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Drafting The Las Vegas Golden Knights Roster: Every NHL Team's Most Likely Expansion Casualty

The Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Love it or hate it, you might as well get used to it because that’s the official name of the NHL’s newest franchise. With the recent shutting down of General Fanager (because the operator of the site was recently hired by the Golden Knights, coincidentally), I was worried there wouldn’t be another expansion draft tool. Luckily, the internet came through for me and Cap Friendly now has one, and it’s great. Go check it out.

Using that tool we went ahead and selected a team for the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Now, it’s unlikely that this is what the Golden Knights look like come this June, but we basically are looking at each NHL team’s most likely casualty of the expansion draft.

As for the rules, well, we still don’t know how all of these things will look come June, so we made some assumptions for the purposes of this list. First, we excluded pending UFAs but included pending RFAs. We’re making the assumption that the pending UFAs don’t have new contracts with their current teams when it comes time for Vegas to make its picks, but we’re also assuming that they do lock up their pending RFAs.

There is also a rule that teams must leave at least two forwards and one defenseman unprotected who meet one of the following requirements: they must have played 70-plus games between 2015-16 and 2016-17, or they must have played 40-plus games in 2016-17. Since it’s too early to tell who exactly will fit these requirements, we ignored them for now.

Without further ado, let’s get to it. Here is every NHL team’s most likely expansion draft casualty. Enjoy:

29 Anaheim Ducks: Jakob Silfverberg, RW

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Perry, Getzlaf, Kesler, Rakell, Lindholm, Vatanen, Fowler, Bieksa, Gibson

The Ducks have four NMCs to deal with (Perry, Getzlaf, Kesler, Bieksa), and it’s that last one that sort of forces them to go the 4-4-1 route. It’s unlikely that Anaheim would choose to protect a 36-year-old defenseman with just one more year left on his deal, but the NMC forces them to do so.

28 Arizona Coyotes: Jamie McGinn, LW

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Richardson, Rieder, Duclair, Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, Stone, Murphy, Connauton, Smith

The Golden Knights will have to pick up a few veterans in expansion and Arizona’s Jamie McGinn is a pretty good bet for Vegas. The Coyotes are a weird team in that they only have three forwards under contract for next season who require protection. They have much more defensemen under contract beyond 2017, so they’ll want to protect them first.

27 Boston Bruins: Colin Miller, D

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Krejci, Bergeron, Backes, Marchand, Hayes, Spooner, Pastrnak, Chara, Krug, McQuaid, Rask

Due to the expansion rules, some teams are going to be forced to leave solid prospects with a little NHL experience unprotected. Colin Miller is a 24-year-old rearguard who established himself as a full-time NHLer last season and is picking up where he left off. It'll be tough for Boston to see him leave, but with the abundance of talent on their roster, it's a necessity.

26 Buffalo Sabres: Linus Ullmark, G

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: O’Reilly, Okposo, Kane, Ennis, Foligno, Girgensons, Larsson, Ristolainen, Bogosian, McCabe, Lehner

The goaltenders that Las Vegas picks are the most difficult to predict. As each team is only able to protect one netminder, the options will be vast. They’ll be selecting goalies to not only staff their NHL team but also to provide organizational depth in the position. That’s why Linus Ullmark could be a Las Vegas Golden Knight by next summer. It's a move that many may not expect, but could be smart in the long run.

25 Calgary Flames: Jyrki Jokipakka, D

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolik, Backlund, Bennett, Ferland, Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Elliott

The Flames are top-heavy on both forward and D, so these protections weren’t especially difficult choices. It should be noted that the Elliott protection could be any goalie by next spring, as he’s only on a one-year contract in Calgary, and backup Chad Johnson is also on an expiring contract.

