It’s finally here. Almost. With NHL teams releasing their final lists of protected players Sunday, it’s time for the Vegas Golden Knights to start doing the meat of their work for the expansion draft. Their window to negotiate with free agents opens and they can, of course, start the process of selecting their players.
Knowing exactly who is available makes it the ideal time to try one more mock draft. There’s an important caveat, though: not every player available, especially among the shocking big-name guys, is truly available. The Anaheim Ducks exposed prized blueliners Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen, but we already know they worked out a side deal of sorts which involved veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa not waiving his no-movement clause. So it’s highly unlikely the Golden Knights land Manson or Vatanen. With scenarios like that in mind, let’s attempt the most realistic mock possible, including some speculation on side deals. The Golden Knights appear to have many in place, and by “helping” teams keep their rosters intact, GM George McPhee may be setting his team up to amass a ton of picks and tank for a 2018 lottery position.
Before we dive in: here’s Jared Clinton’s post outlining every team’s protect list. Very handy stuff.
And here’s a quick rule refresher
1. The Golden Knights will have an early negotiation window, now confirmed to be 72 hours starting June 18, with restricted and unrestricted free agents leading up to the official unveiling of their 30-man roster June 21. Vegas can sign UFAs and RFAs during that period and include them as part of their expansion draft.
2. Any player Vegas signs as a free agent during the exclusive window will count as his previous team’s “picked player” for the expansion draft, and that team cannot lose another player.
3. After Vegas’ exclusive window expires, it can’t sign additional players until July 1.
4. Vegas must draft at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. It must pick at least 20 players already under contract for 2017-18.
5. Vegas must amass a roster with a minimum payroll of at least 60 percent of the league-wide cap.
6. Players with no-movement clauses must be protected by their teams unless the players agree to waive their clauses.
7. Teams can only protect one goaltender.
8. First and second-year pros and unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection.
9. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.
Click here to review additional rules.
2017 MOCK DRAFT
From Anaheim: Logan Shaw, C
Manson and Vatanen aren’t going anywhere. The Ducks will be compensating the Golden Knights handsomely. The guess here is prospect scorer Sam Steel is involved. The Ducks are in win-now mode with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler still around and thus don’t want to weaken that stacked blueline too much just yet.
From Arizona: Alexander Burmistrov, C
Burmistrov showed plenty upon being claimed by the Coyotes, but he’s someone they can afford to part with since they’re likely hoping mega-prospects Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller, both centers, make the team for 2017-18.
From Boston: Colin Miller, D
We knew the Bruins would have to expose two of Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid and Colin Miller. I project Vegas goes with Colin Miller, who is six years younger than McQuaid and less than half the price.
From Buffalo: William Carrier, LW
Trading for Nathan Beaulieu meant exposing Zach Bogosian, but it’s doubtful Vegas takes that $5.14-million bait unless compensated with a pick. Carrier is a physical forward with a bit of upside leftover given he’s just 22.
From Calgary: Michael Stone, D
I imagine the Golden Knights sign at least a few unrestricted free agents. Stone is a big, right-shot defenseman who can play on the Golden Knights’ second or third pair. Heck, depending on who else they grab, he can munch minutes on the top pair.
From Carolina: Klas Dahlbeck, D
A decently regarded prospect when he was in the Blackhawks system. Big frame and hasn’t gotten a long NHL look. Still youngish at 25.
From Chicago: Trevor van Riemsdyk, D
Mock drafts have changed a lot from month to month – but every one one I’ve done lands TVR on the Golden Knights. He’s a proven NHL defenseman, albeit a back-pairing one.
From Colorado: Mikhail Grigorenko, LW
He’s a fun reclamation project, a one-time powerhouse talent in major junior. Maybe he’s given a chance to spread his wings as a Golden Knight. He’s still just 23.
From Columbus: William Karlsson, C
Reports out of Columbus say the Jackets made a side deal that keeps certain exposed players, such as right winger Josh Anderson, safe. The Golden Knights will nab a depth forward like Matt Calvert or two-way pivot Karlsson instead – in exchange what’s believed to be a first-rounder this year and a prospect.
From Dallas: Jamie Oleksiak, D
He’s a tower of a man with a first-round draft pedigree. It’s him or going with the pricey Cody Eakin up front.
From Detroit: Petr Mrazek, G
I believe in the theory that Vegas will take more goalies than it needs, then hold the league hostage on the trade market. Watch for it. And Mrazek’s talent exceeds his recent results. It’s not too late for him to become a great goalie.
