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Expansion draft preview: Pacific Division

Matt Larkin
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Expansion draft preview: Pacific Division

Mikkel Boedker. Author: (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

News

Expansion draft preview: Pacific Division

Matt Larkin
By:

How will the expansion draft affect each NHL roster? We continue our previews with the Pacific Division.

The Vegas Golden Knights will start negotiating with free agents and selecting players in a couple weeks. Time to predict which players each team protects, which they trade and whom they lose to the Golden Knights.

Previous divisional expansion draft previews: Atlantic | Central | Metropolitan

Next up is the Pacific Division.

A quick rule refresher:

1. The Golden Knights will have an early negotiation window, now confirmed to be 72 hours starting June 18, with restricted and unrestricted free agents leading up to the official unveiling of their 30-man roster June 21. Vegas can sign UFAs and RFAs during that period and include them as part of their expansion draft.

2. Any player Vegas signs as a free agent during the exclusive window will count as his previous team’s “picked player” for the expansion draft, and that team cannot lose another player.

3. After Vegas’ exclusive window expires, it can’t sign additional players until July 1.

4. Vegas must draft at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. It must pick at least 20 players already under contract for 2017-18.

5. Vegas must amass a roster with a minimum payroll of at least 60 percent of the league-wide cap.

6. Players with no-movement clauses must be protected by their teams unless the players agree to waive their clauses.

7. Teams can only protect one goaltender.

8. First and second-year pros and unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection.

9. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie.

Click here to review additional rules.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Projected Protected players:

Andrew Cogliano
Cam Fowler
Ryan Getzlaf (NMC)
John Gibson
Ryan Kesler (NMC)
Hampus Lindholm
Josh Manson
Corey Perry (NMC)
Rickard Rakell
Jakob Silfverberg
Antoine Vermette
NMC waived: Kevin Bieksa

Trade candidate: Note Sami Vatanen’s conspicuous absence from the list above. If he remains an Anaheim Duck two weeks from now, he’s a must-protect player, a mobile 26-year-old defenseman who shoots right-handed. Retaining him along with Fowler, Lindholm and Manson, however, would force Anaheim into a 4-4-1 protection strategy. Getzlaf, Kesler and Perry have no-movement clauses among the forwards, meaning GM Bob Murray could only protect one more forward in that scenario: Rickard Rakell, the team’s top goal scorer. That would expose two very handy forwards, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano. In other words: you can bet the house on Anaheim trading a defenseman, be it Vatanen or Manson, before the expansion draft. Vatanen makes too much sense, as he’s a pure puck-mover and the Ducks have three more good ones arriving in Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour and Jacob Larsson.

Expansion draft bait: Under a 4-4-1 strategy, the Ducks offer slim pickings. Maybe Vegas would give Nic Kerdiles’ upside a try. He was a pretty decent prospect a couple years aback and is still just 23. Vegas’ dream scenario would be Anaheim failing to trade a D-man in time. That would drop Silfverberg into their lap. He’s an excellent two-way forward with a good shot and the ability to elevate his offensive game to almost elite levels in the playoffs.

Wild card: Bieksa’s NMC isn’t a huge worry. He’s likely to waive it knowing the Golden Knights have little interest in his $4-million cap hit, and he’s also a prime buyout candidate. The biggest threat to the Ducks’ expansion plan is Vatanen’s shoulder injury, which shelves him more than five months. It’s not that it will scare teams away – but it could slow down negotiations, as teams might make lowball offers if they’re nervous about Vatanen’s injury. That could land the Ducks less than they hoped to get for Vatanen or, worse, force them to deal Manson, whose rugged, shutdown skills they need a lot more right now.

ARIZONA COYOTES

Projected protected players:

Alexander Burmistrov
Anthony Duclair
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Alex Goligoski (NMC)
Jordan Martinook
Connor Murphy
Tobias Rieder
Luke Schenn
Mike Smith

Trade candidate: Smith is reportedly generating trade interest from goalie-starved teams, as Ben Bishop and Scott Darling are already gone from the market. We know the Calgary Flames and Philadelphia Flyers (sorry, Michal Neuvirth) don’t have starters right now, so the idea of Smith makes some sense, especially when he has just two years left on his contract.