24 Carolina Hurricanes: Lee Stempniak, RW

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Staal, Skinner, Bickell, Rask, Lindholm, Nestrasil, Teravainen, Faulk, Murphy, Dahlbeck, Lack

Lee Stempniak is somewhat of an enigma, as his production throughout his career has wildly fluctuated. He had a bit of a resurgence last season, putting up 51 points in a full season’s worth of work (a career high). We’ve previously mentioned the need for Vegas to stock itself with veterans and youngsters alike, and Stempniak is a solid pick to add to the former category.

23 Chicago Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger, C

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Toews, Kane, Hossa, Anisimov, Seabrook, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Van Riemsdyk, Crawford

The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most top-heavy teams in the entire league, but I guess that’s what you get when two forwards represent almost 30 percent of your cap space. This might work out okay for the ‘Hawks in the expansion, even though eight of their nine protections are NMCs (all aside from Trevor Van Riemsdyk).

22 Colorado Avalanche: Calvin Pickard, G

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Soderberg, Colborne, Grigorenko, Grimaldi, Johnson, Barrie, Beauchemin, Varlamov

The Colorado Avalanche will very likely be going with the 7-3-1 route on account of the wealth of young forwards they have that need protection. Calvin Pickard has had a fairly good showing in his brief auditions thus far in his young NHL career, and there’s a chance the Las Vegas Golden Knights take a flier on him in the 2017 expansion draft. And a move like this could become more valuable as the years go on.

21 Columbus Blue Jackets: Jack Johnson, D

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Saad, Dubinsky, Foligno, Hartnell, Atkinson, Jenner, Wennberg, Jones, Savard, Murray, Bobrovsky

There are a few NMCs that will cripple the Blue Jackets this June if they don’t do something about it. They’re forced to protect Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, and Scott Hartnell up front, and that’s assuming that David Clarkson is still on the LTIR come June. If he’s not, you can add his name to the list of players that Columbus will be forced to spend a valuable protection spot on.

20 Dallas Stars: Esa Lindell, D

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Spezza, Seguin, Ja. Benn, Eakin, Roussel, Ritchie, Faska, Klingberg, Hamhuis, Oleksiak, Niemi

While it’s entirely possible that Las Vegas elects to go with Jamie’s brother Jordie Benn, I’d say it’s more likely that they go with youth and select defenseman Esa Lindell. The Dallas Stars will be forced to leave a few solid back-end prospects unprotected, and Lindell is probably a better candidate to leave open than Jamie Oleksiak.

19 Detroit Red Wings: Andreas Athanasiou, C

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Zetterberg, Nielsen, Nyquist, Abdelkader, Helm, Tatar, Sheahan, Green, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Mrazek

It’s definitely possible that the Golden Knights decide to go with experience and pluck the 35-year-old Niklas Kronwall from Detroit, but again I’d say it’s more likely they go with youth and take a chance on 22-year-old center Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou established himself as a full-time NHLer late last season, and although he’s shown signs of inconsistency, he’s a good bet for Las Vegas.

18 Edmonton Oilers: Benoit Pouliot, LW

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Eberle, Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl, Sekera, Klefbom, Larsson, Davidson, Talbot

With the offseason departure of Taylor Hall, it’s now likely the Oilers will be protecting four forwards and four D, rather than seven and three. In this scenario, it looks as though Benoit Pouliot is the odd man out—although, with the way the current season is going, it’s entirely possible that Vegas elects to go with the more affordable Patrick Maroon.

17 Florida Panthers: James Reimer, G

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Barkov, Trochek, Bjugstad, Jokinen, Smith, Huberdeau, Marchessault, Yandle, Demers, Ekblad, Luongo

It is from Florida that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will acquire their first ever starting goalie (or, perhaps we should say, a 1A/1B goalie). James Reimer is under contract until 2021, and he’s no stranger to sharing the load on a sub-par team. It’s a role he played in Toronto off and on for six seasons, sharing the crease there with several different ‘tenders over those seasons. That's something he can do again out west.

16 Los Angeles Kings: Brayden McNabb, D

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, Lewis, King, Pearson, Dowd, Doughty, Muzzin, Martinez, Quick

The Los Angeles Kings have a decent mix of youth and experience, and the Kings will certainly do their darndest to protect the best of both sides. They have so many forwards that require protection that they almost need to elect for the 7-3 route. The three defensemen they protect, then, are easy choices, but they’ll be leaving some decent prospects open in that case.

