Welcome to the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights.
After all this wait, intrigue and excitement, general manager George McPhee has completed the expansion draft by selecting one player from all 30 NHL teams. Of course, a number of these players are going to be traded for prospects and draft picks -- since 30 players is simply way too much and all.
McPhee passed on selecting some of the top players available in the expansion draft, because other teams agreed to trade away draft selections and other young players as long as Vegas didn't take specific players.
Well, McPhee did it right with a number of his selections. He took some of the best players available that the franchise can build around. On the other hand, McPhee did make a few mistakes with his picks. He passed on some players that would have been great fits for his new team. He also took bribes from opposing GMs instead of just taking the good players they left exposed.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the eight moves the Golden Knights got right, and seven they got wrong.
15 Right: Alexei Emelin
The Montreal Canadiens have to be thrilled with getting significant cap space, as the Golden Knights opted to pluck Russian defenceman Alexei Emelin from the Habs. Alexei Emelin has one more year left on his contract that'll cost McPhee and Vegas $4.1 million.
As we'll get into deeper into the list, you'll notice that McPhee has loaded up on physical blueliners. Emelin (6-foot-2, 216 pounds), has plenty of size and is responsible in his own end -- though he doesn't score much. Emelin has just 72 points in 380 NHL games.
Montreal couldn't be any happier with Vegas right now. The cap space will help them extend Carey Price while adding more depth on the blue line. But Vegas was the real winner here, as they pick up a solid top-four defenceman for free.
14 Wrong: William Karlsson
The Columbus Blue Jackets have to be thanking Vegas a ton right now. Instead of selecting 2017 surprise Josh Anderson (a 23-year-old who scored 17 goals in his first full NHL season), they went with unproven centre William Karlsson.
The 2011 53rd-overall selection has just 15 goals and 45 points in his last two NHL seasons -- and hasn't done a whole lot to show he's capable of being a top-six forward. If Karlsson couldn't score on a Blue Jackets team that saw plenty of players break out in 2016-17, why will he break out in Vegas?
Anderson is a young player on the rise who should consistently score 20-plus goals in the NHL. Vegas had no reason to pass on his services. Anderson is simply the better player, but they opted to pass on him.
13 Right: James Neal
James Neal is a low-risk and potentially a very high reward for the Golden Knights. The 29-year-old has just one year left on his contract at a $5 million cap hit. He was one of the few studs available in the expansion draft, and McPhee made one heckuva selection here. He knows what he's getting in Neal.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound winger has scored at least 20 goals every year since the 2008-09 season. That came with three different teams in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Nashville. Neal will score no matter who his linemates are.
Neal is just a year removed from a 31-goal and 58-point season in Nashville. He helped them reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final in 2017 after scoring nine points in 22 postseason games. Neal will be among the few 20-plus goal-scorers in Vegas next season. Great pickup by McPhee.
12 Wrong: Nate Schmidt
Though the Washington Capitals didn't leave many intriguing options on the table for Vegas, but young goalie Philipp Grubauer would have been a great selection for them. They instead went with defenceman Nate Schmidt -- which isn't making a whole lot of sense to me.
The Golden Knights loaded up on defencemen in this draft, and Schmidt just isn't an impact player. He has just 48 points in 200 NHL games and figures to be a bottom-pairing blueliner in Vegas.
Grubauer went 13-6-2 with a .926 save percentage as Braden Holtby's backup. Vegas could have used him and a tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury or could have even flipped Grubauer to another team for more assets. But instead, they went with Schmidt -- who isn't going to be much of a game-changer with his new team.
11 Right: Griffin Reinhart
Edmonton was able to protect all their key players, so Vegas didn't have a whole lot of options here.
Griffin Reinhart was drafted fourth-overall by the New York Islanders in 2012. But after failing to develop on Long Island, he was shipped to the Edmonton Oilers for the 15th and 33rd selections in 2015. Reinhart is only 23 years of age and has plenty of time to develop as a reliable top-four defenceman. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound kid should at least provide good muscle and toughness on the Golden Knights.
With the Golden Knights building up a young team, you have to believe that Reinhart will log top-four minutes in 2017-18. His progress hasn't come along as many have expected, but perhaps Vegas will help him reach his full potential once and for all.
10 Wrong: Deryk Engelland
The Golden Knights had the chance to select Troy Brouwer -- a gritty two-way forward who has scored 17-plus goals in seven different seasons. Brouwer is also a proven playoff performer -- scoring eight goals and 15 points for St. Louis in 20 postseason games a year ago.
But Vegas chose to select 35-year-old defenceman Deryk Engelland -- who is nothing more than an average bottom-pairing blueliner. Drafting Brouwer could have allowed McPhee to trade him for draft selections -- but he's going with an ageing defenceman who hasn't made a significant impact in the NHL.
McPhee should be building a team that's ready to make the playoffs now. Brouwer would have gotten him much closer to the postseason than Engelland. This selection really doesn't make a lot of sense.
9 Right: Cody Eakin
The Dallas Stars took a big risk exposing Cody Eakin. They had no reason to give up on him -- even if he scored just three goals and 12 points in 60 games this season. But have they ever heard of an off year? Eakin had 16, 19 and 16 goals from 2013-14 to 2015-16. So I'm not sure what they were doing here.
The Golden Knights get another potential 20-goal scorer in Eakin, who could very well be a top-liner with his new team. Eakin is also just 26 years of age and could be a long-term piece for Vegas' new franchise.
Dallas left a number of quality players available to Vegas -- but none with more upside than Eakin. This could go down as the steal of the expansion draft for McPhee.
8 Wrong: Oscar Lindberg
The New York Rangers didn't even have to make a deal with the Golden Knights. And yet Vegas didn't even take on any of the Rangers top players available.
