This post will be updated throughout the night. 

1st: Set

Avalanche: Calvin Pickard: Goaltender

Canucks: Luca Sbisa defense  1 year left on his deal

Coyotes: Teemu Pulllinen Forward

Devils: Jon Merrill Defense, 1 year left

Sabres: William Carrier. Left Wing, and also a 2017 6th round pick

Stars: Cody Eakin, Forward

Red Wings: Tomas Nosek, Forward,

Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault, Forward, and bet Reilly Smith and 2018 4th round draft pick.

Kings: Brayden McNabb, Defense

3 Defensemen 1 goaltender, 5 forwards. Gotta like this group over all, Between Carrier and McNabb you’re getting a lot of physicality.

2nd phase

Hurricanes: Connor Brickley, Forward 2017 5th round pick

Jets: Chris Thorburn, forward and a 1st round draft pick

Flyers: Pierre Edouard Bellemare, forward Alternate Captain of the Flyers

Lightning: Jason Garrison, defenseman, Nikita Guseve, 2017 2nd 2018 4th

Islanders: J.F. Berube, Goaltender, trade Mikhail Grabovski F, Jake Bischoff D, 1st 2017, 2019 2nd

Predators: James Neal

Flames: Deryk Engelland, UFA D signed, Vegas Resident, for Las Vegas ECHL player

In this round it was clearly ll about stocking the cupboard, 5 draft picks, a 25 year old goalie, two young prospects.

3rd Round

Senators: Marc Methot, defenseman who will be glad to get away from Sidney Crosby while he has all of his fingers.

Canadiens: Alexie Emelin, defenseman, a very, very physical defenseman with some offense.

Oilers: Griffin Reinhart, defenseman high end pick.

Rangers: Oscar Lindberg, center, bottom six guy on most teams.

Blues: David Perron, forward, flashy

Sharks: David Schlemko, defensemen

Bruins: Colin Miller, defenseman

Maple Leafs: Brendan Leipsic, forward, 23.

4th Set

Duck: Clayton Stoner, defense and Shea Theodore Defense

Wild: Erik Haula, forward speedy, get Alex Tuch for 3rd round pick TBD.

Blue Jackets: William Karlsson, center, Sweden David Clarkson, F 2017 1st and 2019 2nd, trade the pick to Winnipeg for their first

Blackhawks: Trever Van Riemsdyk, defenseman,

Penguins: Marc Andre Fleury, Goaltender, 2020 2nd round pick

Capitals: Nate Schmidt, defenseman, missed some time this year, interesting pick.

 

This is a pretty interesting set of players. You have speed, youth, name recognition, not a single player under age 21, and enough defensemen that I fully expect at least two will be traded sometime before the season starts. There will almost certainly be some over agers signed from the CHL and USHL, as well as one or two players signed from European leagues like the SHL and KHL. Expect them to go after two to three key forwards.

The draft picks and true prospects are the real story of the night. As it stands only Reilly Smith is signed for two years past in the team’s first. Fifteen of the players currently the property of the Vegas Golden Knights are signed for only one season, seven more are unsigned UFA’s or RFAs. For me, this would make jersey buying a perilous and uncertain affair.

A look at the best and worst picks soon.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Marc-Andre Fleury will be the Golden Knights first starting goaltender. But how can they get more assets? Two words: One is side and the other is deals. The Vegas Golden Knights have the right, and some might say the responsibility to take some of the players they pick this Wednesday night and turn them over to invest in the future.

The other night I quickly through together a roster based on the idea that they would keep most of the players they took. I hypothesized Jonathan Marshessault might be the way to go, but the Calgary Flames are pretty firmly in need of a winger to play on Sean Monahan’s right, and they picked Reilly Smith and flipped him for young Dillon Dube and a 2nd round pick in 2018?

Maybe they still take Ryan Strome. But instead of getting his jersey number preference they send him to the Vancouver Canucks to vie for the roster spot Henrik Sedin? Strome has turned in a couple solid season playing way, way being Tavares for the Islanders. But he was picked fifth overall. He won’t be arbistration eligible until next summer. He’s likely still worth a first, maybe two seconds.

Maybe they work a double deal with the San Jose Sharks? One part not to take Boedker, and one deal to help them fill a roster spot being vacated by Joe Thornton and or Patrick Marleau. Guys like Nick DeSimone and Manuel Weiderer, and a second round pick for a guy like Jori Lehtera could be a win-win deal for both sides.

While Sami Vatenen is likely the most valuable skater on available given his age and ability, this might be the very, very rare case where trading away a high end, young defensemen is the right move. The Detroit Red Wings for example have been linked to every potential free agent defensemen who plays in the top four over the last five years. The best they’ve landed is an aging Mike Green. Two first round picks and a second round pick might well be worth it to the Red Wings who have all their own picks* over the next three seasons, and seven additional picks.

