The Vegas Golden Knights have traded defenceman Alexei Emelin to the Nashville Predators. Darren Dreger of TSN was first with the news. The Knights had drafted Emelin from the Montreal Canadiens in the recent expansion draft. Emelin has one year left on his contract at a $4.1 million cap hit. The Predators give the Golden Knights a third round pick in the deal and will retain almost $1.2 million in salary.
Emelin to Nashville for a 3rd. https://t.co/g4YW8AnAzG
Vegas retained just under $1.2 million of Emelin's salary in the trade with Nashville
Nashville Predators Acquire Alexei Emelin from Vegas Golden Knights
Emelin throws big hits and gets under the skin of his opponents. He finished the season with 241 hits, ranking ninth in the NHL and first on the Habs. He averages 3.17 hits per game and 8.93 hits-per-60 minutes.
He played with Shea Weber for the bulk of the season on the Canadiens top defense pairing. The pair was maintained on the penalty kill as Emelin averaged 2:37 minutes-per-game on the PK. While the PK did struggle early in the season, ranking 22nd, much of the struggles seemed to be associated with the passive PK tactics of Michel Therrien. When Claude Julien took over in March, the Habs were instantly better killing penalties, moving up to 14th in the 24 games under Julien. Emelin was fourth on the team in average ice time, averaging 21:19 per game.
Emelin scored had two goals and eight assists in 76 games this season. He added a goal in the playoffs.
Why Was He Exposed in Expansion
Alexei Emelin’s biggest issue is his consistency. There are nights when he looks like he is a top pairing defender (usually against the Boston Bruins) and other nights where he looks lost. Emelin provided the Habs with physicality, but it could also lead to him making mistakes. Going for a big hit or misreading the play, he leaves his defence partner or goaltender out to dry.
Emelin also has issues staying healthy. In the 2016-2017 season he set a career high with 76 games played. He also suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the final two games of the season and the first four games of the Habs first round series versus the New York Rangers. The injury required arthroscopic surgery after the season was over.
The left side of the Canadiens defence is a huge question mark this off season. Right now, that consists of UFA (and 38 year old) Andrei Markov, the much maligned RFA Nathan Beaulieu and Emelin. Their depth on that side of the blueline is cause for concern. With rumours swirling about Beaulieu’s future with the team, the Habs might not be able to afford to leave Emelin exposed.