The Vegas Golden Knights will enter the NHL for the 2017-18 season, building up a roster through an Expansion Draft in which they will select one player from all 30 NHL teams. Though it's obviously a thrilling time for the NHL to have another team, the odd number of 31 can be concerning. There has to be an even amount of teams, and it appears as though another expansion team is bound to come in within the next five years.
The most likely candidate? Quebec. They've been vying for a team back since losing the Nordiques in 1996, and the Centre Videotron presents a valuable venue to hoist an NHL club.
So let's just play a fun game and imagine that Quebec gets their team in the next year or two. Another Expansion Draft has to happen and Quebec needs to build up a roster. What would their lineup look like? We tried to build one!
*Stats courtesy of NHL, ESPN and HockeyDB.com. Salary/Contract figures courtesy of CapFriendly.com
20 Jared Boll
Jared Boll was one of the top power forwards during his playing days with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. But he hasn't found a way to score much in the NHL, and the only thing he's really capable of is dropping the gloves to fight fellow enforcers. Dating back to the 2013-14 season, he only has four goals.
That would probably be enough for a Quebec franchise to select him anyway. Their roster would be made up of mainly third and fourth liners, and they'll need high-energy players like Boll, who does play with an edge.
He's definitely not going to improve his scoring ways if he goes to Quebec, but Boll would quickly become a fan favourite. His fists would also provide some form of entertainment for a team that would surely struggle for a good three-five years.
19 Dmitry Kulikov
Drafted 14th-overall in 2009, Dmitry Kulikov hasn't quite emerged as a true top-pairing defenceman. The Florida Panthers gave up on Kulikov last year and dealt him to the Buffalo Sabres, but he hasn't been able to up his game much. At this point, Kulikov will probably be a career second-pairing defenceman at best. That means he'd be a top-two blueliner for Quebec, though.
Kulikov is in the midst of his worst campaign yet, racking up a woeful minus-24 rating in Buffalo. He's not much of an offensive-minded defenceman, with his career season being 28 points in 2011-12.
But he does provide a nice physical presence and could provide some experience on a Quebec team that will have a lot of young players. He would be a nice find for their expansion squad.
18 Devante Smith-Pelly
Devante Smith-Pelly came into the NHL with a lot of promise, bringing in blistering speed and a decent shot. We did score 36 goals for Mississauga in his final year of junior, but Smith-Pelly hasn't been able to find much success in the NHL. His best year thus far was 2014-15, scoring five goals and 17 points.
But Quebec would be more than happy to take Smith-Pelly any way. Remember, this team would mainly be made up of bottom-six forwards from other teams anyway. Though he's unlikely to blossom into a reliable top-six player, Smith-Pelly's dazzling speed would be a solid addition to Quebec.
They are going to need some form of skill and speed, and not just grinding fourth-liners. If Smith-Pelley goes to Quebec, he could find himself playing on their top line. That would be the adventure of a lifetime for him.
17 Matthew Benning
Matthew Benning didn't exactly tear it up in college, but he's found work playing on the third and fourth lines for the Edmonton Oilers. Given how they're loaded up front with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, it's unlikely Benning ever gets his chance to shine with Edmonton.
That being said, Benning is an extremely hard worker and can be tough to play against when he's on top of his game. Quebec will want to find high-character players, and Benning does fit that bill. As of this writing, he does only have three goals and 14 points in 59 NHL games, though. But that won't be a problem for Quebec. They'd be more than happy to bring Benning onto their roster anyway.
16 Brian Dumoulin
Brian Dumoulin (or the guy I like to think of Jonathan Toews' doppelganger), was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup-winning team a year ago, but he didn't exactly have much of a hand in that. He played in 79 regular season games and failed to score a goal, finishing with just 16 asissts. Dumoulin has just two goals and 32 points in 161 NHL games.
Assuming the expansion rules are the same for Quebec as they were for Vegas, the Penguins will have a lot of key players that must be protected over Dumoulin. When all is said and done, he may just end up being the best available player for Quebec to select.
He could blossom as a stay-at-home defenceman -- being listed at 6-foot-4, 207 pounds. That may be enticing enough for Quebec to take a chance on him.
15 Matt Hendricks
Matt Hendricks is a 36-year-old veteran who is carrying a lot of mileage, but he's either going to be one of the best players available in the expansion draft or one of the very few veterans who will willingly head to the new Quebec team.
Hendricks is nothing more than a fourth liner at this point of his career. He has just four goals and seven points in 41 games with the Oilers this season. Hendricks has never scored more than 25 points in a season, and has just 49 goals to go along with 51 assists in 520 NHL games.
That being said, the veteran could be a nice addition to a possible Quebec team. He is a solid checking forward and the expansion team needs leaders in the locker room. Hendricks would be a nice fit there.
