. Brown exposed. This will be an interesting choice for Vegas.
As you can see Las Vegas are going to have a lot of good options on the blue line. Look for McPhee to take a couple of defensemen through the expansion draft and flip them for young forwards, prospects and draft picks.