The Caps' 10 most likely expansion draft targets for Vegas

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Are the Stars going to chance it and leave one of them exposed, or has general manager Jim Nill already swung a deal to give Vegas a draft pick to protect an extra player? But that doesn't necessarily mean McPhee and his staff be drawn towards such prominent players, especially since the Knights GM has said his team will be built through the draft.

While there has been speculation about side deals that are already in place, there's no knowing quite yet who has paid up in order to protect a player, and with the likes of Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson, Calvin De Haan, Thomas Hickey, Matt Calvert, William Karlsson, Jack Johnson and James Neal available, it seems likely that at least a handful of additional draft picks are going to be Vegas-bound once the expansion draft shakes out.

McPhee may be licking his chops at some of the talent left unprotected by his 30 counterparts when the lists were made public on Sunday, but he also knows the recent history of National Hockey League expansion teams.

So who might the Golden Knights select?

The last expansion draft was in 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league.

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"It won't have any impact on us", McPhee said of the salary cap increase which now sets the floor at $55.4 million.

"Jumbo Joe" is one of the best passers ever, tallying a remarkable 1007 assists in his career as well as boasting three Hart Trophy awards as the NHL's most valuable player.

The Knights, for example, could look to 30-year-old Adam McQuaid when selecting from Boston or instead choose goaltender Malcolm Subban, a former first round pick coming off a decent year in the American Hockey League.

McPhee said he believes he "can accomplish two things" during the expansion process after selecting players and making trades with other clubs.

Canes general manager Ron Francis said Friday that he has had conversations with McPhee, although noting, "Probably not as much as other teams have had". He did not say if that might be an option with McPhee and the Golden Knights. We know that the likes of Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin (yes, he'll be protected), John Klingberg, and Esa Lindell are virtual locks to be protected.

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Thornton is in a very similar situation to Neal and would add even more veteran experience at 37 years old.

Antti Raanta (New York Rangers) spent two seasons as a backup to Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks - with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2015 - and two more playing behind Henrik Lundqvist in New York. Any idea that McPhee might take Fleury, who has two years left on his deal with a $5.75 million cap hit, and then flip him to, say, Calgary went out the window with Saturday's deal that saw veteran netminder Mike Smith go from Arizona to Calgary. He's a right-handed shot.

All trade roads run through Vegas. As for defensemen, Minnesota exposed both Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella, while Buffalos Zach Bogosian and Dallas Dan Hamhuis are also available.

Jonathan Marchessault (Florida) broke out in a big way for the Panthers in 2016-17 with a team-high 30 goals, including six game-winners. So willing, in fact, that he has come out and said that if a team doesn't like what it has left exposed, he's open to hearing how they can make it worth his while not to pluck a certain player away.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were Los Angeless Dustin Brown, Montreals Tomas Plekanec and Pittsburghs Chris Kunitz. If Wilson can get the remaining $12 million of his contract off the books, it would give him more cap flexibility when free agency kicks off on July 1.

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