The upcoming Expansion Draft has been hotly anticipated since the Vegas Golden Knights were announced as the 31st NHL franchise. It’s the perfect event for hockey fans (besides, well, the lack of hockey being played). It promises to be a whirlwind of activity in terms of trades, buyouts, extensions, and everything else. And at the centre of it all is Golden Knights GM George McPhee.
The Knights (I’m not writing Golden Knights every time) will have to build a team from the ground up, from selecting available players, and using any leverage they have by doing so to construct trades in their favour. The latter is the really interesting part of the expansion draft. There are a few deal archetypes we can expect to see Vegas employ. We’ll go through some of them here, and propose examples for each of them.
Pay For Protection
Scenario: A team (call them Team A) has a player who is an important part of their team, but it will be difficult to protect them. This could be due to a large number of No-Movement-Clauses (NMCs) to other players, forcing them to be protected, or simply because a team is too stacked. Team A offers an asset or assets to Vegas in exchange for them agreeing that they will not select that player.
Potential Example: Anaheim might have trouble protecting Jakob Silfverberg. To do so, they need to buy out Kevin Bieksa, or hope he waives his NMC. Then, they’d have to deal one of their defensemen — this is complicated by the injury to Sami Vatanen. It’s not impossible, but for this example, I’ll assume they haven’t done so. As a result, they will likely expose Silfverberg due to their desire to protect all of Hampus Lindholm, Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson (if they decide to expose one of these, the same scenario holds, except for the defenseman).
In this situation, Anaheim might want to send a prospect or roster player to Vegas to make sure they don’t take Silfverberg, who is obviously an important part of Anaheim’s roster.
Pay For Pilfering
Scenario: Unfortunately for Team A, there are other teams involved. Hypothetically, if another team (call them Team B) covets an unprotected player, they can send assets to Vegas to do the opposite of what Team A wants — take the player, and trade them to Team B. Essentially, Vegas would be acting as a broker for the deal, taking a nice little premium from Team B for their services. In theory, this could incite a bit of a bidding war between Team A and Team B for the services of the unprotected player, with Vegas reaping the spoils.
Potential Example: Continuing with the Silfverberg example, let’s say that Nashville wanted to bolster its forward depth. They could send assets to Vegas in order to get them to take Silfverberg and send him to the Predators.
Variants of These
Vegas can also perform variations of the above two trade archetypes. For example, Team A could give assets to Vegas in order to get them to take a player they want off their hands. Let’s say the Leafs are done with Kerby Rychel. Maybe they throw a 5th round pick Vegas’ way in order to take him, and so that they don’t take Josh Leivo instead. This is just an illustrative example — not something I think will or should happen. Perhaps more realistically, maybe Ottawa gives up some assets to get rid of Bobby Ryan’s contract? This is arguably the easiest way for Vegas to stockpile team-building assets such as picks and prospects. Take on a bad contract or two, get a nice shiny first round pick for your troubles.
Alternatively Vegas could claim a player in the expansion draft that they think is movable, and try and flip them for other assets. This is a variation of the ‘Pay for Pilfering’ archetype.
They can get even more creative if they want to, and combine the above two ideas. Our own Kevin Papetti brought this up to me, and it’s an intriguing option. Vegas could receive assets for taking on a bad contract from a team in the expansion draft (Rick Nash, come on down!). They could then try and flip that player, retaining salary, potentially to the point of making them an attractive asset. Of course, Vegas will have all three of their retention slots, and in their first year, a large amount of cap space too.
This article only covers some of the basics — I hope that McPhee truly gets creative and tries to lever his unique position into some interesting trades. Let us know in the comments what other sorts of deals he can make.