Expansion draft bait: The Coyotes are one of the hardest teams to project for the expansion draft. Most of their best assets, such as Max Domi and Clayton Keller, don’t have enough service time to be expansion draft eligible, leaving only a few slam-dunk veterans to protect and a hodgepodge of grinders and depth. The guess here is Luke Schenn’s useful year, in which he registered a career-high 286 hits, earns him protection, which puts Arizona down the 4-4-1 path. Maybe Vegas looks at a depth forward with leftover upside such as Teemu Pulkkinen or Peter Holland. Another name to watch: Radim Vrbata. We know he has a great relationship with the ’Yotes organization, but becoming a Vegas Golden Knight wouldn’t be a massive change for him given he’s already out in the desert. If I’m Knights GM George McPhee, I want at least some affordable veteran scoring. I’d kick the tires on Vrbata, an unrestricted free agent, during the 72-hour exclusive window.

Wild card: Maybe the Coyotes trade Smith. Maybe they expose him knowing Vegas won’t bite on his $5.67-million cap hit. But, don’t forget, Arizona is a salary-floor team. General manager John Chayka might need Smith’s cap hit. This is the same team that swallowed Pavel Datsyuk’s and Chris Pronger’s deals just to pad that salary floor in recent seasons. So Chayka might be better off hanging onto Smith just to be safe.

CALGARY FLAMES

Projected protected players:

Mikael Backlund
Sam Bennett
T.J. Brodie
Micheal Ferland
Michael Frolik
Johnny Gaudreau
Mark Giordano
Dougie Hamilton
Curtis Lazar
Sean Monahan
(Goalie yet to be named)

Trade candidate: The Flames have evolved into a win-now operation and thus might be willing to move a prospect or two if it means bolstering their current lineup, especially when they have no starting goaltender(s) signed for 2017-18. Calgary has three good netminding prospects in Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons and Mason McDonald, meaning it could part with one pretty easily. With Matthew Tkachuk debuting so smashingly and project Mark Jankowski really starting to show something at the AHL level, the Flames aren’t desperate to draft another high-end forward, so their 2017 first-round pick seems expendable.

Expansion draft bait: The Flames’ protection decisions seem pretty straightforward on paper. One could argue Lazar isn’t a slam dunk, but it’s hard to imagine Calgary exposing him after trading a second-round pick and Jyrki Jokipakka to get him (and Mike Kostka) just a few months ago. The exposed forwards who might pique Vegas’ interest are Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier, both 22 and with offensive upside if given bigger roles. The Golden Knights might also target a UFA blueliner like Michael Stone or one of Calgary’s UFA goalies, Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson. Any of them would count as the Flames’ “lost player” if signed during the negotiating window before June 21.

Wild card: Calgary acquired McCollum just to expose him in the expansion draft. General manager Brad Treliving thus needs to figure out at least one of his 2017-18 goalies before the expansion draft and then protect that guy. The ideal fit: how about Marc-Andre Fleury via trade? Whether it’s a trade for Fleury or Jaroslav Halak or re-signing Chad Johnson or acquiring a young guy with upside like Philipp Grubauer, expect the Flames to accomplish something major within the next two weeks.

EDMONTON OILERS

Projected protected players:

Leon Draisaitl
Jordan Eberle
Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Milan Lucic (NMC)
Patrick Maroon
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Andrej Sekera (NMC)
Cam Talbot (NMC)

Trade candidate: Seems like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins headline trade candidate lists every summer. Right now Eberle seems most likely to change addresses. TSN’s Darren Dreger says it’s a virtual certainty now, actually. Eberle’s results rarely seem to match his natural offensive talent, but perhaps a new team and coach would help him finally reach his ceiling.

Expansion draft bait: Vegas should take a long look at goalie Laurent Brossoit. He’s 24 with plenty of AHL and ECHL seasoning, and he impressed in spot duty backing up Talbot. The Golden Knights could groom him as a starter of the future while pairing him with a veteran to keep the seat warm.

Wild card: My predicted scenario puts Mark Letestu on the outside looking in. He’s been a pretty handy piece for Edmonton. He posted career highs in goals and points this season and even finished second on the Oilers in playoff scoring with 11 points in 13 games. If the Oil do protect him, however, they expose a big, promising checking forward in Khaira.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

Projected protected players:

Jeff Carter
Drew Doughty
Derek Forbort
Anze Kopitar (NMC)
Alec Martinez
Jake Muzzin
Tanner Pearson
Jonathan Quick
Tyler Toffoli

Trade candidate: Forbort emerged to become Doughty’s partner late in the season, and those two plus Martinez and Muzzin should end up protected, putting L.A. down the 4-4-1 protection path. That will expose a number of experienced depth forwards, from Trevor Lewis to Jordan Nolan to Kyle Clifford. On the defense side, Forbort’s emergence likely nudges Brayden McNabb out of the picture. The Kings could move him or one of their checking forwards for a late-round pick if they don’t want to lose any of them to Vegas for nothing.

