Speculation is over: the NHL’s 30 original teams revealed who they’ve protected from the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft.
We’ve graded them. We’ve done a mock draft.
And now it’s time to speculate: what are NHL teams hoping for and against the most as Vegas sifts through their unprotected players? Every team will lose someone. The level of catastrophe and pain will vary, though. Some teams can come out of this better than before expansion!
So let’s run through nightmares and sweet dreams for all 30 teams ahead of expansion: the one player they’d love to keep and the one player they’ll regret leaving unprotected.
Best case: The Knights either take Sami Vatanen or work a trade with Anaheim to take someone not named Vatanen or Josh Manson off their roster. The Ducks get to trade Vatanen themselves or keep both.
Worst case: Yeah, that won’t happen ... Nothing else on Anaheim’s unprotected list is intriguing enough for Vegas to skip over both Manson and Vatanen. The Ducks are high on Manson, though, so they’d be kicking things if Vegas takes him.
Best case: Jamie McGinn gets taken. Not only did he disappoint this year with 17 points in 72 games, but his $3.33 million cap hit would be great off of Arizona’s books.
Worst case: Pretty sure the Coyotes would prefer to keep goalie Louis Domingue around in case Adin Hill isn’t ready for a NHL backup gig yet. The good news is there are better goalies Vegas can take.
Best case: That whispering you hear is all of Massachusetts muttering “pleasetakeMattBeleskeypleasetakeMattBeleskeypleasetakeMattBeleskeypleasetakeMattBeleskey” under their breaths.
Worst case: Malcolm Subban. Sure, he didn’t play well in spot starts this season. But he put up good numbers in the AHL this year and is just 23 years old. He has room to grow into his high ceiling. That’s why I have Vegas taking him in our mock draft as their third goalie.
Best case: Buffalo would love if Vegas took the cap hits of Zach Bogosian ($5.143 million) or Matt Moulson ($5 million). Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart will need to get paid soon, and clearing that space would help.
Worst case: William Carrier. Sabres fans are already nervous about him not being protected over Tyler Ennis, and with good reason. The 22-year-old power forward has good potential, and Buffalo might need to send draft picks to Vegas to beg them to take Moulson or Bogosian instead.
Best case: One of the worst signings of last summer was $4.5 million per year for Troy Brouwer through 2020. There’s a reason he wasn’t protected.
Worst case: The Knights draft Not Troy Brouwer.
Best case: Carolina would love to get out from under Cam Ward’s contract a year early, as unlikely as it is.
Worst case: Vegas takes Joakim Nordstrom, a solid third-line player who can kill penalties. Even so, Carolina won’t be hurt too bad by anyone lost here.
Best case: Marcus Kruger. That $3.083 million cap hit might seem like chump change to most teams, but it’s worth salivating over for the cap-crunched Blackhawks.
Worst case: Vegas takes Trevor van Riemsdyk, leaving Chicago with Kruger’s contract and costing them one of their few decent depth defensemen. Cold. If I’m Vegas, I hold this scenario hostage until Chicago gives me all of the draft picks.
Best case: Anyone, this team sucks.
Worst case: Vegas finds a loophole and doesn’t pick anyone, leaving Colorado intact and mourning.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Best case: Vegas rejects their dumb trade proposal and takes Jack Johnson anyway, because he is not great and Columbus shouldn’t be trying so hard to keep him.
Worst case: Vegas accepts their dumb trade proposal; the Golden Knights take William Karlsson instead and the dumb Blue Jackets keep Jack Johnson but lose their first round pick. Which is exactly what they’re trying to do. Because they’re dumb.
Best case: The Knights take Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi. Like that will happen.
No, they take Cody Eakin, which works out for everyone. Vegas gets a reasonably priced, quality second-line center. Dallas gets rid of an expensively unnecessary piece.
Worst case: Vegas skips over Eakin and Jamie Oleksiak. Instead, they take Dan Hamhuis. Dallas is down one of their few good defenders and still have two question marks in Stephen Johns and Oleksiak.
Detroit Red Wings
Best case: Detroit has to be about done with Darren Helm, right?
Worst case: Not sure. It depends on what you think GM Ken Holland is trying to accomplish by exposing Petr Mrazek.
Best case: Benoit Pouliot and his $4 million cap hit have outlived their usefulness, and Edmonton would love to see him in Vegas next season.
Worst case: I don’t know. They just re-signed Jujhar Khaira, though. He has a very nice beard.
Best case: Florida works a trade to ensure the Golden Knights don’t draft Jonathan Marchessault, Jason Demers, or Reilly Smith. Or Jussi Jokinen.
Worst case: Two possibilities.
- They do that, but it costs them ten first round picks, their first-born panther child and the script to the new Star Wars movie.
- They lose Marchessault, their best pure scorer.
Los Angeles Kings
Best case: I would love to see them get out of Dustin Brown’s ridiculous contract. Let’s stop and gawk at it again as it walks by:
Worst case: Tough to say. With a roster upheaval on the way and good protection picks made, maybe Brayden McNabb?
