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Top 15 Impending NHL Free Agents Who Could Sign With Las Vegas

As more details of the 2017 Expansion Draft are released, we are able to speculate more accurately as to what the team might look like when it all shakes out. It was announced last month that Las Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee will have the ability to talk to pending UFAs as well as unprotected RFAs in the 48 hours leading up to their selection deadline.

You can tell Gary Bettman and co. don’t want this expansion team to be a dud, as the rules this time around are much more punishing to the 30 other NHL teams than they were back in the last round of expansion drafts (1998 to 2000). The expansion teams didn’t have the right to talk to free agents (officially) beforehand as Vegas is now, and the existing NHL teams were able to protect more players.

We can’t guarantee who will be wearing a Las Vegas Golden Knights jersey come June, but we can take some guesses at which pending free agents they’ll be eyeing up over the course of the next six months or so. Today’s article features a list of players who quite possibly could end up in Las Vegas for the start of the 2016-17 season:

15 Steve Mason

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, the Las Vegas franchise will need a goaltender, and the chances of getting a legitimate starter in the expansion draft are fairly low. After all, why would a team protect their backup over their starter anyway? Flyers goalie Steve Mason is a pending UFA, and the way Philly tends to cycle through goalies it seems doubtful he’ll be a Flyer again next season.

14 Michael Stone

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit that it would be a small disaster for the Coyotes if they lost Michael Stone at this point, but the young rearguard is a pending UFA and Arizona has shown in the past that they don’t like to can't afford to pay players. As such, I could see Las Vegas taking a run at Stone in their 48 hour free agency window prior to the official selection of their team.

13 Jonathan Bernier

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There are ultimately three goaltenders who appear on this list, and the second to appear is Jonathan Bernier. Of course the Las Vegas Golden Knights won’t be signing all three of these goalies, but I’d say there’s a good chance they sign at least one. Bernier would be a solid bet, as he’s a potentially inexpensive option who can hold down a 1B role quite capably.

12 Karl Alzner

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Karl Alzner is one of the best pending UFAs out there. The veteran Capital is playing in his ninth NHL season already at 28 years old, and he’s pretty much in the prime of his career. Washington has some decisions to make here in the next year or so, as they have a handful of players coming off contracts who've earned raises.

11 Dwight King

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you agree with this line of thinking or not, general managers tend to highly value players who have been part of a winning squad in the past. Dwight King played a depth role on the two championship L.A. Kings teams in 2012 and 2014. King is 27 years old and is on a contract that comes with a $1.9 million cap hit.

10 Alexander Radulov

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander Radulov doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who would want to start from scratch on an expansion team, but if Vegas sees him as worth the $5.75 million he’s getting paid this season, he could be in a Golden Knights jersey next year. Money talks, and Vegas will have some room to play with that could attract some of these UFAs.

9 Ben Bishop

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The writing is on the wall for Ben Bishop in Tampa, as he’s currently sharing time with the much younger Andrei Vasilevskiy and only one of them is under contract for next season… it’s not Bishop. Bishop is currently 30 years old and, and with the cap troubles heading Tampa’s way there is little doubt that Bishop will wear a different jersey in 2016-17.

8 Drew Stafford

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

At 31 years old, Drew Stafford has one more mid-term contract in him that could come at a decent price point. He’s a journeyman winger who has put up reliable 2nd/3rd line numbers throughout his career, so needless to say he’d be an attractive option for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights. Stafford has put up 382 points in 677 games played.

7 T.J. Oshie

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Oshie is an American hero because he’s pretty good in the shootout (LOL), so Las Vegas will obviously be interested in acquiring the services of the winger. In all seriousness, though, Oshie IS a good hockey player, and if Las Vegas is able to convince the 29-year-old to set up shop in the desert, he’d be one of the best players on the team.

6 Mike Fisher

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know Mike Fisher is captain of the Predators, and he’s serving his first season in the role. Nonetheless, he is on an expiring contract and the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be looking for a leader to take the reins for their first few seasons, which will likely be difficult. Now, with Fisher in the twilight and still cup-less, he may not want anything to do with this. He's still searching for his first Stanley Cup.

5 Cody Franson

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

If you take a look across the NHL, a key ingredient for most successful teams is offense from the blue line. Yes, the first priority for defenders is of course to defend, but if you don’t have guys chipping in from the back end that puts a lot of pressure on your forwards to score lots. Cody Franson has some offensive abilities, and he’s on an expiring contract in Buffalo this season.

4 Dmitry Kulikov

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Another current Buffalo Sabres defenseman appears here on our list at number four. Dmitry Kulikov is now all of a sudden 26 years old, and it’s safe to say he hasn’t developed into the defenseman he was once projected to be. As such, some teams might underrate him simply based on the fact that he was expected to be more.

3 Nick Bonino

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford looked pretty smart last season for his offseason acquisition of Nick Bonino. It’s not so much for what he accomplished during the regular season, as his 29 points in 63 games played were underwhelming, if anything. However, when the playoffs rolled around and Bonino posted 18 points on his way to a Stanley Cup Championship, it was all worth it and then some.

2 Patrick Sharp

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas will need to have a good mix of veteran leadership and young players/prospects, and Patrick Sharp would be a great addition in the former category. Sharp is 34 years old and has surely lost a step, but when you’re that good at hockey you can stand to lose a step and still be one of the better players on an expansion team.

1 Kevin Shattenkirk

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

If Las Vegas is to throw a boatload of money at a player, that player will almost certainly be Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is an elite offensive defenseman in the league, and he’s having another grand season, already pushing the 20 point mark just 25 games into the year. Shattenkirk will earn a fat contract, one that St. Louis simply can’t afford.

So, the only question that remains is: will Shattenkirk want to sign in Las Vegas? Surely McPhee and co. will be gunning hard for the rearguard, so it might just be up to Shattenkirk and his agent. Does the defenseman value winning over money? And if so, does he see Vegas as a possible winner at any point during a possible long term contract?

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Top 15 Impending NHL Free Agents Who Could Sign With Las Vegas