Vegas GM George McPhee said he’s hopeful of adding more selections via trade before the draft weekend, and could take on bad contracts to make it happen.
The Vegas Golden Knights will reveal their inaugural roster on June 21 during the NHL Awards, comprised of 30 players selected in the expansion draft. They must also build up the talent in the farm system by stockpiling picks for the draft on June 23-24.
GM George McPhee currently holds the sixth overall selection in this year’s draft, as well as the third pick in each of the following six rounds. During an interview with TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, McPhee said he’s hopeful of adding more selections via trade before the draft weekend. He’s also had some conversations with other clubs and expects to make some moves, possibly as early as next week.
With only $4.5 million invested in his payroll for 2017-18, McPhee is also in an excellent position to leverage his available cap space with cap-strapped clubs to land a quality player or two.
LeBrun’s colleague Frank Seravalli reports the Golden Knights could be close to a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks involving center Marcus Kruger. In this scenario, the Blackhawks would allow the Golden Knights to select defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk on the condition they also acquire Kruger in a trade.
The Blackhawks carry over $77.5 million in salary-cap payroll for 2017-18. With the cap expected to be between $73 million to $77 million, they must shed some salary. Moving Kruger ($3.083 million) and van Riemsdyk ($875,000) would clear almost $4 million from their books.
No word as to what the Golden Knights would have to give up to complete a potential Kruger trade. Given the Blackhawks’ cap requirements, it could be a draft pick.
McPhee could also use his cap space to acquire a high draft pick. LeBrun replied to Seravalli’s report saying he’s heard the Golden Knights could net another first rounder from a rival club if they take on a bad contract.
LeBrun didn’t indicate which team is making that pitch to McPhee but several fit the description. The Los Angeles Kings, for example, could attempt to trade Dustin Brown ($5.875 million through 2021-22) or Marian Gaborik ($4.875 million through 2020-21). The Columbus Blue Jackets could dangle sidelined winger David Clarkson’s $5.25-million cap hit, while the Detroit Red Wings could be keen to move goalie Jimmy Howard and his $5.29-million annual average salary.
Reports have surfaced of a potential pre-expansion draft swap between Vegas and Chicago, and if the deal goes through, it could show how the Golden Knights plan to use their cap space as an asset.
The Edmonton Oilers could try to move Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($6-million each per season). Perhaps the Washington Capitals shop aging blueliner Brooks Orpik and his $5.5-million cap hit.
McPhee also told LeBrun he could use their 72-hour exclusive negotiation window before the expansion draft to sign an unrestricted free agent from a rival club. Doing so would count as the Golden Knights’ expansion draft selection from that player’s previous team.
Such a move could give McPhee an opportunity to land a better player than one that would be exposed in the draft. He could also flip that player to another club for draft picks.
Speaking of moving draft picks, New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero told LeBrun he’s received some calls regarding the first-overall selection in this year’s draft. The Devils won that pick in the draft lottery in April.
Shero didn’t say if he intends to trade that selection. Still, it’s worthwhile for him to entertain offers.
While this year’s draft isn’t considered as deep as the last two drafts, the opportunity to select a top prospect center such as Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier could tempt a rival club to pitch a significant deal to the Devils.
LeBrun also reports Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill is “definitely listening” to offers for the third overall pick. A “handful of clubs” have made inquiries. One of them, according to LeBrun, is the Vancouver Canucks, though he expects it would be difficult for Canucks GM Jim Benning to make this move.
The Province‘s Patrick Johnston speculates Nill could want Benning to take a bad contract off his hands. He notes the Canucks need a second goalie and wonders if the Stars could be convinced to package their pick with either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen. It’s unlikely, however, the Stars GM will agree to that.
It’s believed Nill wants to bolster his blueline for next season. The asking price for his first-round pick is said to be an established defenseman.
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