The Expansion Draft may be 284 days away but it’s time for GM Geroge McPhee and company to get to work. Well, they probably have been for a month and a half, but you get my point. With the World Cup about to officially begin (stupid fake games) let’s take a look at a few players Las Vegas could be scouting.
Jack Johnson: A high pick that never really panned out in LA or Columbus. He’s a 29-year-old, left-handed defenseman that averages 24 minutes of ice time. Johnson needs a change of scenery, or a big 2016-17 season. He’s owed $5 million a year for the next two and is a UFA at the end of Vegas’ first season in 2018. Unless they are looking for an expiring contract, Las Vegas would need a positive year from Johnson to feel good about selecting him. Hopefully, he’ll clean up his -16 plus/minus.
Justin Abdelkader: What is it with mediocre players with terrible contracts? Abdelkader’ deal is 7 year/$30 million and doesn’t run out until 2022-23 (we should have a Cup or two by then). The Red Wing isn’t a bad player, in fact he’s had back to back 40 point seasons. He’s 29 years-old, but he’s on the books for six more seasons. If the left wing continues to score 20 goals a season than possibly Las Vegas takes a chance on his $4.25 cap hit.
Jakob Silfverberg: I’ll tell you what, if the 25 year-old Swede is available he’ll be skating in Las Vegas. Silfverberg was on one of the NHL’s best shutdown lines in 2015. He’ll be a major part on special teams, as he is for Anaheim’s superb penalty killing unit. The Ducks will be forced to protect four defenseman, leaving them to make a decision on Rickard Rakell, Andrew Cogliano, or Silfverberg. The Swedish forward would be a steal if left unprotected.
Marcus Kruger: Another steal for Las Vegas if the 26 year-old Center is left unprotected by the Blackhawks. It’s really a numbers game in Chicago. No team wants to give up centers, but the Hawks have organizational depth so don’t worry about them. Kruger is a defensive forward that doesn’t light the lamp much, but his Corsi rating is pleasantly consistent. Team Sweden is very talented and could make the World Cup finals like they did in Sochi. Kruger’s two-way play could help the Blue & Yellow prevail.
Philipp Grubauer: The Caps have don’t even think about it, Braden Holtby is locked in for another four years. Which leaves the German Grubauer a chance at a starting gig in Las Vegas. He’s an RFA after next summer, but if Holtby’s backup gets selected McPhee could get a deal done on his terms. Grubauer will fight it out with Thomas Greiss, and Jaroslav Halak for the starting spot. After Halak’s performance yesterday, maybe Grubauer could start round one. By the way, the Islanders will have to make a decision next summer on who to protect Halak or Griess. Could be another option for Las Vegas.
Obviously there will be many more than these five World Cup players left unprotected, but these seem to me to be the most likely options to be heading to Vegas in June of next year. The World Cup is a fun showcase for the fans to start scouting players from their couches. If Las Vegas can pluck a few World Cup All-Stars than the team should be competitive in 2017.