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Rumor Roundup: Golden Knights eyeing deals to avoid notable exposed players

There are some household names available in the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee may be making deals to avoid picking those players for something else in return.

The release on Sunday of the NHL’s expansion draft protected lists revealed several quality players were left exposed. Among the notables were Anaheim Ducks defensemen Sami Vatanen, New York Islanders center Brock Nelson and Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Josh Anderson.

While they are tempting targets for Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee, there’s a good chance he could bypass them. With the other clubs allowed to discuss trades only with the Golden Knights until the roster freeze ends on June 22, McPhee was reportedly willing to swing deals to allow them to retain key unprotected talent.

McPhee set a deadline of midnight on June 19 for clubs to discuss potential trades with him. Such moves, however, could be costly. The Golden Knights GM must stockpile draft picks and prospects to build up his farm system. The higher the picks and the quality of the prospects, the quicker his pipeline of youth can be established.

Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register reports Ducks GM Bob Murray is believed to have worked out a deal with McPhee ensuring neither Vatanan nor blueliner Josh Manson are selected in the draft.  McPhee’s asking price could be a high draft pick or a young defense prospect.

The Las Vegas Journal-Review‘s Steve Carp said the New York Islanders have a deal shipping their first-round pick (15th overall) in the draft and injured forward Mikhail Grabovski to the Golden Knights. Early reports suggested McPhee would select Nikolay Kulemin in return in the expansion draft, leaving unprotected Isles such as Nelson, right winger Ryan Strome and blueliner Calvin de Haan untouched. However, on Tuesday reports said Kulemin is not the designated player to be selected.

Carp also reports the Columbus Blue Jackets could ship their first-round selection (24th overall) to Vegas. McPhee would bypass Anderson, backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, forward Matt Calvert and blueliner Jack Johnson.

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McPhee could also use his considerable salary-cap space to acquire a toxic contract or a salaried player from a cap-strapped club, provided they’re willing to kick in another asset in the deal.

Carp’s report on the Blue Jackets also stated the Knights could acquire the rights to winger David Clarkson, whose back injuries have ended his playing days. That would clear his annual average salary of $5.25 million through 2019-20 off the Jackets’ books.

On May 31, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported the Chicago Blackhawks were close to a deal with the Golden Knights. The Hawks would allow McPhee to select defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft on the condition he also acquires center Marcus Kruger and his $3.083-million annual average salary via trade.

The Toronto Star‘s Kevin McGran speculates on the possibility of the Maple Leafs working out a deal where McPhee selects left winger Joffrey Lupul. Lupul missed all of last season due to injury and has a year left on his contract with a $5.25-million cap hit.

James Mirtle of The Athletic reports hearing the Tampa Bay Lightning could also consider this route. He wonders if they might offer up someone such as defenseman Jason Garrison and his $4.6-million annual cap hit to the Golden Knights.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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