Now that we have some resemblance of what the rules will look like for expansion, I felt it was a proper time to use the awesome NHL Expansion Tool from General Fanager to see what the Las Vegas Black Knights could look like on paper if the expansion draft were to happen right now.
Here are the rules I used (courtesy of generalfanager.com):
- Players with two years of professional experience or less are exempt from the process.
- Players with NMCs must be protected, but may be exposed if the player agrees to waive his NMC. (In this process I assumed none of those players waived their NMC’s)
- Teams can protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender
- Teams must expose 2 forwards and 1 defenseman that play 40 games in the 2016-17 season or 70 games between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
- Teams must expose one goaltender who is either under contract for 2017-18 or an RFA in the 2017 off-season.
- Teams can only lose 1 player.
Obviously this team isn’t even close to what the real Black Knights will look like in 2017-2018. There are a lot of factors that will affect who is protected and make the team Las Vegas ices next September a lot weaker:
- Players agreeing to waive their NMC’s. I assumed none would, but that’s not going to happen. Teams will convince their overpaid players to leave for the new start-up franchise, and that will weaken the Black Knights roster.
- Other teams sending assets to Vegas in order for them not to select certain unprotected players. We saw San Jose do this when the NHL expanded in 2000. They traded Jan Caloun, a ninth-round pick (Martin Paroulek) in the 2000 Draft, and a conditional pick (Aaron Johnson) in the 2001 Draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets once the team agreed not to select Evgeni Nabokov. Buffalo did the same to ensure Dominik Hasek and Martin Biron weren’t picked by either team. The deals were deemed for “future considerations” at the time and it’s still unclear if the NHL will allow teams to do that during the 2017 expansion process.
- There are rumours the NHL won’t allow Vegas to trade a player they picked back to their original franchise until January of the following year, if so that will also have an effect on the players left unprotected.
- We also don’t know how many players the newest NHL franchise will be allowed to take. WIll they get 1 player from every team to make it fair? Or will there only be say 16 players taken? Which I personally like more, and would leave Vegas to fill out their roster through free agency.
- There are rumours that teams could opt out of the “protect 7 forwards, 3 defenders and 1 goalie” and instead take “8 skaters and 2 goalies” which may help solve the problem I found when building the defense of this hypothetical team.
This team I’ve assembled is also a year premature (obviously) so that means the NHL’s “Original 30” teams (are we calling them that? We should.) have a full year to make moves to prepare themselves for the 12th expansion draft in league history.
With all that out of my system, here is my mockup expansion franchise (should the draft happen today):
2 huge surprises here as I filtered through the team’s hypothetical protection lists.
The first is Rick Nash, which may shock a lot of people but really it came down to the Rangers having to protect either Nash or youngster Oscar Lindberg and really I feel like the Rangers would rather lose Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit.
The other name I was shocked to see available was Drouin, but the Lightning are in trouble when it comes to the expansion draft. I had them leaving Jason Garrison, Ben Bishop and Drouin. Obviously Ben Bishop will probably be dealt, so that solves the one problem. But they have Callahan and Filppula both with NMC’s, and something tells me they may convince Callahan to waive his so they can keep more of their young core. Either way Drouin slipped onto my version of the Las Vegas Black Knights.
The rest of the top 6 is filled out with some veterans, including Mr. Game 7, whose experience will help this team a tonne. I also have Chicago letting go of Marcus Kruger and his $3 million cap hit, which would help both teams.
I tried to go younger when selecting the bottom 6, and there were a lot of young players available to do that.
Matt Read and Lance Bouma make up for the lack of top 6 centerman, essentially this team has three third line centermen, not the best scenario, but it could be worse I suppose. Read and Bouma may develop into more.
Jagr would be worth the selection in jersey sales alone. The NHL will want him on this team, and they may get their wish. I could see him ending up in Vegas for his final season in the league. He would provide solid leadership for a year until one of their young picks is ready to step into the line-up.
I also really like the fourth line of King-Bouma-Chiasson. They’re all relatively young and give this team some bite. Would make them entertaining to watch and really, would be one of the better fourth lines in the league.
All in all, they have a very good set of wingers. It’s on par with the rest of the NHL, they’re just missing that one star centerman. If they could sign/trade for that. It’s a superb group of forwards.
NHL teams will be very active in dealing defensemen to ensure their young players are protected. But in this scenario, I went with the rosters as they are now, and that resulted in one of the best young blue lines in the league.
Bouwmeester was let go when the Blues opted to keep Shattenkirk/Edmundson over him and he would give this team solid two way play until Trouba develops into a top pairing two way defender.
Until then, they have a really good top pairing, a dynamic offensive second pairing and a young but experienced third pairing that can play responsibly in their own end.
They also took Nikita Zadorov from Colorado as their 7th D, who would be left to develop and be another solid two way presence on this blue line.
Even if some teams figure it out and find a way to protect these young players, there are still so many good d-men available. Heres a list of players who almost made this squad, and were left unprotected:
Take any 6 of those players and you form a solid defensive core.
Seeing how could this teams defense could be was another reason I think the NHL could only let the team pick 3-4 D-men and fill out the rest via free agency. It would almost be unfair to gift a team the best young defense in the league.
Pittsburgh opts to keep Murray over Fleury, no surprise.
San Jose opts to keep Jones over Reimer, no surprise.
Boston opts to keep Rask over Malcom Subban, no surprise, but it sparks a debate. Do the Bruins try to deal of the man who’s been their starter for over 5 years to save their future goalie? They could get really good value for Rask and Subban should be ready to be a starter in two years.
When it came time to pick the goalies there were two big choices in my mind:
The first was taking Subban over Laurent Brossoit, which also resulted in not being able to take Loui Eriksson or Dennis Seidenberg. At first I thought that this team would rather have Eriksson, but after some thought, I decided that Subban has a better chance at being a star goalie that Brossoit and Eriksson could be replaced with Hemsky/Jagr and the team wouldn’t suffer too much.
The biggest decision to make was about the starting goalie. Both Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury were both unprotected and both are undoubtedly number one goalies in the NHL. Bishop probably has the edge due to his age and the fact he’s coming off of a Vezina candidate season, but the factor that changed my mind was Jonathan Drouin.
The chance to pick a player who is going to be an all star for the next decade simply couldn’t be passed up. The forward that would have replaced Drouin if I had gone with Bishop was Chris Kunitz and I felt that the gap between Bishop and Fleury was smaller than the gap between Drouin and Kunitz. Also having Subban coming up in the pipeline helps.
So there it is, my mockup of what the Las Vegas Black Knights would look like if the NHL expansion draft happened today. Obviously it’s nowhere close to what the team will look like, there are too many factors that will come into play over the next year.
If anything, hopefully this shows how much work some teams need to do and sparks some debates on some pretty big decisions a lot of teams have to make (Boston, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, New York, Anaheim, Nashville, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Minnesota), and how some teams could take advantage of those tough decisions (Edmonton, Arizona, Toronto, Carolina, New Jersey).
If you’re interested, here are some of the “last cuts” from this version of the Las Vegas Black Knights. These players were left of for various reasons including: another player from their team taken already, position, cap hit, age, ability.