The expansion draft is coming soon, to be specific on June 21st, and the hockey world will finally get a glimpse of the first edition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who will play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. As for the rules of the draft, the teams are presented with two options to determine who they are able to keep: (1) seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or (2) eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. And with that being said, it's obvious that the Golden Knights are in desperate need of not only talent, but bodies to fill the roster; they will be looking to snatch some of the unprotected players from the remaining 30 teams. It's evident that even if they find themselves being treated to the 1st-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, that the Golden Knights are still ways away from competing for the most prestigious award in all of hockey: the Stanley Cup.
Nonetheless, as we draw even closer to the expansion draft, the anticipation level has amplified; with fans getting antsy to see the final product, hoping that their favourite teams protect some fan-favourite players or that they simply get passed up for a better option. Without further ado, here are 8 players who are Vegas-bound, and 7 who aren't.
15 Will - Jakob Silfverberg
It's not a matter if Jakob Silfverberg deserves to be kept by the Anaheim Ducks, it's the fact that they simply can't keep him, due largely to the unfortunate no-trade clause that Kevin Bieksa's contract carries. In addition to that, the Ducks have a plethora of promising young players worth keeping, with the likes of Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatenen, and Cam Fowler, and a variety of obvious veterans such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler -- all whom carry much more value than the 26-year-old Swede.
This is without a doubt, one of the bigger acquisitions that the Golden Knights will get in their expansion draft.
14 Won't - Semyon Varlamov
The Colorado Avalanche have already told the public that they are protecting Semyon Varlamov for the expansion draft, which could be looked at with skepticism by many. Varlamov hasn't really proved much with the underachieving Avalanche other than the fact he's a Band-Aid, and with far better goaltenders on the market, it leaves many scratching their head when they consider the idea of protecting Calvin Pickard instead of the Russian netminder.
Nonetheless, I'm not the GM of Colorado and who they protect is solely up to them. But I don't see a quick fix to this mess that Joe Sakic has constructed.
13 Will - Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec has spent his entire career with the Montréal Canadiens, but it's time for the two to part ways after the expansion draft. The Canadiens are likely to protect their younger players, naming talent such as Alex Galchenyuk, Andrew Shaw, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, Paul Byron, and Philip Danault, while also retaining veterans Alexander Radulov (whom is expected to re-sign), Jeff Petry, Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber and the NHL-best Carey Price.
With all that talent being protected, it seems inevitable that the Canadiens will be moving on from the lifetime Canadiens forward by the end of the playoffs.
12 Won't - Mathieu Perreault
If someone were to tell me Mathieu Perreault was being protected by the Winnipeg Jets at the beginning of the season, I would've responded with skepticism. However, after watching him during the second half of the season and also realizing he's the fourth-best option in terms of keeping a forward, it was evident that he was a good fit for the Jets down the road. He tallied 45 points in 65 games this season and was an excellent asset on the Jets' second power play unit, generating good chemistry with franchise-cornerstone Mark Scheifele and team captain Blake Wheeler.
After seeing Perreault elevate his game, the Jets would be foolish to disrupt the newfound chemistry between him and his teammates, making it quite obvious that he will not be headed to the Golden Knights.
11 Will - Lee Stempniak
Is it me or has Lee Stempniak played on every single team in the NHL? Yes he's a bit of a suitcase, but he certainly isn't a bad player, making him a perfect fit for Vegas with his mixture of veteran presence and consistent production. It's blatant that Carolina is in the process of a rebuild and are keen on keeping their young guns in the systems, with the likes of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teräväinen, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Klas Dahlbeck, and the veteran presences of Cam Ward, Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil instead of Stempniak, who is 34 years of age.
Stempniak makes sense for the Golden Knights and could even be on the first line depending on who else the new club snags.
10 Won't - Matt Martin
Matt Martin may not be the most skilled guy on the Toronto Maple Leafs, but what he brings to the team is intangible. The opposing teams are always aware when he's on the ice and know that anyone that disrespects their large percentage of rookie skaters will have to answer to him. Martin maintains a respectable veteran presence and more importantly, he's popular amongst his teammates, he's a glue guy, making it obvious that the Maple Leafs will look to keep his positive influence in the dressing room going forward.
Las Vegas will most likely be looking for talent which, fortunately for Martin, isn't exactly his forte -- he tends to do his talking with his fists and shoulders.
9 Will - Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop had to deal with boatloads of distractions this season, which could be a main reason why he struggled with the Los Angeles Kings. With the Kings already having a franchise goalie in Jonathan Quick, it is clear-cut on whom they've decided to keep. With that being said, this would be a great opportunity for Bishop to regain control of a starter's crease and rebuild his confidence. Don't forget, this is the same goalie who helped propel Tampa Bay to an Eastern Conference Final, and more importantly, a Stanley Cup Final.
