When the Las Vegas expansion franchise selected George McPhee as its first GM, the former Capitals architect said one of the things he was looking forward to most about the opportunity was the chance to pick and choose everyone who would be a part of the organization right from the outset.
While picking the hockey minds to fill up the front office positions came rather easily, the process of selecting the roster is an ever-evolving with the expansion draft looming. And according to director of player personnel Vaughn Karpan, the targets of the Las Vegas franchise — which is set to get its name on Tuesday — those targets are changing almost every month when the team gets together to discuss the expansion draft that’s set for June.
"The thing you learn is that players change every day," Karpan told NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman. "Who you think teams might want to protect and who teams think they may want to protect. It's continually evolving. Young players are surpassing expectations and veteran players or mature players are not meeting it. It's a cap era and everybody is trying to make pieces fit. If you're one of the member clubs out there now they're going to try to protect as many of their assets as they can.”
Previously a scout with the Canadiens from 2005-06 to 2015-16 and the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes organization for more than a decade preceding his turn in Montreal, Karpan told Kimelman that the situation the Las Vegas franchise finds itself in is unique.
In Las Vegas, Karpan said they’re attempting to build a “ghost depth chart” using players who will potentially be available come the expansion draft, but it’s literally impossible to know who will and won’t be available from a given team. That will depend greatly on which players teams choose to protect, with the only known variable being the players who absolutely won’t be available due to experience in the league. For instance, players such as Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin and Artemi Panarin, all second-year players in 2016-17, won’t be available for selection come the expansion.
There’s also the matter of players with no-movement clauses, who will be forced to be protected barring a request or agreement on their inclusion in the draft. The league has reportedly put together a list of the players who will be protected.
None of this, of course, is to mention players such as Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall or St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko, all of whom are unprotected by any contract clause but will in no way be available come the expansion draft.
"There's certain players in the game you'd love to have but you're never going to get them," Karpan told Kimelman. "There's those core players you're not getting. You sort of push them aside. You're aware of them, you evaluate them, but objectively speaking we're not getting them.”
Karpan said the meetings to decide which players are the targets are occurring every 4-6 weeks, but talks throughout the organization are happening every day.
And while the interest in the expansion draft process has, in a sense, come second to the upcoming naming of the franchise, come Wednesday, the day after the team officially has its logo and moniker, all eyes will be firmly focused on what the makeup of the roster will be when Las Vegas gets the chance to build it from scratch.
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