As the Vegas Golden Knights prepare for the expansion draft this summer who will the New York Rangers expose? Which Blueshirts will be lost?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, or you really hate hockey, you’ve come to terms that the NHL has decided to expand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Like it or not, the team dubbed the Vegas Golden Knights will enter the NHL’s Pacific Division of the Western Conference in 2017-18. The last expansion draft was in 2000 when the league decided to add Columbus and Minnesota into the mix. 17 years later, another expansion draft will take place with similar rules.
I’ll admit, many of the expansion draft rules are wordy and tedious, where only a well trained lawyer could understand. I will drastically simplify the rule below for better understanding.
- Vegas will be allowed to select 30 players total (14 F, 9 D, 3 G), 1 from each teams “unprotected” players
- Current teams can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters (forwards or d-men) and one goalie
- Any first or second year player, unsigned draft picks, or any player with a no-movement clause must be protected
Sounds pretty simple, right? Not so much.
Teams now have to consider not only their own cap hit, roster and contracts, but also be worried about who will be exposed in the expansion draft.
The players that would be protected by Jeff Gorton, who has done a tremendous job with the boys thus far, are actually quite simple.
- Forwards (7): Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello
- Defensemen (3): Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal
- Goalies (1): Henrik Lundqvist (Don’t even think otherwise Hank haters)
But who is actually exposed? Who would Vegas actually show interest in? It really comes down to 4 players:
- Michael Grabner: 21-8-29, +22, skilled bottom 6 forward who adds speed and PK/PP.
- Nick Holden: 8-16-24, +18, Stay at home D-man who can move the puck and provide occasional offense
- Kevin Klein: 0-11-11, +4, Work horse veteran defenseman
- Antti Raanta: 10-4, 2.23 GAA, 923 SV%, High quality back-up goalie with the potential and skill to be a starter
If I were Vegas, my choice would be Michael Grabner.
This is tough for Rangers fans to stomach, especially after what he’s been able to do for this team. Grabner, a 20+ goal scorer in three of his seven full seasons, has soft hands and an ability to find empty space and ultimately the back of the net. His unbelievable speed only adds to his skill.
Try to think of a recent game that Grabner did not have a breakaway. Having a hard time? It was probably one in which he wasn’t playing. His ability to play the PK and PP always makes him very valuable. Even if Grabner doesn’t score 20-plus goals with Vegas next year, they still added a speedy special teams player who can play and contribute in all aspects of the game.
Klein, Holden and Raanta are solid options as well. Looking through potential players that will be exposed by the other 29 NHL teams, there are many top-notch goalies that may be exposed, making Raanta less valuable. Defensemen are always in demand so Vegas may choose to scoop up a steady blue-liner like Holden. In my mind, Grabner still possesses the most value for Vegas in the upcoming expansion draft.
All 30 clubs must submit their protected players list by 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday June 17, 2017. Vegas will submit their chosen players by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 20 and the official roster will be released on June 21, 2017.
Needless to say, aside from the typical free agency chaos, the expansion draft this summer will add fuel to the fire of all hockey fans as many teams will lose skilled. More importantly, loved players from their respective rosters. It should be a fun Summer.
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