Expansion draft bait: Keep an eye on Nic Dowd and Nick Shore. Either could center Vegas’ third or fourth line, and would be protected under a 4-4-1 strategy. The Kings’ four forwards to protect are absolute no-brainers. There’s no one close to Carter, Kopitar, Pearson and Toffoli.

Wild card: Could new Kings GM Rob Blake convince Vegas to take Dustin Brown with a side-deal offer, including draft-pick compensation? Brown won two Stanley Cups as L.A.’s captain and could thus slide into a leadership role rather easily on what should be a fairly inexperienced Golden Knights club. Still, Brown is signed through 2021-22 with a $5.88-million cap hit. The offer to Vegas would have to be amazingly good.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Projected protected players:

Justin Braun
Brent Burns
Logan Couture
Tomas Hertl
Martin Jones
Melker Karlsson
Mirco Mueller
Joe Pavelski
Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Trade candidate: Will GM Doug Wilson protect seven forwards or go the 4-4-1 route? It’s tough to predict. The 7-3-1 route would expose blueliner Mirco Mueller, who has developed slowly but is nonetheless a first-round pick into whom the Sharks invested a lot of time. The 4-4-1 route would give Vegas free reign to pluck one of Chris Tierney, Jannik Hansen, Mikkel Boedker or Joel Ward from the forward corps. No matter what, the Sharks are positioned to lose someone they value. Maybe Wilson shops someone from that group for a trade, even if it’s for a pick. He’d likely get some interest in well-travelled blueliner David Schlemko, too.

Expansion draft bait: Keep a close eye on Boedker. He already looks like a bad investment for San Jose, earning $4 million for two more seasons, but he’d be a fun grab for the Golden Knights. He’s fast, he can play on the power play, and he can still score a decent amount if given carte blanche on a scoring line. Boedker to the Knights would benefit both teams.

Wild card: Paul Martin can still play. He’s probably safe from Vegas at 36 and carrying a $4.85-million price tag, but the Golden Knights have to pay some guys decent amounts of money to ensure they meet their league-imposed floor of 60 percent of the cap. Martin is an experienced veteran with only two seasons left on his deal. Could the Sharks get burned by exposing him?

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Projected protected players:

Sven Baertschi
Alexander Edler
Loui Eriksson (NMC)
Brendan Gaunce
Markus Granlund
Erik Gudbranson
Bo Horvat
Jacob Markstrom
Daniel Sedin (NMC)
Henrik Sedin (NMC)
Chris Tanev

Trade candidate: Do the Canucks trade Tanev, their best defenseman, knowing they’re in a rebuild and that they could get a nice return for him? Or does moving Tanev, 27, simply create the problem of “needing a Chris Tanev type?” The Canucks and GM Jim Benning will at the very least field offers for Tanev this off-season. One reason to make a deal now is that Tanev has a modified no-trade clause that kicks in for 2017-18. On the other hand, the Canucks require an outstanding offer to make any Tanev trade worthwhile.

Expansion draft bait: The Canucks will probably go the 7-3-1 route, and while six of the forward decisions are pretty easy, Benning has a tough choice to make between Gaunce and Brandon Sutter. The latter is an established veteran two-way center but also pretty pricey for middle-six forward at $4.38 million. Gaunce showed promise in a fourth-line shutdown role this season. Sutter is still young enough to have some appeal to the Golden Knights at 28. He could be their second-line center.

Wild card: I’ll end the expansion draft preview with a crackpot idea. The Golden Knights showed they’re serious about playing competitive hockey right away when they shelled out $9 million over two seasons for Vadim Shipachyov. They will need some veteran scoring to fill seats. Loui Eriksson was a disastrous signing for Vancouver, but he has some good years left at 31 and might benefit with a fresh start. He’s an albatross at $6 million through 2021-22 but, again, someone has to populate Vegas’ first line in the early years. You could do a lot worse than Eriksson, just a year removed from a 30-goal campaign.

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Expansion draft preview: Pacific Division