Say it ain’t so, ref! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Here we are, 8:40 into the 1st period at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights are buzzing, creating chances left and right, and defending about as well as they have all year, when Shea Theodore skates through nearly the entire Buffalo Sabres team to score a highlight toe-drag goal. The arena is going crazy, the Golden Knights are celebrating, and that nervous feeling that’s been plaguing Vegas early this season feels like it’s fading away, but then, the referee skates to the red line, turns on his mic and says “Buffalo is challenging if the play is offside.”
Watching the replay, it was clearly offside as Max Pacioretty entered the zone early. That feeling of euphoria, gone.
We knew right away the goal was offside as soon as we looked down. It wasn’t a big deal. We knew it was coming. -Gerard Gallant
When something like that happens it all part of the game, you’ve got to regroup from it. It’s still an unbelievable play by Shea, it’s still a highlight. -Brad Hunt
Wrong little guy skating to the box, but you get the point. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Ok fine, no big deal, right? But then, minutes later, Tomas Hyka took a hooking penalty, and all the good the Golden Knights had done in the 1st 10 minutes was ready to disappear into thin air if the penalty was not killed off.
It’s an all too familiar story seven games into the season, and a feeling every Golden Knights fan had the second the penalty box door opened. Here we go again.
Yeah, it felt like that was our luck at that time, but you know, what can you do? It’s in the past and all you can do is battle forward and I’m proud of the way we did that. -William Karlsson
That’s exactly what the Golden Knights did. They killed that penalty (and like a thousand others), they kept battling through the misfortune, and they made it change. Jonathan Marchessault scored a power play goal, Cody Eakin raced for a shorthanded one, and Karlsson even got on the board for the first time this year as well.
Like they have many times this season the Golden Knights came out jumping to start the game. Also like many other games, they appeared to be heading to the locker room without a lead. Especially after Shea Theodore’s goal was taken off due to an offside challenge. However, the first power play goal of the year was scored by Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights continued their dominance through the remaining 40 minutes of the game coasting to an easy win. Cody Eakin, who we highlighted earlier today, scored a shorthanded goal, and William Karlsson got on the board for the first time this year as well. A late goal blew the shutout (and donuts) but a Marchessault empty netter restored the three-goal win.
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Buffalo Sabres at T-Mobile Arena.
A complete dominant home game effort, that’s more like it, and more reason why there still should be no concerns with the slow start.
Photo gallery from the NHL’s best photographer, Brandon Andreasen
Three Stars *** William Karlsson ** Marc-Andre Fleury * Cody Eakin
A very messy first period with little zone time for either team was decided by a terrible slash call on Paul Stastny. That led to a power-play goal by Jack Eichel and had the Golden Knights leaving the ice down a goal for the third straight game. A couple of miserable defensive breakdowns allowed the Sabres to open up a big lead of 4-1 after two. Jonathan Marchessault got on the board in the 3rd, but the Golden Knights could not claw back into it.
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.
A look at how players are being used after three games compared to the averages last year.
Three Stars *** Jonathan Marchessault ** Carter Hutton * Jack Eichel
Another defensive lapse there. 3 centers on the same line and not a single guy to take the slot? Both defensemen below the goal line and not a single forward even below the dots.
After a sleepy first two periods of scoreless hockey, the Sabres broke through early in the 3rd. Vegas wasn’t mustering up much, but finally found a wacky game tying goal from Deryk Engelland that banked off a Buffalo player. OT was back and forth but neither team could convert. David Perron got the Golden Knights on the board first in shootout, but Buffalo tied it with their last attempt. Erik Haula came through with the game winner in shootout.
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.
Future cap space has the Golden Knights in company closer to lottery teams than Cup contenders.
Three Stars *** Deryk Engelland ** Robin Lehner * Marc-Andre Fleury
Golden Knights use dominant second period to jump out in front, but can’t hang on as Buffalo scores three in the final 10 minutes, including one inside the last 10 seconds to send it to overtime. David Perron wins it in overtime!
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Buffalo Sabres at T-Mobile Arena.