15 Minnesota Wild: Marco Scandella, D

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Parise, Koivu, Pominville, Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter, Haula, Suter, Spurgeon, Brodin, Dubnyk

A few somewhat unfortunate no move clauses will force Minnesota to go the 7-3 route, which means they will inevitably be leaving some darn good D-men open for expansion. With the options at their disposal, there is a pretty good chance that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will go with whoever is left unprotected back there out of Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba and Scandella.

14 Montreal Canadiens: Phillip Danault, C

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Plekanec, Pacioretty, Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Weber, Petry, Emelin, Beaulieu, Price

It’s far enough into 2016-17 that we can start identifying players who are breaking out this season, and one of them could be Canadiens center Phillip Danault. Danault, 23, is under contract until the end of 2017-18 and the former first-rounder is finding his niche in Montreal.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Forsberg, Smith, Johansen, Wilson, Subban, Josi, Ekholm, Ellis, Rinne

Teams need first line players, and James Neal can play that role in the NHL. With the depth the Predators have on their back-end, I think it’s safe to say that a decent forward will be leaving Nashville for Las Vegas next June, and conventional wisdom points to sniper James Neal as being that player.

13 New Jersey Devils: Ben Lovejoy, D

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Hall, Zajac, Cammalleri, Palmieri, Henrique, Josefson, Bennett, Greene, Moore, Severson, Schneider

With the addition of Taylor Hall coupled with the subtraction of Adam Larsson, the Devils will likely protect seven forwards and three defensemen. Andy Greene is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and he has a reasonable contract as well so he’ll be protected. Damon Severson is gaining stud status and is only 22, so he’ll be protected. John Moore (25) is younger than Ben Lovejoy, so it’s likely he’s protected as well.

12 New York Islanders: Ryan Strome, C

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Tavares, Ladd, Lee, Cizikas, Bailey, Nelson, Prince, Boychuk, Leddy, Hamonic, Halak

If you think your favorite team is going to have some issues come expansion, take a look at the Islanders situation and be thankful. If the Islanders are in fact your favorite team… well, sorry. Even with seven forward protections, the Isles are still leaving some darn good players up for grabs. We’re assuming that Vegas goes with Ryan Strome, who frequently falls in and out of favor in Brooklyn.

11 New York Rangers: Brandon Pirri, C

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Stepan, Kreider, Zuccarello, Miller, Zibanejad, Hayes, Grabner, Staal, Girardi, McDonagh, Lundqvist

Brandon Pirri has been passed around the NHL, as he’s on his fourth team since 2014. You can expect him to be on his fifth by next June, as the Las Vegas Golden Knights could very well select Pirri as their player from the New York Rangers. Pirri is scoring now, as is everybody else in a Rangers jersey, so he’s an attractive selection at this point.

10 Ottawa Senators: Chris Driedger, G

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Ryan, Hoffman, Brassard, Stone, Turris, Pageau, Dzingel, Phaneuf, Karlsson, Methot, Anderson

Although Andrew Hammond will be available for the Knights to pick, I think they might take the younger Chris Driedger instead. Driedger is just 22 years old, and with Hammond already 28 and seemingly having peaked in that home stretch of the 2014-15 season, Driedger could be a good development project for the Golden Knights.

9 Philadelphia Flyers: Dale Weise, RW

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Giroux, Voracek, Schenn, Couturier, Simmonds, Read, Raffl, Gudas, Manning, Gostisbehere, Mason

With tons of great young forwards who will require protection, and three burgeoning D-men in Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, and Shane Gostisbehere, it’s fairly easy to pick the protections in Philly. Veteran grinder Dale Weise will be left unprotected, though, and he could be a valuable piece for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

8 Pittsburgh Penguins: Carl Hagelin, LW

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Malkin, Crosby, Kessel, Hornqvist, Letang, Maatta, Cole, Pouliot, Fleury/Murray

I don’t think the Pittsburgh Penguins are too thrilled at the idea of losing either Matt Murray or Marc-Andre Fleury for nothing in the expansion, so this selection is operating under the assumption that they deal one of those goalies before Vegas makes their picks. As a result, the Golden Knights will have to settle with Carl Hagelin from the Pens.

