Now that the Cup has been awarded, the next item on the NHL calendar is the Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights head into this monumental event beginning on July 18th in a unique position, as the only team that will not participate. Being exempt from this draft placed Vegas in a great spot to either poach players off existing teams as they navigation their protection lists or strike a deal with Seattle once the players are selected by the Kraken.
The Golden Knights pulled off 15 trades before, during, and shortly after their Expansion Draft and it’s to be expected Seattle looks to do something similar. Here are five players that could be exposed who might make sense for the Golden Knights next season and beyond.
Mason Appleton, Winnipeg Jets
$900k (1 year)
Appleton is the type of player the Golden Knights are usually after. A right-handed center with a high hockey IQ, plays in all situations, and has shown some offensive upside to his game. He scored 12 goals in 56 games with the Jets this year and did it while being one of the teams more relied upon defensive centers. He’s under $1 million against the cap this season and will be an RFA when the 2021-22 season ends. The Golden Knights have been awesome finding gems hiding down the depth charts on other teams; William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Erik Haula, just to name a few. Mason Appleton could be the next one.
Chris Tierney, Ottawa Senators
$3.5m (1 year)
Recently I suggested the Golden Knights might be wise looking for a defensive option as opposed to more scoring. The idea would be to create a shutdown defensive line that could free up the top-six to do what they’re all paid to do, which is score. Tierney’s move to Ottawa hasn’t really worked out on the stat sheet (shocking), but his defensive usage numbers certainly make him an interesting candidate for VGK. He’s started almost 70% of his shifts in the defensive zone last year in Ottawa and playing under Pete DeBoer he was a 60% D-Zone start guy in San Jose in 2016-17. There’s history with the coach, he absolutely possesses the ability to score if playing with the right guys, and he’s accustomed to a defensive role. Vegas might have to bribe Ottawa or Seattle to eat a portion of that salary which could cost a nice asset but the player himself shouldn’t be too pricey on the trade market either pre or post Expansion Draft.
Jordan Greenway, Minnesota Wild
$2.1m (1 year)
You might remember Jordan Greenway from him dominating portions of games against the Golden Knights in the First Round. He and linemates, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno, were a handful for Vegas, especially in front of the goal. He’s a massive guy standing 6’6″ 230 pounds and one of his best skills is winning battles in front of the net. The Wild’s situation calls for them to be forced to protect both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise due to their NMCs which could make things sticky, much like they were in the Vegas Expansion Draft. The cap hit is manageable and he remains under control beyond just the one year as an RFA. It might cost about a 2nd round pick, but he’d be well worth it.
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs
$3.5m (2 years)
It’s no secret the Golden Knights could use some help at center. The same reason the Golden Knights are in the situation they are in now is that the Expansion Draft is not set up to be ripe with center talent. However, Kerfoot could be the odd-man out on that loaded Maple Leafs forward group. He was relied upon much more heavily for offense in Colorado and he produced, posting back-to-back 40-point seasons with 15 and 19 goals. The numbers have dipped a bit in Toronto, but that’s to be expected playing a bit further down the lineup. No, Kerfoot is not the elite #1 center everyone would love to see VGK add, but he’d certainly be an upgrade if added to the group VGK have right now.
Andreas Johnsson, New Jersey Devils
$3.4m (2 years)
Johnsson had a miserable year in New Jersey (shocking) and suddenly looks like he’s massively overpaid. Because of it, there’s a real chance he’s left unprotected by the Devils. This is a player who scored 20 goals just two seasons ago and finished 8th in Calder Trophy voting. He’s 26-years-old, can skate like the wind, and added excellent defensive value in his best year in Toronto. Put him on the same line as Alex Tuch or even with a couple of Misfits and he’s likely to return to being a 20+ goal guy. If he’s left exposed or if the Devils want to maneuver their way around the Expansion Draft before the 18th, Vegas should absolutely be in on Johnsson.