In less than a week George McPhee will finally have the protection lists in his hands and the Golden Knights will be on the 72 hour Expansion Draft clock. Until then, the hockey world will be buzzing about all the trades that are being discussed in the lead up. It’s time we take a moment to round em all up into one post, and try to make sense of what’s set to go down on June 21st.
Before we start though, we need to clarify something. While McPhee is making calls and probably coming to agreements, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman confirmed no deals will be made official, or even be announced, prior to June 21st. So, tread carefully out there, everyone’s trying to make a name for themselves.
Chicago Blackhawks – The chatter with Chicago started in late May from a pair of tweets from TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
#Hawks would allow VGK to take D Trevor van Riemsdyk in draft, on consideration that @GoldenKnights also take Marcus Kruger in trade. #TSN
The main question is which way the picks would be going, if any are involved. Chicago has three defensemen with NMCs, so van Riemsdyk would have to be exposed unless one of Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, or Niklas Hjalmarsson waives their NMC, and/or is traded. So, in theory, Vegas would be getting picks in exchange for taking on Marcus Kruger‘s salary, and simply select van Riemsdyk in the Expansion Draft.
Many news outlets, including most notably a news anchor from Kansas City (why?), have reported that Kruger to Vegas is done. The most common return is a 3rd round pick from Chicago. But there’s likely another piece to the puzzle here that’s missing. Whether that’s Chicago “moving a core player” as reported by WSCR’s Jay Zawaski, or Kruger being flipped through Vegas is yet to be seen. Either way, it’s highly probable McPhee makes a deal (or two) with Chicago, but the details out there currently, are likely not telling the whole story.
Columbus Blue Jackets – In Elliotte Friedman’s “30 thoughts” column he mentions murmurs of trade discussions here. The name mentioned is David Clarkson, who is Expansion Draft exempt due to a long term injury. Clarkson’s back will likely keep him off the ice in 2017-18 and could be career ending, however, his cap hit remains at $5.25 million through 2020 (three more seasons). Freidman mentions the 24th overall pick as well as “some young forwards at the AHL level” as possible compensation for Clarkson’s contract. Once again, the details are fuzzy because this would occur outside the parameters of the Expansion Draft. Vegas would still have to select a player from Columbus, so there’s another piece in the mix. Joonas Korpisalo just signed a team-friendly deal, is he involved? Vegas would get rewarded handsomely for taking Clarkson off Columbus’ hands, but there still has to be an Expansion pick, so more is certainly to come on this one.
The club of NHL general managers is a small fraternity. A group of 31 that are active and no more than 150 or so in the century long history of the league. (Someone count em for me, seemed like a lot of work.)
This small group leads to a familiarity and at times an understanding that what goes around comes around. Scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back later. Well it appears Buffalo GM Tim Murray scratched the back of George McPhee while with the Capitals, and the Sabres may be ready to cash in on a favor from 2014.
I’ve had a conversation or two with George on who I wouldn’t like to lose and how we can make that happen. Maybe I’ve done a deal with George in the past that was considered somewhat of a favor. Maybe I’ve had a conversation with him reminding him of that, and he remembered the wordage of that deal word-for-word, which I was very happy to hear. –Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres GM to WGR-AM 550
A few months ago a conversation on Twitter about Evander Kane got pretty animated. Some people posted that Las Vegas could never take on Kane if he was left unprotected by Buffalo. I couldn’t believe a talent like the Sabres power forward was being passed over by so many arm-chair GMs. We’re talking about a rare talent that’s physical, can score, and has solid puck possession skills. (C’mon, tell me those corresponding links don’t fit the double entendres perfectly) Not many players have all three attributes… we’re back to talking about hockey.
Now to be fair, the people against Kane don’t deny his capability, what scares them is his off-ice behavior. He’s no role model. Kane has never been convicted but he’s been twice investigated for criminal behavior. Late last year Buffalo cops dropped charges for sexual assault. Now, a New York judge dismissed charges against Kane for a reported physical incident at a Buffalo bar. And let’s be serious, the name of the bar was Bottoms Up. A bar in Buffalo, NY named Bottoms Up has seen plenty of physical incidents.
