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Vegas will have loaded talent pool in Expansion Draft

The Las Vegas Golden Knights are one step closer to putting a team on the ice at T Mobile Arena for the 2017-2018 NHL season.

When the new expansion team was allowed to start acting as a NHL team, the Knights wasted little time in attempting to build a foundation with their roster, signing Reid Duke in March and Vadim Shipachyov in May. Shipachyov was considered by most insiders as one of the more premier prospects from the KHL. The 30-year-old undrafted forward will now have a chance to pit his talents against the world’s best players in the NHL.

With Saturday’s deadline for all 30 NHL clubs to submit who will be protected and who could be the newest member for the NHL’s new expansion team officially passed, the lists were then reported to the Knights’ brass and also to the public at 10 a.m. ET Sunday. According to the NHL’s rules for the expansion draft, clubs were required to protect players who have no movement clauses in their contracts.  24 of the 30 clubs opted to go the 7-3-1 route, meaning they protected seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender.

General Manager George McPhee and the rest of his staff will now have until 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday to determine who they will be selecting to become members for the Golden Knights. However, in a press release sent out by the club Saturday evening, it was stated that the club is willing to negotiate a deal with any of the 30 clubs in attempts to stop them from losing a player they were unable to protect.

The Golden Knights organization is very pleased with how the expansion draft process has gone so far, through the NHL trade freeze which took effect Saturday, June 17 at 12 noon PT. Now, General Manager George McPhee and his staff will continue to have discussions with the other 30 NHL clubs. Vegas has indicated that they will give all 30 clubs every opportunity to keep their rosters intact if they’d like. This means that before the Golden Knights claim a player off a team’s unprotected list, McPhee and his staff are willing to negotiate deals so the other clubs do not lose a player they would otherwise like to keep.”

-Golden Knights PR staff

While there are multiple angles that the Knights could take come Wednesday in selecting the team’s first roster, this is one possibility that Vegas could take. Now, according to the regulations of the NHL Expansion draft, the Knights must select a minimum of:

*14 forwards

* 9 defensemen

* 3 goaltenders

Vegas will have to also select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-2018 season. They must also select one player per team. With that, here are a few intriguing targets from each respective position.

Forwards

James Neal ($5 million)

Now, it’s unclear whether or not the Preds brass has already made a deal behind close doors with the Knights, but one thing is clear… This could be quite the pickup for what should be a young, but talented squad. Neal, who already has vital Stanley Cup Playoff experience under his belt, scored 23 goals while dishing out 18 assists on his way to a 41-point season. However, had just nine points(6 goals/ 3 assists) in the playoffs. If the Knights declined any attempts by the Preds to protect Neal from the draft, Vegas could have a real asset in terms of on-ice experience.

Eric Staal ($3.5 million

After a revival to his career during his first year in Minnesota, the 32-year-old forward could be on the move to his third team in three years after the Wild left Staal exposed. The Wild were one of the fews teams that were in a tough position in terms of who to protect or exposed. Opting to protect Jason Zucker, Staal appeared to be the odd man out from the outside looking in. However, the strength for the Wild’s chase as to why they would leave the club’s top scorer unprotected could be a number of things, but the depth the club has in the AHL leads a few to believe that while the loss of Staal could hurt in the present, it could be a godsend in the future.

Jonathan Marchessault ($750k)

While under looked and seemingly immensely undervalued, if 2017 was any indication on the future, the 26-year-old Canadian could be a rising star that just may fall into the lap of McPhee and the Vegas brass. The undrafted product from Quebec was the star of the Florida Panthers this season, tallying 30 goals in 75 games. Florida’s decision to go 4-4-1  rather than the popular seven forwards, three defenseman and goaltender could come back to haunt them.

Defenseman

Matt Dumba ($2.5 million)

As noted in the synopsis of Staal, the Wild had arguably the toughest decision to make for the expansion draft. It was reported that the Wild attempted to deal Jonas Brodin prior to the league-wide freeze that was implemented Saturday – leading fans to believe that the 22-year-old defenseman was slated to be protected. Again, this could be a similar sitation to that of the Nonetheless, the Knights could have one of the more talented defenseman in the league come Wednesday.

Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million)

A 26-year-old defenseman that was one of the catalysts for a deep playoff run left unprotected? Yep, the Ducks really did that. It’s tough to see what exactly the thought process was for Anaheim on this one. With a deep talent pool at forward, the Ducks opted to protect seven forwards, with the ‘big 3’of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kessler being the more obvious choices due to no-movement clauses in thier contracts.

Marc Methot ($4.9 million)

The Senators had a situation that nearly mirrored the Minnesota Wild. Reports out of Ottawa were that the Sens were attempting to move Dion Phaneuf, making it again seem that the fans pick of Methot would received protection. He may be up there in age (32 years old), but age is merely a number in the NHL and Methot’s performance late in the season was one of the key reasons that Ottawa were mere moments away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

Goaltenders

Marc Andre Fleury ($5.75 million)

 marc andre fleury GIF

Just days after being apart of his third Stanley Cup win, the longtime Pens goalie opted to move his no-trade clause, making him one of the premier goaltenders in the expansion draft. There may be a number of reasons that Fleury opted to leave what appears to be a dynasty in the making. Here’s one for the barstool:

After losing his job to Murray in 2016, a year that saw him miss all of the postseason, the performance by the new star in net could have affected his mental edge in the crease. While it’s merely speculation, it is certainly something to ponder. Bottom line: a change of venue could be good for Fleury, who even on an of season is more of the more talented goaltenders in the NHL.

Antti Raanta ($1 million) 

Backing up Henrik Lundqvist in New York is no easy tasks, giving that one may only see the ice a time or two in a three-week span. Despite that, Raanta has enough refinement to be a No.1 goaltender for a team in the NHL. In 30 games, he recorded a save percentage of .919 and should come on cheap compared to Fleury, if the Knights choose to go a different route.

The official roster for the Vegas Golden Knights will be unveiled Wednesday night during the 2017 NHL Awards Show which will take place in Las Vegas.

Josh Zimmer is an NHL analyst for NGSC Sports.

Follow Josh on Twitter. @JZimmer_Sports

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Joshua Zimmer
Lead NFL Draft Analyst for NGSC Sports. With extensive years of experience around the game, Josh will focus primarily on front seven prospects. He will also cover the University of Minnesota (Football) and the Minnesota Vikings.

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