The worst-kept secret in hockey was finally confirmed this week, with reports revealing that the NHL will expand to Las Vegas. It means we can all relax from wondering if expansion will happen, and focus on the matter at hand: mock expansion drafts. Seriously, how much time do you think TSN will devote to a mock expansion draft? A day? A weekend?
The folks at General Fanager have created a brilliant and fun tool allowing you to protect the players you want to and hold your own expansion draft. I encourage all of you to use it and share your expansion franchises down in the comments.
For now, I’ve decided to use it and show you how my draft worked out. Here’s the order things are in:
- My Ottawa Senators keepers
- My thoughts while picking the keepers for each team
- My Las Vegas Black Knights / Black Aces / Gamblers / Chicken & Waffles roster
The Ottawa Senators’ keepers:
It’s hard to pass up on Marc Methot, but the Sens just have too many forwards worth keeping. Would you give up three of the forward names I have checked to keep Methot? I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sens acquire a goalie over the next year as Anderson continues to age, and then use their protection on him. Not keeping Curtis Lazar is a hard choice, but I think his ceiling’s low. I’d like to see the team try to trade him over the coming year to recoup something (possibly a promising goalie?).
- Anaheim Ducks: they have a lot of good young defencemen. Too bad that Bieksa’s on an NMC. I expect at least one of Vatanen, Fowler, Lindholm, or Despres will be moved over the next year
- Arizona Coyotes: I chose to keep five defencemen (Ekman-Larsson, Michalek, Murphy, Stone, Tinordi) because the only forwards worth protecting are Vermette and Duclair. One of those defencemen would likely be subbed out for Goligoski in the coming days. I wonder if the ‘Yotes expose Mike Smith, hoping they can ditch the last two years of his awful deal, but decided they probably wouldn’t.
- Boston Bruins: The Bruins are a team that may want to keep more than seven forwards, subbing Beleskey in for either McQuaid or Miller, whoever ends up being the third defensive keeper. Choosing between one of the best goalies in the business (Tuukka Rask) at the expense of losing their goaltending future in Malcolm Subban would be a very tough choice, but one I chose to make.
- Buffalo Sabres: Pretty easy picks. I decided to keep a fourth defenceman (Cody Franson, assuming he’s extended past 2016-17) over Marcus Foligno and two more forwards. I suspect the real Sabres would do the same.
- Calgary Flames: I suspect they’ll acquire a goalie this offseason, else they’re keeping Joni Ortio. The tough choice here was for the seventh forward (Bouma vs. Jooris).
- Carolina Hurricanes: I wonder if they gave Cam Ward a second year, hoping he’d be claimed in an expansion draft and keeping this year’s cap hit low. Not very many hard choices on this team.
- Chicago Blackhawks: They already have 7 NMCs?!?! Guess you hold onto Shaw (who’s better than Teravainen in their minds), Kruger, Anisimov and... someone
- Colorado Avalanche: The choice came down to Nikita Zadorov, or Mikhail Grigorenko and two more forwards. I chose the d-man.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets have 6 NMCs?!?! At least the ‘Hawks are good. I can see why they want to trade Hartnell and will probably ask Clarkson to waive: once you keep Saad, that forces you to lose a pretty good defenceman.
- Dallas Stars: Eakin, Roussel, Oudya, Niemi. Have your pick of these unprotected guys, Las Vegas!
- Detroit Red Wings: This was tough, but I kept Niklas Kronwall open to save Xavier Ouellet and another defenceman (possibly DeKeyser?).
- Edmonton Oilers: Not as hard as I expected, since Darnell Nurse isn’t eligible. I chose to keep Nail Yakupov, though I’m sure he’ll be traded before the expansion draft takes place.
- Florida Panthers: Decision on keeping Alex Petrovic could change if Brian Campbell re-ups.
- Los Angeles Kings: A couple judgment calls made here - that Milan Lucic will sign with the Kings, and Lecavalier will retire so his NMC won’t count against them.
- Minnesota Wild: I can see their interest in trading Matt Dumba, since they probably won’t be able to protect him.
- Montreal Canadiens: HEOTP chose to expose Plekanec, but I couldn’t see them actually doing that. Instead, probably Markov or Emelin is the best guy exposed.
- Nashville Predators: I don’t see how the Preds keep Shea Weber and their best young players, so probably they’ll look to trade him soon.
- New Jersey Devils: Don’t think there are four defencemen or seven forwards worth protecting on this team. We’ll have to see what happens in free agency.
- New York Islanders: I figured the Isles both extend Nielsen and protect him. Also guessed that Okposo’s on his way out. Also also guessed that the Isles will stick with Halak, worried about Greiss’s ability to keep up his play long-term. Lastly, the Isles will pick Kulemin over Grabovski since Kulemin is younger.
- New York Rangers: Protecting Rick Nash doesn’t make sense here, so I don’t think they’ll do it. I wonder how many GMs are trying this out and saying, "Yikes! Gotta trade him!"
- Ottawa Senators: see above
- Philadelphia Flyers: Went out on a limb here, and decided Steve Mason won’t be protected. Other than that, the decisions were pretty easy.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: This was another very tough one, choosing the future (Pouliot) versus the present (Hagelin, Kunitz, and Bennett). I decided to expose both Pouliot and Bonino (and Fleury, though he’ll likely be traded), challenging Las Vegas to make their choice.
- San Jose Sharks: Assuming Marleau’s gone and Burns is extended, Paul Martin is likely the guy exposed.
- St. Louis Blues: Not sure if Berglund, Steen, Backes, or Brouwer will all still be with the team by then, but then Sobotka might be back. Predicted Shattenkirk will be traded before then.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts sure have a lot of good players. Assuming Stamkos re-signs, that leaves Bishop, Garrison or Carle, Nesterov, Killorn, and Namestnikov open. Get to work, Stevie!
- Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are in an interesting position, in that most of their best players aren’t eligible to be taken. I predict they’ll keep four defencemen, since only maybe five of their forwards are worth protecting at all. Also look for them to acquire a goalie and leave Bernier exposed.
- Vancouver Canucks: Ugh, what an awful roster. Guess they’ll expose Sbisa and hope for the best?
- Washington Capitals: Another pretty easy set of choices. Only real question was Niskanen vs. Orlov.
- Winnipeg Jets: Will they choose protecting three forwards over keeping Myers? My answer is yes.
So that does it! And now, for the big reveal! You 2017-18 Las Vegas ______s:
Obviously, this depends on some of these players (Ruutu, Hanzal, Bonino, Oduya...) signing extensions, otherwise I don’t think they’ll be picked. This is actually a very expensive team, so it’s possible a couple, like Bolland or Lupul, are subbed out for cheaper picks. But overall, I think it gives a good idea of what’s to come. And yes, it means smilin’ Curteous Lazar leaves us.
So what do you think? Who will be protected and selected? Make your choices known in the comments!