Understandably, the two investigations listed above don’t make Kane look like a good guy. In fact that same New York judge called him out as being, “arrogant, boorish, and surly.” (Kind of reminds me of this guy actually) He also told Kane to make sure he keeps his nose clean for six months, something the power forward needs to do if he wants to stay in the NHL anyways. It’s tough to make the case for the 25 year-old forward with his off-ice behavior.
The first step to our mock draft is to establish the list of players that will be available for the Las Vegas franchise to draft. To do this, we decided to have a blogger from each team represent their own franchise and select the players that will be protected from the Mock Expansion Draft available player pool. To see the rules which were followed to protect players, hit this link.
Next up, we have the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are being represented by Chris Ostrander from TwoInTheBox.com.
By no means was this an easy exercise. The rebuilding process that began under Darcy Regier and has been continued under Tim Murray provided the Sabres with a plethora of draft picks over the past three years. That glut of picks was primarily focused in the first two rounds of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 drafts, giving the Sabres a well-stocked pipeline of promising prospects.
Picking 14 forwards and a goalie from this group was difficult, especially since the list we’re working off of here encompasses any player currently under contract. While I assume the league will institute some level of protection for players on entry level contracts or under a certain age, the lack of such protection here added to my challenge.
Many of the choices were no brainers. Robin Lehner, for example, is young and still has plenty of promise – despite his early season lower body injury. I’m quite high on the outlook Linus Ullmark provides, but I couldn’t leave the only true starter in Buffalo’s pipeline unprotected. Even with four goaltending spots available between Quebec and Vegas, I don’t expect Ullmark to be on either team’s radar.
Filling up my five blue line spots was probably the easiest of the three categories as Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Jake McCabe, Zach Bogosian and Brendan Guhle all represent key cogs in both the present and future of the Sabres blueline. This leaves Josh Gorges, Cody Franson and prospects Brycen Martin and Chad Ruhwedel unprotected along with other depth players. While Gorges and Franson are the most likely to be snatched up, they’re also probably the two easiest players to part with. They not only help to meet the 40 game requirement for unprotected defensemen, but they’re also going to be lesser contributors to Buffalo’s future than the five I chose to protect. Not unlike Ullmark, I doubt Ruhwedel will be on anyone’s radar. He’s sort of a 4A player right now for the Sabres. Not quite good enough to latch onto a full-time job in Buffalo and just a little too good for full-time duty in Rochester. My hope is that he slips through the cracks and remains property of the Sabres, as I still think there’s a spot for him here in Buffalo. Martin isn’t yet under contract as he continues to season in major junior. He won’t be on anyone’s radar anyway, so even though he probably doesn’t technically qualify for this exercise, I doubt he’d be snatched up anyway.
Narrowing down my choices for nine forwards was quite difficult. Obviously Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Ennis made the cut. They make up the engine that drives this team and this group will likely be together for years to come. Those final three choices were tougher. I had to keep the 40 game requirement in mind while also taking note of the plan of attack the Sabres have laid out as they move from the league’s basement back to contender status.
I chose to go with youth, protecting Johan Larsson, Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste. Larsson impressed at the tail end of last season as a strong puck possession player and his two-way game is the hallmark of his skillset. He hasn’t settled into a spot on this year’s roster just yet, but I think he’s going to be valuable to the Sabres success long-term. I chose to protect Bailey and Baptiste over others like Marcus Foligno, Brian Gionta and Matt Moulson because of their age and ceiling. Gionta and Moulson both help to meet the 40 game requirement (as does Foligno) and both have contracts that could stand to be taken off the books. Additionally, Bailey and Baptiste have a lot more tread on their tires than others on the list of players I left unprotected.
Foligno, Gionta and Moulson are easily the three most surprising names fans will notice on my unprotected list. Foligno is still young and has terrific measurables. I’m not sold on him as a top-six forward and I’d argue that the Sabres have better options for third and fourth line roles than Foligno offers. As I noted above, these three tick the 40 game requirement and I’d be amazed if all three weren’t taken in the draft. However, if their presence helps to mask other unprotected players from Buffalo’s system, so be it.
Tim Murray has invested in the long-term outlook of the franchise and that was my primary focus in choosing the 15 players to protect for this draft.
The entire list of unprotected players that will be available for Team Lane and Team Pothier to select from can be found here.