Best case: Good on them to protect Jonas Brodin. To complete the best case, though, they’d have to hope the Golden Knights lose their minds and don’t take Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba.
Worst case: Minny can’t come to a deal with Vegas, who takes Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba.
Best case: Tomas Plekanec or Alexei Emelin, for sure. Both have undesirable contracts Montreal would like to be rid of, though I doubt the Knights take them unless they really need to reach the cap floor or something.
Worst case: It wouldn’t be ideal if Montreal loses Brandon Davidson. Actually, the worst case is if they protected Andrew Shaw. OH WAIT.
Best case: You’d think the Predators would rather work out a trade than let James Neal walk free to Vegas, so that’s the goal.
Worst case: Losing Neal or Pontus Aberg.
New Jersey Devils
Best case: Anything. Nothing bad can come of this.
Worst case: Nothing. Anything good can come of this.
New York Islanders
Best case: there is no best case, did you see who they protected
Worst case: I don’t know, maybe leaving Ryan Strome, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, and Brock Nelson unprotected so you could keep Adam Pelech around? Maybe you could’ve protected one of them if you hadn’t also signed bottom-six guy Andrew Ladd to one of the biggest contracts in the league.*
*WHY AM I SO MAD ABOUT THIS, I AM IMPARTIAL AND SHOULDN’T CARE
New York Rangers
Best case: Out of the many forwards exposed, watching the Knights take Jesper Fast or Matt Puempel would be ideal.
Worst case: I think the Rangers like Antti Raanta as a backup, so they’ll have fingers crossed Vegas takes one of the thousands of other goalies.
Best case: Bobby Ryan? He just came off a decent season, sure, but he also has a massive $7.25 million cap hit through 2022.
Worst case: Bobby Ryan? He has a massive $7.25 million cap hit through 2022, sure, but he just came off a decent season.
Best case Pt. 2: They wake up and that whole Dion Phaneuf thing was just a dream.
Told some geese the terms of the MacDonald extension today https://t.co/MXbvv9sYZP— Scott T. (@NHLFlyera) December 21, 2014
Worst case: Get the feeling Philadelphia would rather keep Michal Neuvirth than either give the starting job to Anthony Stolarz or hunt free agency for a new starter.
Best case: Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s time to move on.
Worst case: “Wait, you’re telling me they took Bryan Rust instead of Marc-Andre-f****** Fleury? Now what do we do?”
San Jose Sharks
Best case: Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, and David Schlemko are all pipe dreams. But dreaming is good. We should all dream.
Worst case: But then we must all wake up at some point and live in a Brenden Dillon-less world.
St. Louis Bl—
Hold up. I want to clarify that I don’t expect Brenden Dillon to die during this draft. Unless you consider going from a contender to an expansion team in the middle of the Mojave Desert a form of death.
In that case, yes. RIP.
St. Louis Blues
Best case: Hey, you know what would drive every other Central team crazy? If the Knights drafted Nail Yakupov, a washed-up former first overall pick the Blues are moving on from anyway.
Worst case: The even unlikelier scenario, where St. Louis keeps a one-trick bruiser like Ryan Reaves and loses David Perron instead.
Wait a sec—
Went through all of the lists. Only 13 protected forwards around the league had 13 or fewer points in the NHL last year. Reaves included.— Game Time Media (@StLouisGameTime) June 18, 2017
Of those 13, Valeri Nichushkin (DAL) played in the KHL and Scott Laughton (PHI) only played two NHL games.— Game Time Media (@StLouisGameTime) June 18, 2017
Please, make it st—
Only three protected forwards put up a worse PPG number than Ryan Reaves - Curtis Lazar, Tomas Jurco, and Matt Martin.— Game Time Media (@StLouisGameTime) June 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning
Best case: Tampa keeps Slater Koekkoek, who has a great name and is a dude our Lightning blog (and myself) is higher on than Jake Dotchin.
Worst case: The Golden Knights go Koekkoek for I’m sorry I even attempted this joke.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Best case: Getting out of Joffrey Lupul’s contract should top their wishlist.
Worst case: Losing Brendan Leipsic, however, should end it.
Best case: Keeping Luca Sbisa would be nice. Other than that, nobody on this list would qualify as a big loss. Sbisa barely does.
Worst case: Losing Derek Dorsett’s grit, maybe?
Best case: They did pretty well here, but somehow losing Brooks Orpik’s cap hit and keeping Nate Schmidt would qualify as a huge win.
Worst case: Losing Schmidt, honestly. He blossomed in the playoffs, which is why McPhee will certainly take him.
Best case: Hard to see how Mark Stuart even lasts with Winnipeg past next spring’s trade deadline, really. Might as well lose him now.
Worst case: Marko Dano is just 22, even though it feels like he’s been around forever. Wouldn’t the Jets like to see if he breaks out this year on their roster?