14 Brandon Tanev
After scoring 15 goals and 28 points in just 38 games a year ago for Providence College, Brandon Tanev appeared to be a big addition for the Winnipeg Jets. They signed him last offseason in hopes that he would bring plenty of offence to their young team. Tanev has struggled big time with just two goals and a pair of assists in 49 NHL games.
Given all the youthful talent on the Jets roster right now and all of the prospects they have in the system, it's unlikely Tanev blossoms in Winnipeg. However, he does bring a nice set of wheels and might find his ground on another team. Quebec would be wise to pick him up if he's available through the draft or in free agency. If anything else, they'll have a real speedster on their hands.
13 Connor Murphy
The Coyotes drafted Connor Murphy in the first round way back in 2011, but the towering 6-foot-4, 212-pound blueliner hasn't been able to discover his full potential. He's not known for his offence and has also struggled to play well in his own end. The Coyotes have a lot of talent on the blue line that begins with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so don't expect Murphy to be in the desert much longer.
Arizona will be protecting all of their young, rising stars in another possible expansion draft, so Murphy should be available to Quebec. If he's the best player available to this team, then they should take a chance on Murphy and hope that he will be able to form into a reliable stay-at-home defenceman. He's the best option for them that the Coyotes would offer.
12 Darcy Kuemper
The new Quebec NHL team would need two goalies in an expansion draft, and Darcy Kuemper could be their best backup option. Kuemper has struggled a ton in 2016-17 with the Minnesota Wild; he has a 7-5-3 record with a woeful 3.26 goals against average and .900 save percentage.
But many will forget that Kuemper was also able to guide Minnesota to the playoffs in 2014 after winning 25 games. Kuemper held his ground in 2014-15 before Devan Dubnyk arrived, going 28-14-12 with a .260 goals against average. Those are a couple of decent seasons that Quebec would not want to overlook.
So perhaps the expansion Quebec team would look to take a chance on Kuemper anyway. Sure, 2016-17 hasn't gone his way, but there are only so many veteran backups available. They'd be best off selecting him away from Minnesota, who would surely protect Dubynk over him.
11 Lance Bouma
The Calgary Flames drafted Lance Bouma 78th-overall in 2008, but he has never able to turn into the top-six forward they had hoped for. The Flames will definitely leave him available in the expansion draft to Vegas, and if they don't select him, at least Quebec can if and hopefully when they get their team.
Bouma looked like he was in the midst of a breakout season back in 2014-15 after scoring 16 goals and 34 points, but it turned out to be nothing more than a mirage. In the last two seasons, he's combined for five goals and 14 points.
But perhaps the Quebec team would look at his 2014-15 season and take a chance on him. Bouma is going to be one of the best players that Calgary makes available anyway, so they'll probably just take him for the sake of taking a player for the Flames. Did that make sense?
10 Jonathan Eriksson
Jonathan Eriksson carries one of the worst contracts in the NHL right now, as he carries three more years on his deal at $4.25 million a season. But if Quebec can get their team within the next two years, they may just take on the veteran's contract anyway. There is also the real possibility that the Red Wings trade Eriksson and a draft pick or prospect to Quebec as a way of enticing them to take on his contract.
Though Detroit would be thrilled to have Eriksson's contract off their hands, Quebec would be more than pleased to have a veteran with plenty of experience on their roster. Eriksson isn't much of a scorer (16 points is the most of his career), but he could be a nice leader for a new Quebec team.
9 Jacob De La Rose
The Canadiens drafted Jacob De La Rose 34th-overall in 2013, but he hasn't been able to live up to expectations in any way. He's played only nine games this season and appears to be falling out of favour with the Canadiens. They'll surely leave him available in the expansion draft for Vegas, and if they don't take him, Quebec surely would be happy to end up with De La Rose.
He only has four goals and seven points in 63 NHL games -- spread out through three different seasons. His 27 points in 57 AHL games this year aren't necessarily terrible, but they aren't all that inspiring either. Nonetheless, he's big at 6-foot-4, 203 pounds and could be a nice fit as their third/fourth line centre.
8 Thomas Hickey
The Los Angeles Kings took Thomas Hickey fourth-overall in 2007, but he has not been able to turn into a top-pairing defenceman and is surely going to be a number three/four blueliner from here on out. Hickey can work on a second power play unit, but can be inconsistent at his own end of the ice.
He's never scored more than 22 points in a season, and has just 20 altogether in 2016-17. The New York Islanders are rich in defencemen -- namely Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic -- so they definitely will not be worried about leaving Hickey available in the expansion draft.
But a Quebec NHL team will be fine taking on Hickey, who could provide stable depth on their blueline. He's not much of a game-changer, but he'll automatically become one of the best players on their roster.