From Edmonton: Jujhar Khaira, LW
I thought the Oil would protect Khaira and expose Letestu, but his Herculean playoff effort must’ve made him indispensable in GM Peter Chiarelli’s eyes. Instead, an intriguing checking forward in Khaira dangles in the breeze.
From Florida: Jason Demers, D
Demers isn’t cheap at a $4.5-million cap hit for four more seasons, but Vegas still has to meet 60 percent of the NHL cap somehow, and he can play on the team’s top pair. I don’t buy for a second that exposed 30-goal man Jonathan Marchessault gets claimed. There has to be a side deal at play here.
From Los Angeles: Brayden McNabb, D
He showed for stretches that he can keep up with a high-level blueliner like Drew Doughty, but now that Derek Forbort has emerged, the Kings can afford to part with McNabb.
From Minnesota: Erik Haula, C
I don’t see the Golden Knights snatching Eric Staal or Matt Dumba. No way. I smell a side deal here, too. The Wild can afford to part with checking center Haula now that Joel Eriksson Ek is ready for the NHL.
From Montreal: Tomas Plekanec, C
The Knights could use a veteran pivot like Plekanec, a potential captain who could play in all situations. He’s also a UFA next summer, making him good trade bait at the deadline. Maybe the Habs toss a pick to Vegas in exchange for the $6-million cap relief, which would create the space to re-sign Alexander Radulov.
From Nashville: Colton Sissons, C
The Preds are victims of their depth here. We knew the big four blueliners were safe. And if any forward requires special protection with a side deal, it’s James Neal. So how about nabbing Sissons, fresh off his playoff breakout?
From New Jersey: Mike Cammalleri, LW
Someone has do so some scoring for this team, and the affable Cammalleri would be a great team ambassador in the franchise’s early days.
From NY Islanders: Ryan Strome, RW
Don’t panic about the Isles going 3-5-1 and still not protecting Calvin de Haan. I predict a side deal here. Instead, the Knights grab Strome, another reclamation project a-la Grigorenko.
From NY Rangers: Antti Raanta, G
If Raanta doesn’t wind up Vegas’ starter, he’s as good a piece of trade bait as GM George McPhee will find exposed anywhere. Signed just one more season at $1 million.
From Ottawa: Marc Methot, D
Dion Phaneuf dug his heels in with the NMC, so Ottawa had no choice but to expose Erik Karlsson’s partner Methot. He’d bring nice veteran leadership and a well-liked dressing room voice. Another good captain candidate.
From Philadelphia: Michael Del Zotto, D
Here’s another UFA signing. Del Zotto would be the Knights’ power play quarterback.
From Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury, G
It’s all but guaranteed the Golden Knights take Flower. The question is whether they’ll flip him to another team, which would mean him waiving his NMC a second time. Which teams still need a No. 1 goalie now that Calgary has Mike Smith, though? Just the Philadelphia Flyers, and even that’s debatable. The prediction here is that Fleury becomes the face of the Golden Knights.
From San Jose: Mikkel Boedker, LW
He’s not the cheapest, but he’s fast and can play on a scoring line in Vegas. With enough ice time, he should flirt with 20 goals.
From St. Louis: Nail Yakupov: RW
Even more so than a Grigorenko claim or a Ryan Strome claim, a Yakupov claim would excite me. Don’t you just want to see him unleashed once in his career before we write him off as a bust forever?
From Tampa Bay: Yanni Gourde, C
This could be McPhee’s biggest steal. Gourde flashed potential during his NHL call-up this spring and really lit it up in the AHL.
From Toronto: Brendan Leipsic, LW
Woof. The Leafs evidently really value toughness, so they expose a guy with a Brendan Gallagher-like skill set who has been one of the AHL’s best players for the past couple years. Vegas’ gain, then.
From Vancouver: Luca Sbisa, D
The pickings are slim from the talent-starved Canucks, but Sbisa can eat minutes and his deal expires next summer, making him trade bait in the winter.
From Washington: Philipp Grubauer, G
Another member of Operation Hoard the Goalies. Grubauer would also be a great guy to groom as Vegas’ long-term starter if he doesn’t get dealt.
From Winnipeg: Marko Dano, RW
Not sure why Dano doesn’t get more love. He’s a pretty promising prospect who just needs a chance to play.
Michael Del Zotto
Trevor van Riemsdyk