With the expansion draft officially in the books, we now officially have 31 teams in the National Hockey League. Each NHL team on Sunday gave a list of the players that they wished to protect. Every team got to choose between protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender, or they chose to protect eight total skaters and one goaltender. There are players that had no movement clauses in their contracts and they needed to be protected unless they chose to waive the no movement clause for the expansion draft. All first and second year players, and unsigned draft choices are exempt from selection and do not have protected.
The Vegas Golden Knights had to select one player from every NHL team to fill a roster of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies with a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2017-18 season. Some players that were left off of the protected list were very surprising, and some of those names were James Neal, Roberto Luongo, Patrick Sharp, Petr Mrazek, Eric Staal, Sami Vatanen, etc. Other players were protected and made you shake your head saying to yourself why would they protect them. Some of those names were Kevan Miller, James Reimer, Andrew Ladd, etc.
Now that the Golden Knights' roster is officially part of the NHL, it is time to look at the teams that are better off and got screwed from the Expansion Draft. Here are eight teams that got screwed in the expansion draft and there are seven teams that better off from the expansion draft.
15 Screwed - Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars didn't lose Tyler Seguin, or Jamie Benn, but they did lose one of their better centers when it comes to faceoffs in Cody Eakin. The former third round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft is a good center in the faceoff dot, and his career 49.5 percent faceoff win has helped him be a good young talent for the Dallas Stars. Eakin is under contract until the 2020-2021 season and is set to make $3.85 million per season until he becomes a free agent.
The Stars definitely will feel the loss of Eakin in the faceoff dot for this upcoming season, and should look to try and improve upon that when looking for a replacement center in the off season. Dallas is looking like they will take a step back, and in order to keep your star talent long-term they need to have centers that can win faceoffs.
14 Better Off - Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets had Chris Thorburn selected by the Vegas Golden Knights and the Jets could not be any happier. Yes, he is an unrestricted free agent, but the Jets are happy that they will not have to sign him for the future. The Jets had to make a trade with the Golden Knights to not select Toby Enstrom. Winnipeg had a lot more talent than Chris Thorburn available for the Golden Knights to choose from, but they decided to go with the yearly veteran to help create a locker room environment since they will be in the franchise's first season in 2017-18.
With that being said the Jets are lucky that not only do they not have Chris Thorburn on "the books" anymore, but they are also better off that Vegas did not take one of their younger available talents such as Michael Hutchinson, Marko Dano, and others that were not protected by Winnipeg. Vegas might not of made the right selection for the franchise, but Winnipeg doesn't mind their selection.
13 Screwed - Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks are losing one of their better defensemen in the Expansion Draft. Vegas selected former first round selection in the 2008 NHL Draft Luca Sbisa. Sbisa has been one of the better defenseman for the Canucks for the past three seasons, but Vancouver decided not to protect him. The Canucks could have easily made a trade with Vegas to give up a draft pick for Sbisa, but instead they decide to let him walk for basically nothing which makes the rebuilding process even longer.
The Canucks are not doing anything to help the Sedins to want to stay in Vancouver after the 2017-2018 season. With Vancouver going through the rebuilding phase and having good talent like the Sedins, and Erikson, be wasted is a shame. Vancouver should have let Vegas take a guy like Derek Dorsett from them to help off the books, but instead Luca Sbisa will be makin $3 million to go along with a potential $1 million signing bonus to be a part of the first ever Vegas Golden Knights team.
12 Better Off - Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the happier teams that are coming out of the Expansion Draft. The Lightning player that got selected by the Vegas Golden Knights was Jason Garrison, who was one player that they were excited to get off of the books for next season. Garrison is a former undrafted player in the 2008 NHL Draft, and has been a solid top four defenseman since the 2010-11 season.
He is set to make $2.5 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2018, but he does also have a no trade clause so he will be a part of the Vegas Golden Knights for their inaugural season. Garrison will help the blue line for the Golden Knights next season, and will help try and have Vegas make the playoffs in their very first season.
