After the furor and insanity surrounding Petr Mrazek being unprotected somewhat settled, Brad Krysko and I walked through how we thought the Vegas Golden Knights might fare in the NHL Expansion Draft (see the full list at CapFriendly).
Disclaimer: We did this with a few assumptions as to what side-deals would have been made (ie. Vatanen being pseudo-protected), but we tried not to work off of much besides the actual protection/exposure lists.
We decided to go with what we thought was a decent mix of currently-capable goal scorers (Neal, Cammalleri, Marchessault), young players with potential (Hudon, Leipsic, Anderson), and home-run swings (Yakupov, Grigorenko). Though the “marketability” argument isn’t exactly the most convincing, having players like Neal and Marchessault put the puck in the net will make the Golden Knights enticing to fans right out of the gate.
A defensive lineup with Methot, Manson, Scandella, and Hamhuis as a top 4 is nothing to scoff at, especially in today’s NHL. Defensemen are at a premium in this league, and Vegas could make out like bandits with this one. Expect Anaheim to have a deal to protect both Vatanen and Manson, but it will come at a big cost to them (1st round picks +). In any case, there’s enough veteran capability in Methot and Hamhuis, as well as young talent and potential with Scandella, Manson, McNabb, and Miller to make this a seriously solid core for an expansion team.
Well, there it is. Though George McPhee says that nothing came as a surprise, not too many can have expected Petr Mrazek to be exposed. With his exposure, Vegas can accrue the best goalie lineup in the league, all the way down to a 3rd string netminder, and still have a valuable asset to flip. Realistically, they could also leave Fleury to Pittsburgh and take a Rust or Hagelin instead (which would be a smarter move, in my opinion). In any case, the Golden Knights have the luxury of selecting two very capable goaltenders, attaining another to immediately flip to another team (at that team’s request; Mrazek is a prime candidate for this), and taking a fourth for future trade value/injury protection/to watch the anguish of the other team’s GM’s.
Though undeclared side-deals and trades will make the actual expansion list much difference than this, this represents a good picture of one strategy George McPhee might employ during the draft. It’s important to remember that Vegas is in a unique situation where they have virtually all the leverage, so McPhee can come at this from a lot of different angles. They’re in a better position than any other expansion team in history, which will spell for a lot of stocked draft picks, prospects, and flippable assets
In any case, though it’s not a comfortable thought for some Red Wings fans, there’s a good shot that Mrazek is no longer a Red Wing come Friday morning.