I’ll freely admit it’s a long shot, and I you can make a case either way for keeping or flipping Fleury, but given teams like the New York Islanders, and oh Philadelphia Flyers who have been searching for goaltenders since about the time they were the expansion teams, maybe, just maybe they can be tempted to overpay for two or more years of stability in net.

I tagged Rob Scuderi from the Los Angeles Kings. He’s a UFA, and well past his prime. He’s also universally well regarded, a Stanley Cup champion, and unlikely to ever play another NHL game. If McPhee were talked into taking Dustin Brown, who is a former captain, a cup winner, plays the game the right way, and is getting more and more disliked in the city of angels because he’s a little bit overpayed. Maybe to take him, and his contract they acquire a second round pick this year, and a third round pick in 2019 and 2020?

While the team has to draft 14 forwards, it shouldn’t be forgotten they have already signed three players, have free agency to fill needs, and much of europe to plunder to fill their NHL and AHL rosters. Don’t be surprised if they have as few as eight or ten additional players actually under contract after the dust from both drafts settles.

Don’t forget the latest Two Man ForeCheck is up and you can hear it on iTunes TuneIn or   Chris Canadas .

 

* The are short one third round pick this year, but they have four belonging to other teams.

The Atlantic Division and all other NHL teams released their protected lists today, and it’s time to dive into the best and worst moves.

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins bafflingly failed to protect Adam McQuaid who had the best on ice save percentage differential last year. He was hands down higher than anyone else over the teams even strength save percentage. Instead the protect Kevan Miller who is at least as injury prone, and less offensively productive in the playoffs. Colin Miller is exposed as well. Also protected are Riley Nash who is an interchangeable bottom six forward, and to my mild surprise the mercurial Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes were exposed, not that there’s any chance the latter is taken.

Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have exposed some pretty interesting names. Zach Bogosian as a former high end pick is possibly the most notable, he was also traded to Buffalo for a top end defensive draft pick who has been protected. Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Georges, and Cody Franson represent a huge amount of the leadership and a reasonable amount of talent. As much as I like Tyler Ennis, I am a little surprised that he was protected and not some of the more obvious leaders.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are clearly going for a youth movement. You don’t need to look any further than who is unprotected to realize this. Kronwall on the outside looking in is damn near staggering, Jonathan Ericsson is another name Wings fans have been familiar with for a while. I’m a little surprised, verging on bafflement that Jimmy Howard is protected, he’s frequently injured, inconsistent, and at 33 no longer a young guy. Jared Coreau makes way more sense to protect since they are finally moving into their long, long overdue rebuild.

Florida Panthers

The two elder statesmen in Florida are unprojected. Luongo, and Jagr are both free for the picking. Neither is a long term part of the Panthers plan, but both are almost critically important right now. Jonathan Marchessault is a bit of a shocker. Yes last season’s offensive onslaught was a career year, and in the absence of several players further up the depth chart, but he’s a pretty heady name to leave dangling. Jussi Jokinen, and Reilly Smith make a modest amount of success to expose, but its hard to imagine other teams not asking for three way deals in the next couple days. Kindl and Demers being on the outside is no surprise since neither is very good. Pysyk would be a head scratcher if it weren’t for Kindl and Demers.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs have some mighty interesting names on the outside. Tom Plekanec is a name that leaps off the page. The rest of the list is sorta like the being one of the younger Kardashians, they’re notable for being notable and who they are near too. Dalton Thrower was a well regarded prospect not long ago, Stanley Cup winner Dwight King was brought in mid season to thicken up the bottom six, Radulov and Emelin as Russians have to be considered higher likelihood losses than they would if anyone other than McPhee were drafting, and beyond that I’m more baffled at who they did pick.

Paul Byron is worthy of being protected? Really? In what universe? Philip Danault and Jeff Petry? If you missed my piece yesterday, stop and read the first bit at least, the rest of this article will still be here.