11 Screwed - Nashville Predators
Shouldn't the Predators be better off without James Neal? Well yes they dump his $5 million for the 2017-18 season, but when you lose a talent who can score 20 plus goals a season it hurts to think about. James Neal is a top six forward and he will be a big time player in Vegas, but Nashville lost him for nothing so who fills in his spot. I understand that they just went to the Stanley Cup Final, but without good talent and chemistry Neal had both of that in Nashville and he will be missed.
James Neal is a former second round pick in the 2005 NHL Draft from the Dallas Stars, but he did not really breakout until he started playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, Neal will look to help Vegas make the playoffs, while Nashville's chances to return to the Stanley Cup Final took a hit.
10 Better Off - Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers had Jonathan Marchessault selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, and they also sent Vegas Reilly Smith for a fourth round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Marchessault is set to make $750,000 next season before he becomes a free agent, and Reilly Smith who is set to make $5 million next season to go along with a potential $1 million signing bonus that goes along with it. Florida getting Reilly Smith's contract off the books is a huge win for them since they saved five million in cap space that they can use to acquire some talent this off season.
With Reilly Smith being under contract until the 2022-2023 season is a win for Vegas and a win for Florida. Vegas gets a young winger that can score, and Florida clears cap room so that they can be able to sign talent that can help them become a playoff team like they were in 2015-2016.
9 Screwed - Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins screwed themselves by not protecting the right Miller, and then when they decided not to make a trade with Vegas to stay away from Colin Miller. The Golden Knights selected Colin Miller out of the Expansion Draft and he is set to become a restricted free agent after next season and is set to make $1.1 million this upcoming season. The Bruins should have done everything to have Vegas take either Jimmy Hayes ($2.5 million) or Matt Beleskey ($4 million) off their books.
Now they are stuck with those two contracts for another year, and are going to pay two guys a combined $6.5 million to basically not play on the team next season. With that being said Beleskey and Hayes will for the majority be either on the fourth line or labeled as a healthy scratch, while Vegas is looking to move Colin Miller and with Toronto being the likely destination, the Bruins need to realize that they screwed up.
8 Better Off - Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are one team that are one of the teams that are better off, and it occurred when the Vegas Golden Knights selected Alexei Emelin and his $4.1 million cap hit in the Expansion Draft. Montreal not only got rid of Emelin's $4.1 million that he was due next year off the books, but they also now have more money to be able to accomplish goals that they have set for this off season. Now with that $4.4 million free the Canadiens can be able to talk to players such as Kevin Shattenkirk, T.J. Oshie, and players of that nature with that extra $4.4 million.
Now with Montreal having roughly $23.1 million in cap space at the moment heading up to the free agency period look for Montreal to now be making some serious moves to not only be able to contend again in 2017-18, but to acquire talent that will make Carey Price want to sign a long-term extension.
7 Screwed - Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings were hoping that Vegas would take Dustin Brown from them in the Expansion Draft, but the Golden Knights selected 26-year-old defenseman Brayden McNabb instead. McNabb was one of the better defenseman on the Kings last season even though his stats don't show it. With the Kings struggling during the 2016-17 season it affected all of the players including McNabb. Los Angeles only lost McNabb's contract which is $1.8 million for next season and then he is set to become a free agent in 2018.
The Kings lost McNabb instead of being able to dump Dustin Brown's $6.5 million which is definitely bothering the Kings. With nobody wanting to take on Brown's contract, the Kings look like they are stuck with Brown for the remainder of his contract. This was the Los Angeles Kings' best chance of being able to get rid of Brown's big cap hit, but instead all they lost was a young defenseman.
6 Better Off - Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets made a trade with the Golden Knights to select one of their top young talents in William Karlsson, and in return Columbus traded David Clarkson, their 2017 first round pick, and their 2019 second round pick to Vegas. Columbus made out in this situation because they dumped Clarkson's $5.25 million cap hit which is definitely a win for them and they got to keep the core of talent that they did not protect.