7 Marcus Kruger
Marcus Kruger has been a little more than an average bottom-six forward for the Chicago Blackhawks. He brings plenty of hard work, speed and a strong defensive game and was a helping hand in Chicago's 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup-winning teams. But Chicago has so many big players to protect -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford.
Though losing Kruger will certainly be hard for management, Chicago will have no choice but to leave him available. Kruger is far removed from his career-best season (2013-14), where he scored eight goals and 36 points, though. That being said, Kruger does remain one of the best options available for Quebec, and he could even be on their top line!
6 Kyle Brodziak
Kyle Brodziak is not a player a Quebec team would want to miss out on, because the man appears to be some form of a good luck charm! Teams that have Brodziak on their roster have made the playoffs for five-straight seasons -- three times with the Minnesota Wild from 2013-15 and the last two seasons now with the St. Louis Blues. There's something about having Brodziak on your roster these days.
Besides scoring 22 goals and 44 points in 2011-12, Brodziak hasn't been much of a force on offence in his career. He's nothing more than a third/fourth liner and has just 253 points in 765 NHL games.
But Brodziak's ability to get his team into the playoffs every year and the fact he's one of the best players that would be exposed in a Quebec expansion draft make him a good fit there.
5 Erik Gudbranson
The Florida Panthers took Erik Gudbranson third-overall in 2010, but the 6-foot-5, 216-pound defenceman never found his full potential there. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks last year but injuries and inconsistency made his first year on the west coast a disappointment. Vancouver does have a nice foundation of blueliners available in Troy Stecher, Olli Juolevi, Ben Hutton, Nikita Tryamkin and Chris Tanev.
That means that Gudbranson would likely be one of the few defencemen they leave available in an expansion draft, and Quebec would need his big size and menacing style of play. Quebec is going to want a lot of toughness, and perhaps they could be the team that helps Gudbranson finally reach his ceiling as a quality stay-at-home blueliner. It all adds up nicely here.
4 Dustin Brown
A year after helping his Los Angeles Kings win their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2012, Dustin Brown was rewarded with an eight-year contract extension worth $47 million. His 34 points in 2016-17 are his best since signing that. He was stripped of the captaincy status and has regressed significantly over the last four years.
That being said, we're sure Quebec would be tempted enough to take Brown. Los Angeles has to start unloading some of these toxic contracts, and giving up a first-round selection or prospect in a Dustin Brown trade would entice Quebec enough to do so.
Brown has been a huge part of the Kings resurgence in the 2010s, scoring 230 goals and 504 points and guided them to Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. But it's time for them to move on from him and send Brown over to Quebec...when they get their team.
3 Loui Eriksson
The Vancouver Canucks tried to find the Sedin twins a reliable linemate, signing fellow Swedish star Loui Eriksson to a six-year deal worth $36 million. The deal seemed like a win at the time, as Eriksson had six 20-goal seasons under his belt, and that included a pair of 30-goal campaigns.
But Eriksson's first year in Vancouver has been a disaster. Injuries and inconsistency have limited him to 11 goals and 528 points. Given how he's a couple of months away from turning 32, it's safe to say Vancouver has a terrible contract on their hands.
Vancouver will probably be willing to offer up some young assets and/or draft picks to Quebec if they agree to take Eriksson's contract. And hey, Eriksson would bring more offence to Quebec than the majority of third/fourth line players they'd end up selecting.
2 Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard was the undisputed starter of the Detroit Red Wings from 2010 to 2014, but injuries and the rise of Petr Mrazek have changed that. Mrazek has been Detroit's go-to goalie since the 2015 playoffs, and it looks as though Howard is the odd man out in the Red Wings' crease.
He has two years left on his contract that carry $5.91 million cap hits, according to CapFriendly.com. Howard owns a career 198-124-54 record with a .915 save percentage. Detroit would like to move on from the 33-year-old, and Quebec really needs a true number one netminder to build around.
Detroit has to get his contract off their hands, and Quebec would be happy to comply. He's probably going to be the best option in goal for them, and they'd be silly not to get a proven winner like Howard.
1 Bobby Ryan
The Ottawa Senators don't have a bonafide star up front, but they have so many quality role players to the point where one of them is going to have to be made available. Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel are among the players they need to protect.
Bobby Ryan is struggling big time with just 12 goals and 24 points this season. He hasn't scored more than 23 goals in a season with Ottawa despite putting up four 30-goal campaigns with the Anaheim Ducks. Ottawa needs to move on from him.
Ryan has five more years left on his contract, and each will carry a $7.25 million cap hit. That being said, Quebec is going to need a proven goal scorer on their roster. Ryan may just need a fresh start and could rediscover his old form there.
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