Ottawa Senators

Bobby Ryan not being protected after the playoff run he had makes sense if you have no memory of the three years previous. Alex Andre Burrows is on the outside as well. I think with his decline of late, age, and new contract he’s likely safe. I can see the arguments for and against exposing both Methot and Borowiecki, particularly given the latter’s season ending injury, it might be some cagey work in Canada’s capital to leave them both on the outside, especially since given their composition, and last year’s success I can’t fault the Senators protected lists even a bit.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Having moved Jonathan Drouin out, there are zero point zero surprises on the protected list. Of the guys exposed it’s really hard to say who they are most likely to lose. Carter Ashton might be the happiest man in the Tampa organization after the Drouin trade, and he’s unprotected. Jake Dotchin and Andrej Suster are worth looking at, Jason Garrison two years ago might have been the gimmie pick, but he’s even older now. Slater Koekkoek is another name it might be worth exploring, but after a hard look at the team, I might pick up JT Brown if I decide to grab a forward from Tampa Bay.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Two and three years ago Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak were pilloried daily in the press. Today they make the protected list for a team that curbstomped all expectations last year. There are some names who were certainly contributors last year on the outside, but no one who if lost is going to cause the team to stagger back into a top five pick next year. This isn’t a surprise given how much of the teams success was carried by rookies and second year players. The biggest thing this list does is tell us who the front office thinks is at least a part of the short and medium term plans for the Maple Leafs.

With the NHL Expansion draft looming, it’s time to take a look at who the Boston Bruins must and should protect. Anyone with an active no movement clause, must be protected. Anyone who has played under a certain number of games or is on exempt, so McAvoy, Kuraly, JFK are all safe from being dragged off to the city of sin.

For the Boston Bruins the must protect list includes David Krejci, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s a lot of salary, but it also includes a ton of minutes eaten every night. At least one goalie must be exposed, and three that count right now are Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, and Tukka Rask. Of them Subban is due a contract sometime before games start to count, Rask has four more years with a cap hit of seven million, and Khudobin is entering the final year of his contract with $1,200,000.

I can’t see Rask not being protected, which means either Subban or Khudobin being taken is a real possibility. For youth, Subban might be the better pick for Vegas, but Khudobin has more experience and has played behind bad NHL defenses and still turned up solid numbers when healthy and focused.

At forward I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to argue against protecting Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Further, any argument to the effect either is worth giving up for nothing is nonsensical. After that you need to weigh the risk and reward of protecting Beleskey, Spooner, Hayes, Nash, Schaller, Moore, and Stafford. It is hard to find a reward to protecting Hayes. Schaller and Nash are decent bottom six players, but either can be replaced by half a dozen guys in Providence or UFA’s. Moore will be 37 when camp opens this fall, and while he had a career year last year, that just means he’s even more likely to slump. Nice player, probably the best of the bottom six, but still I’m not sure I protect him.

This brings us to three players. Ryan Spooner a Bruins draft pick with extraordinary hands and feet but who has failed to thrive. Matt Beleskey who was hindered by injury and saddled with Hayes as a linemate much of last season, and career Bruins killer Drew Stafford who has had just one twenty goal year in his last five and is now 31. Of them I think I have to protect Beleskey. In limited action he still provided a great deal of physicality the team needed. Spooner is younger with a theoretically higher ceiling, but he has shown zero consistency year to year.

On defense Torey Krug is a must protect. You simply don’t give away a guy who finishes sixth in scoring among defensemen, ever. McPhee would snatch him in a heartbeat and the Bruins would be set back years. The blueliners to keep track of left after Krug and Chara are John Michael-Liles, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. Liles is aging and couldn’t crack the top six last year against very, very inexperienced competition, there’s no reason to protect him. Colin Miller has shown even less of the reasons he was acquired than Ryan Spooner.

In many ways Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are similar players. It isn’t until you look at the various stats you see the differences. McQuaid is simply better in his own zone, his on ice save percentage is better, his difference from team save percentage is better, and he plays more short handed time, and his even strength time is played against better opponents. Kevan Miller is noticeably better offensively (.20ppg vs .14ppg) but neither is anything to make note of, nor does it outweigh the other factors. Age, McQuaid is slightly more than a year older, and while both have health issues again it’s about even.

Unless Neely and Sweeney commit resume generating events in their protection list, I don’t expect the team will suffer anything from the expansion.

Reports indicate the NHL is pretty close to expansion Sin City, among other places. There are questions all over the place about expansion, but here are the important ones.

 

10: Will the Ice Girls be prohibited from dating the players, even for an hour at a time?

9: How many members of The Real World Las Vegas cast will be selling concessions?

8: Will the slot machines built into the seats be hockey themed?

7: Will club seat be retitled”Gentlemen’s Club Seats” ?

6: Will players have the option of being paid in poker chips?

5: How many years will it take before this team is better than the Las Vegas Wranglers or Las Vegas Storm?

4: Will they be using the foam from the mouths of fans in Quebec City and Saskatchewan who will inevitably be upset that the sun belt is getting another team, and getting another team ahead of them to create the ice surface?

3: Will an NHL team in Lost Wages finally, finally, bring decent prop betting to hockey?

