Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

Vegas Golden Knights hold cards as NHL expansion draft nears

Vegas Golden Knights hold cards as NHL expansion draft nears

As he drove into work Sunday, George McPhee was as giddy as a kid eagerly racing to find out what gifts might be waiting for him under the tree on Christmas morning.

The Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft will be Wednesday, and many high-profile National Hockey League players are up for grabs.

McPhee was excited to discover the cache of quality players to choose from.

"We're really pleased with what's available and this, as I've said, has worked out very well for the Vegas Golden Knights", McPhee said. "We really like what we're looking at right now".

Several players listed - namely Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, Ekblad, Petrovic, Yandle and Reimer - come as no surprise; but some fans were shocked to see forwards Jonathan Marchessault, who led team with 30 goals in 2016-17 season, or Reilly Smith, 37 points in this past season, left unprotected. Golden Knights GM George McPhee sounds excited about the situation, and you can see why given all the picks he's going to accumulate for this young franchise. Any pending free agent signed would count as Vegas' expansion-draft selection from that player's team.

As a result, the Golden Knights are demanding draft picks from those teams in order to be steered to selecting other players.

The Knights acknowledged as much when they released the following press release late Saturday. They only need a couple, and there's opportunities for trades from that perspective.

The NHL announced the available and protected lists for the 30 teams that will provide players to the Golden Knights in the draft, which will be announced on Wednesday night.

The Golden Knights already have the No. 6 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, which begins on Friday. Vegas' may take on injured David Clarkson ($5.25 million salary cap hit) as part of the deal.

Conventional wisdom has the Knights selecting Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He holds the cards for a significant chunk of the league's talent, fielding calls from fellow general managers willing to trade something to keep McPhee from plucking certain players from their rosters, or to take someone from another team to flip in a deal. Presumably, it's another pick or prospect. Along with Johnny Bower, Sawchuk had just helped the Toronto Maple Leafs capture the Stanley Cup - the last time hockey's most coveted trophy was hoisted in Hogtown. While some of the offers are better than the others, Golden Knights officials are operating with the understanding that they are in power: If you want to keep a player, give Vegas an offer it can't refuse. How do we want to do this? "We will not make a claim with any club before we talk to the club".

McPhee's message to teams Sunday was: "You can negotiate your way out of this if you wish".

It's an increase of $2 million from the $73 million cap last season, as players elected to use their escalator clause to raise it. It also is another team-first act in a career full of them. Along with that possibility, it's important to note that this team is still limited to plucking one player from each roster, although there are hypothetical scenarios where they might yield creative combinations via trades. Without further ado, take a look at which players the Tampa Bay Lightning made a decision to protect.

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