7 San Jose Sharks: Justin Braun, D

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Couture, Pavelski, Ward, Hertl, Karlsson, Nieto, Tierney, Martin, Vlasic, Dillon

The protections in San Jose could look very different come June. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Brent Burns are all on expiring contracts, and you’d have to think that at least one of those players gets an extension. At the present time, though, we can’t make those assumptions, so Las Vegas takes defenseman Justin Braun from the Sharks.

6 St. Louis Blues: Nail Yakupov, RW

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Tarasenko, Stastny, Steen, Schwartz, Lehtera, Perron, Jaskin, Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Gunnarsson, Allen

Why not? The former 1st overall draft pick from 2012 could very well be selected from the St. Louis Blues. Nail Yakupov has been in and out of the lineup with a clean bill of health for the past couple of weeks, so it’s tough to imagine the Blues spending a valuable protection on the enigmatic Russian. Yakupov would be a low risk, high reward pick for Las Vegas, a team that's going to need as much talent as they possibly can acquire.

5 Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin, LW

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Stamkos, Callahan, Filppula, Kucherov, Killorn, Johnson, Palat, Stralman, Hedman, Garrison, Vasilevskiy

It is obviously entirely possible that the Tampa Bay Lightning protect Jonathan Drouin, and there are several ways they could do that. They could simply choose to protect Drouin over Ondrej Palat; or, they could find a way to shed themselves of Ryan Callahan’s NMC contract, thus opening up a slot to keep Drouin.

4 Toronto Maple Leafs: Peter Holland, C

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Kadri, Van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Komarov, Rielly, Gardiner, Marincin, Carrick, Andersen

There is quite a bit still to be figured out in Toronto before expansion, but, in any case, it doesn’t look like they’ll be losing a great player. Most of Toronto’s impact players this season are actually rookies, so they don’t require protection. Depth up the middle is extremely important for any franchise, and Vegas will add depth by picking up Peter Holland from the Leafs.

3 Vancouver Canucks: Derek Dorsett, RW

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: D. Sedin, H. Sedin, Eriksson, Sutter, Hansen, Granlund, Horvat, Edler, Tanev, Gudbranson, Markstrom

An NHL team is only as good as the sum of its parts, and you need all different elements to make it work. Derek Dorsett would bring toughness and grit to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, so he’s a logical choice for Vegas from the Canucks.

2 Washington Capitals: Jay Beagle, RW

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Johansson, Eller, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Burakovsky, Niskanen, Orpik, Carlson, Holtby

We can’t really say it enough—veteran leadership is huge on an expansion team. Yes, they need to stock their prospect cupboard with prospects and youth, but if they don’t want to be pushed around by the rest of the league, they need experience to couple with their youth. They’re going to be a young team, there’s no doubt about that. They’ll need some mentors.

1 Winnipeg Jets: Mathieu Perreault, C

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Protected: Scheifele, Wheeler, Little, Stafford, Byfuglien, Enstrom, Myers, Trouba, Helleybuyck

Mathieu Perreault isn’t a first line center on most NHL teams, but he might be expected to at least help fill that role in Las Vegas next season. It’s highly unlikely the Golden Knights will be able to snag a legitimate top-line center, as teams simply will not be making those available and will be protecting them at all costs.

Perreault has shown signs that he can contribute on both sides of the puck so far in his career. He’s scored close to 0.7 points per game pace just a few seasons ago, (41 in 62). He’s pretty much money in the bank to get you at least 40 points, even in an off year, so Las Vegas would be wise to pluck the French Canadian from Winnipeg.

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