2: How many times will you be able to add the attendance in Vegas to that in Florida and not fill either barn?

1: Will presumed Las Vegas owners William Foley and the Maloof family manage to slide into a top five most hated owners in their first three seasons?

Why does the NHL need to expand into markets other than North America? That’s easy, the choice is their own expansion or the KHL’s. The Kontinental Hockey League has wooed stars with big names and “glue guys” away, in order to be the biggest fish

The European problem is one that has been addressed in different ways by North American sports leagues. MLS would prefer you not compare the to Europe. The NHL travels yearly to Europe, at at least London to play a game. This is far scaled back from their quasi-independent, quasi-development league that continent spanning money pit etched in the history books as NFL Europe.

The NHL has addressed the European question with transfer agreements that sometimes are enforced, and others not. It has played regular season neutral site games across the continent with fans at the home arenas of half a dozen teams being shut out of a regular season game and usually a preseason game or two. Another way European audiences have been targeted is having NHL teams play exhibition games against local teams.

The problem of expansion into Europe full time isn’t just one of competition, its logistics, there is quality of play, financial concerns, and of course fomenting strong rivalries, something the NHL failed to do in the now dissolved Southeast division. Putting one or two teams outside North America is pointless. The team or teams would spend so much time traveling back and for the “balanced schedule” the NHL is currently in love with that it could be a cap exempt All Star roster and they’d be lucky to make the playoffs.

The basic solution is obvious, go back to a division heavy schedule and place or create an entire division in Europe. North American based teams could be scheduled to play four or more games in Europe, and the  European teams given a six or seven game minimum North American tour to help minimize travel times and dragging out the already long NHL schedule further. Ideally, the NHL trade deadline would be past of 36 or so total break in NHL games.

The logical number for teams to be added to the NHL is six if it going to go to Europe. That means you can have nights where every NHL team is in action, and the league can be split into six divisions each of six teams. On the revenue front, the NHL would have a ready made solution for getting live matinee games on the TV schedule, with the time difference between London, Bern, and other European ports.

Next a look at why it makes more sense to put some teams in Europe over other places in North America.

The expansion of the NHL is is as inevitable as some back office hack coming up with a rule change like the jersey tuck penalty to justify their salary. Seattle is the new sexy but it is hardly the only city that might do right by a franchise.

The first question is where would teams go after Seattle or whoever is #31 go?

Las Vegas has the appeal of being without a single other top tier sports franchise. Currently the Wrangers of the ECHL and a AAA baseball team are it for non collegiate sports. The tourism industry there has to be considered a plus, or would be if the NHL was good at marketing. A second Chicago area team would also make a great deal of sense, the Second City hosts two MLB and has its own NFL team and two teams close enough they’re nearly the same market, why not give a huge, sprawling sports mad city another outlet for their enjoyment? Saskatchewan, Kansas City, Houston and Salt Lake City can all put in a claim based on their size, cash on hand, or corporate presence.  But with the leagues current configuration, it is unlikely the Greater Toronto Area or Quebec City see a new franchise.

Can the feeder system handle it?

This isn’t just a question of the AHL which finally reach 30 teams again or the ECHL. It goes down to top tier Junior hockey and below, both in North America, Europe, and potentially elsewhere. NHL owners, the NHLPA and sponsors would need to take a hand in expanding the USHL, CHL, and other development leagues. As hockey mad as the northeast US is, the fact that there are zero CHL, USHL or NAHL teams in the six New England states or New York is unfathomable. Yes the EJHL, and to an extent the MWEHL cover some ground, but not enough. The Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey league may need to expand as well.

Will the league push for sensible arena deals?

The biggest bar to success off the ice to teams in the last twenty years has been being shackled to a poor arena deal. The New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and other teams have suffered, and the league would be better if they hadn’t. Teams that control their arena control their destiny.

Can we please ensure catchy names for the teams?

This is really a marketing issue. The Minnesota Wild have superb fans and the single dumbest name in professional sports. Seriously, the Wild Hunt would have been cool, the Wild Hogs or Wild Dogs or Howe help us all the Wildcats would have been acceptable too, but just “wild” is so bland the team might as well not have a name. New teams in a market that may or may not have a strong hockey tradition will need marketing to start at point zero and that is the name.

With expansion will the league make better use of the NHL network?

Currently there is not an NHL game on the NHL Network most nights of the season. That’s just baffling. The more exposure various teams get, the more they can charge for in arena marketing the better the league does. The more people who can keep up with teams outside their area, the better. Even if the league goes to 40 teams in the next decade, that’s only 40 teams with 360 or more people, 60+ states, provinces, and territories and that’s means a lot of cities still won’t have a local team.