The Blue Jackets had to give up some draft picks to make it happen, but in the long run that was a great move by Columbus to not only protect who they wanted, but to get rid of Clarkson's cap hit as well. Looking forward to the 2017-18 season Columbus is ready to build on their successful 2016-17 season, and will look to head back into the post season again and look to make their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance.
5 Screwed - Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals lost one of their better defenseman in the Expansion Draft, and he was not under contract for next season as well. Vegas selected Washington's restricted free agent Nate Schmidt who was one of the better defensemen in Washington's run last season. The former undrafted player in the 2013 NHL Draft, has been a key part of Washington's blue line the past two seasons, and will be missed by the Capitals.
Schmidt is currently a restricted free agent, and should be paid very well by Vegas for the foreseeable future. Washington now is in some desperate need of blue line help going into the free agency period, and I can see them overpaying to get a veteran defenseman to go on their blue line next year. Washington screwed themselves by not trying to make a trade to have Vegas take someone else that was not Nate Schmidt, and you'll see how much losing Schmidt hurts them at the start of the 2017-2018 season.
4 Better Off - New York Islanders
The New York Islanders made a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights to help them clear some cap room for the 2017-18 season. Vegas selected Jean-Francois Berube, and in return the Islanders sent Jake Bischoff, Mikhail Grabovski, their 2017 first round pick, and 2019 second round pick. This is a huge win for the Islanders because not only do they get rid of Mikhail Grabovski's $5 million cap hit, but they now are able to maneuver things around so that they can acquire some talent for them to be able to sign John Tavares long-term. It also helped them get the cap space to acquire Jordan Eberle from Edmonton.
With the Islanders looking like they are re-tooling, it is looking even better now that they don't have to pay Grabovski again this season. Now the Islanders have cap space. The Islanders can chalk the Expansion Draft as a win for them.
3 Screwed - St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are one team that took a big loss in the Expansion Draft after Vegas selected forward David Perron from their team. Perron is a former first round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, and is a very good goal scorer that the Blues just lost. The Blues did lose Perron's $3.75 million cap hit, but St. Louis would have liked Vegas to take away Jori Lethera's $4.7 million cap hit instead.
The Blues already don't have a lot of cap room this off season, as they head into free agency with a rough estimate of $11 million in cap space, which is not a good amount to have. St.Louis needs to improve their blue line, and with their rough estimate of cap space there is no realistic chance that the Blues bounce back into the post season in 2017-2018.
2 Better Off - Pittsburgh Penguins
Big winners in the Expansion Draft were none other than the reigning two time Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Vegas Golden Knights selected their face of the franchise in goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The former number one overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, and is an all-around winner. His presence for the Golden Knights will be huge in not only their inaugural season, but in the foreseeable future.
Pittsburgh wins this Expansion Draft for two reasons, the first is because they dumped Fleury's $5.75 million cap hit for next season, and two now Matt Murray is officially "the guy" for Pittsburgh as they look to three-peat in 2017-18. The Penguins now have a rough estimate of $26.8M in cap space means that they can reload their roster in order to have a realistic shot at three-peating next season, and they can thank Vegas for that.
1 Screwed - Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are the team that ended up getting the most screwed from the Expansion Draft. Vegas selected 24-year-old forward Tomas Nosek from the Detroit Red Wings, and the Red Wings did not like that selection at all. Detroit was hoping that Vegas would select Petr Mrazek from their available list, but Vegas had other goalies in mind. Now Detroit has to go through another year with a goalie controversy between Howard and Mrazek.
With Howard set to make $5 million this season, and Mrazek set to make $4.15 million it makes it tough for Detroit to decide who their starting goaltender will be. Mrazek is not happy with being the backup, as he feels that he is wasting the prime of his career. Meanwhile Howard is making too much money to be the backup goalie, so Detroit is in a lose-lose situation right now. Detroit missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 1989-90, and at the moment they look like they will miss the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since they missed five straight seasons from 1978-1983.