News out of Vegas ahead of Wednesday night’s expansion draft was that it wouldn’t take long at all for the Golden Knights, who picked up a bounty of defensemen through their selection process, to start clearing out some of their players. And by Thursday afternoon, the Golden Knights had trimmed down their 15 rearguards to a baker’s dozen.
While the draft was still moving along Wednesday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that, despite his selection by the expansion Golden Knights franchise, Trevor van Riemsdyk wasn’t long for Vegas. That was the case, too. After mere hours as a member of the league’s newest team, van Riemsdyk was shipped off to the Carolina Hurricanes along with a 2018 seventh-round pick in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2017 draft. The draft choice, the 62nd-overall pick, was previously acquired by the Hurricanes in the deadline deal for defenseman Ron Hainsey.
Acquiring van Riemsdyk is an interesting move by the Hurricanes and one that further stacks a blueline that already has a breadth of bright young talent. van Riemsdyk hasn’t established himself as a high-end offensive talent in the NHL, but over the past two seasons he has gained the trust of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and has been able to contribute somewhat regularly. Over the past two campaigns, he has netted eight goals and 30 points in 140 games while averaging 19:20 per game as part of Chicago’s second pairing.
The swap seemingly continues Carolina’s interest in bringing in players who’ve recently played in Chicago, as well, as the Hurricanes now boast several former Blackhawks, including Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom, Scott Darling, Dahlbeck and, now, van Riemsdyk.
Among the reasons the Hurricanes chased after van Riemsdyk is that he can play the right side. In a release, Carolina GM Ron Francis said that, as a right-handed shot, van Riemsdyk will fill “an immediate need” for the Hurricanes. Incredibly, van Riemsdyk will come into town as the second-oldest member of the D corps. Only Klas Dahlbeck, likely to be a bottom-pairing guy in Carolina next season, is older than van Riemsdyk among the current stable of defenders, which also includes Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
With a young, fully stocked defense, some might consider some of the current Hurricanes defenders to be trade fodder, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. While TSN’s Pierre LeBrun noted things can change, he reported that Carolina would prefer to move picks or prospects to add moving forward.
van Riemsdyk wasn’t the only Golden Knights rearguard on the move, however, as Vegas also found a new home for David Schlemko, who was plucked off of the San Jose Sharks’ roster on Wednesday night. The 30-year-old defenseman, who signed a four-year, $8.4-million deal with the Sharks last July, was shipped off to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick.
While Schlemko may not jump off the page as a top trade target for the Canadiens as they look to improve on the back end, acquiring the rearguard adds a level of depth to the Montreal blueline and Schlemko has been rather underrated in recent years. He’s not going to become a top-pairing player and he’s likely to top out as a solid second-pairing defenseman, but Schlemko has averaged more than 17 minutes per game across his nearly 400-game NHL career, putting up 17 goals and 87 points. In 2016-17 with San Jose, Schlemko potted two goals and 18 points.
The most coveted aspect of Schlemko’s game for the Canadiens is likely his mobility. For the price, Schlemko is going to give Montreal a defender who can take minutes in the bottom two pairings and skate the puck out of trouble when there’s the need. And at $2.1 million per season, his contract still leaves Montreal with upwards of $21 million to work with this summer.
Gaining the fifth-round selection down the line — not to mention the second-rounder received in the van Riemsdyk deal — gives Vegas another asset to work with as they enter Friday’s draft. For an organization looking to build through draft and development, it’s hard to ever have enough picks and the Golden Knights are doing the work necessary to stockpile selections as they enter their first ever entry draft.
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