If the Golden Knights do indeed get their paws on Bishop, there's a good chance that they throw a large chunk of money his way, ultimately answering their big question mark in goal, which is something not many clubs can solve that quickly.
8 Won't - Joel Ward
Joel Ward was a key factor in the San Jose Sharks' playoff run last year and they won't let him walk that easily -- even if he is 36 years old. With many speculating the idea of San Jose keeping Mikkel Boedker over Ward, the 27-year-old failed to impress management in his first season and seems to be on the decline, whereas Ward has shown he can play on any line and in any role. In addition to that, the Sharks' aging core is in the midst of their Stanley Cup window closing, and they're not getting any younger.
With the Sharks in win-now mode, it seems fitting if they held on to Ward and lost Boedker to the expansion draft.
7 Will - Marcus Kruger
Many have already envisioned Trevor van Riemsdyk in a Las Vegas Golden Knights jersey, but the truth of the matter is that the Blackhawks' defensive core is far too shallow to lose a player like TVR -- whom is already familiar with Joel Quenneville's systems -- to the expansion draft. Because of this, they would most likely lose the unproductive forward Marcus Kruger to the expansion draft, which is extremely unfortunate for them. He's an expert penalty killer and plays his role, and has even represented Team Sweden at the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey.
If the Golden Knights land Kruger this would be huge step in the right direction for them to have efficient penalty killing and successful faceoff-winning percentages.
6 Won't - Marc-Andre Fleury
When Matt Murray led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals at the stunning age of 22, it seemed everybody had written off Marc-Andre Fleury as the club's starting goalie. However here we are a year later, and Fleury is the man tending the cage against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of playoffs -- mainly because of Murray's injury during the warm-up of Game 1. Nonetheless, Fleury has displayed he's still an elite-level goaltender and can steal games as the club is leading the series.
He's certainly making a case for himself to stay in the 'Burgh, but it seems highly unlikely that they will hang on to the French-Canadian. With that being said, Fleury won't look to go to a franchise that isn't ready to compete; the Penguins will most likely look to trade the goalie in hopes of getting a fair return.
5 Will - Jonas Brodin
A once-promising defenseman, Jonas Brodin never really blossomed into the d-man that the Minnesota had envisioned. While he does provide stable support on the backend, it seems as though he is Vegas-bound as the Wild cannot protect everyone they wish. Brodin will certainly help the Golden Knights and has a chance of playing high minutes if he manages to be placed on the top pair, seeing tons of power-play minutes, as well as time on the penalty kill.
Trapped by nightmare contracts with aging players such as Jason Pominville, there seems to be no other options for the Wild at this point.
4 Won't - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kevin Shattenkirk hasn't won a Cup yet and he certainly won't be winning one anytime soon if he decides to sign with Las Vegas. It seems inevitable that the Washington Capitals won't be able to retain the power play specialist going into next season, but Shattenkirk has his eyes on a Stanley Cup and will stop at nothing until he does so. However, if the Caps do choose to hold to the defensive stud, his value will only skyrocket.
This will be a tough pill to swallow for Vegas, but it just doesn't make sense for the talented defenseman to waste away his career just yet.
3 Will - Antti Raanta
As Henrik Lundqvist struggled early on this season (and followed that up with an injury) Antti Raanta stepped up to the plate and wowed everybody with his exceptional performance. Being a life-time backup goalie, Raanta certainly showed that he is one of the best backups in the league and can answer when called upon. Unfortunately for the New York Rangers, Raanta wowed others and will most likely be seen in a Golden Knights jersey, backing up potential starter Ben Bishop.
Tough break for Raanta, but hopefully he can get some more starts out in Vegas and continue to display his talents.
2 Won't - Tyler Bozak
After the Toronto Maple Leafs cleaned house, many were patiently waiting for Tyler Bozak to be shipped or bought out. However, he thrived in the spotlight this season and found instant chemistry with rookie, Mitch Marner, and long-time linemate James van Riemsdyk and notched a career high in points. Bozak has always been a staple on crucial draws for the Maple Leafs and has been enjoying the role of a veteran thus far.
In addition to that, Bozak had just scored an overtime winner against the Washington Capitals in playoffs to give the Leafs a series lead of 2-1 against the favoured Caps. Toronto would be extremely careless if they lost a veteran like Bozak to the expansion draft.
1 Will - Dustin Brown
After having his captaincy stripped by management and a steep decrease in point production, it appears as if Dustin Brown's tenure with the Los Angeles Kings may come to an end. It has been an awkward time since he was stripped of his captaincy and this opportunity could be his ticket out of town. The Kings are in obvious need of a change and have already cleaned out management, so losing a core player like Brown would make sense for the club.
Two years ago, Brown's wife, Nicole, had said that he would be retiring in eight years, and if that's true, then he has six years left in the league and really shouldn't care where he plays. It's very questionable for his wife to say something as bold as that, but at the end of the day, it's ultimately his decision.