For some reason, McPhee chose to pass on 27-goal man Michael Grabner -- who would provide ample offence in Vegas. He also passed on backup Antti Raanta -- who went 16-8-2 with a .922 save percentage as Henrik Lundqvist battled injuries. He settled for Oscar Lindberg -- a third-line centre who has a mere 48 points in 65 career NHL games.
McPhee could have even selected Raanta and then trade him to a team desperate for a No. 1 goalie like Winnipeg, Calgary or Arizona. He had no reason to pass on both Grabner and Raanta. Lindberg hasn't shown many flashes in the NHL and is unlikely to be much of a factor for his new team.
7 Right: Marc Methot
This was a bad loss for the Ottawa Senators. And a great pickup for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Marc Methot is not a goal-scorer, but the 6-foot-3, 228-pound stay-at-home defenceman is one of the best shutdown blueliners in the NHL. He and Sens head coach Guy Boucher did a tremendous job implementing a tight defensive system that nearly took Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final.
Erik Karlsson succeeded in large parts because of Methot. He was able to take the puck up ice while Methot stayed bag and handled the more defensive responsibilities. Methot will also be vital in an extremely physical Pacific Division that features three tough California teams. Vegas was smart to stay away from Bobby Ryan's big contract while taking the chance on Methot.
6 Wrong: Tomas Nosek
This is one selection that totally confuses me -- and hopefully an explanation will come up before long.
Vegas had the chance to pluck a speedy and reliable checking forward in Darren Helm from the Detroit Red Wings. They could have even taken a reliable top-pairing defenceman in Niklas Kronwall -- who provides extensive leadership in the Detroit locker room. They could have also gone with goalie Petr Mrazek -- who has three seasons of experience as a potential No. 1 goalie. The 25-year-old could have been a great backup for Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas -- or even a trade chip for McPhee.
But they're going with Tomas Nosek instead. He's played in just 11 NHL games and has scored just one goal. Really, this selection is completely baffling when they had three possible impact players to choose from.
5 Right: Jason Garrison
This was a win-win for both teams. The cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning need to save money to extend Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and other young players -- so they cleared Jason Garrison's $4.6 million cap hit by shipping him to Vegas.
As a reward for taking on Garrison, the Golden Knights also received second and fourth round picks, along with promising prospect Nikita Gusev. Garrison is a reliable top-four blueliner and should be the quarterback on Vegas' power play. He's got one of the NHL's hardest slap shots and is a former 16-goal scorer.
But it's not just taking Garrison himself that made this the right call for Vegas. Getting even more selections and Gusev was a huge victory for McPhee. This will go down as a trade that benefits both sides long-term.
4 Wrong: Erik Haula
Oh Vegas, you could have rolled the dice on Eric Staal OR Matt Dumba. You could have had a true forward or a top-pairing defenceman who's just 23 years of age. Why in the world did you take this bribe from GM Chuck Fletcher?
The Minnesota Wild were able to convince the Golden Knights to select -- a decent second liner who still hasn't scored more than 36 points in a season. Oh, and Minny also sent Alex Tuch to Vegas for taking Haula.
This isn't to say Erik Haula isn't a good player by any means. But Dumba is an established defenceman who isn't even in his prime yet. He could have been a key component for Vegas' long-term future. They had absolutely no reason to pass up on him.
3 Right: Jonathan Marchessault
The Florida Panthers made a very questionable call in keeping nor getting equal value for Jonathan Marchessault. This may go down as the top pick made by McPhee for the Golden Knights.
Marchessault was one of the most pleasant stories of 2016-17, scoring 30 goals and 51 points. The 5-foot-9, 174-pound centre struggled to find his game with the Tampa Bay Lightning and was the exact definition of a late bloomer. Now, Vegas probably has its number one centre to build around.
And to make things better, Florida gave the Golden Knights Reilly Smith to take Marchessault. Smith is a two-time 20-goal scorer -- including 25 tallies in 2015-16. So the Golden Knights basically got a pair of first-liners and only had to sent Florida a fourth-round pick to complete this transaction.
Florida, what are you doing? Vegas -- keep doing what you're doing!
2 Wrong: Jean-Francois Berube
The Islanders left a ton of young quality players exposed. Among them were Brock Nelson (three-straight 20-goal seasons), 56-point man Josh Bailey and young centre Ryan Strome. But GM Garth Snow sent the Golden Knights Mikhail Grabovski and the 15th-overall selection for taking Jean-Francois Berube instead.
Berube is a backup goalie who surely won't play much in Vegas. Grabovski has just 44 points over his last two NHL seasons. That 15th-overall selection seems fancy -- but this is a fairly weak draft. Vegas could have had a sure-thing in Nelson, Bailey or Strome.
McPhee has loaded up already on draft picks and prospects -- so this pick from the Islanders isn't likely to make much of a difference. He was tempted by Snow's bribe and passed up on taking a reliable stud. A very questionable move, to say the least.
1 Right: Marc-Andre Fleury
When's the last time a team got a three-time Stanley Cup champion with eight 30-win seasons under his belt for free? The Golden Knights better thank Matt Murray for his rising stardom for the Pittsburgh Penguins, because they now have a franchise goalie in Fleury to build around.
It's shocking how the Penguins didn't even find a trade partner for Marc-Andre Fleury to begin with. He's a world class goalie and easily among the top-10 in the game. Yes, he's been iffy in the playoffs for the past few seasons -- but Flower is going to be instrumental in turning the Golden Knights into a playoff team.
McPhee surely didn't have to second-guess this selection. Fleury is going to be the face of the Vegas hockey franchise entering the 2017-18 season. This was a no-doubter and a win of a selection.
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