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Comparing Vegas To Seattle’s Expansion Draft Haul

Last night as the Seattle Kraken unveiled their roster there was certainly a feeling of familiarity to when Vegas was on the clock four years ago. Sprinkled amongst the occasional household name were a group of players most common NHL fans had never heard of. Loud cheers were heard for Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, and David Perron, just as they were for Mark Giordano, Jordan Eberle, and Yianni Gourde.

Looking back at the teams moments after the Expansion Draft there are certainly some similarities, but also a number of stark differences. Look, I made a chart to show them!

 VegasSeattle
Players Selected3030
Forwards1415
Defensemen1312
Goalies33
UFAs Signed13
UFAs Unsigned32
RFAs37
Salary Cap of Selections$54.214m$54.84m
Players Making More Than $2.5m710
Players Signed Longer Than 2 Seasons26
Trades100
Additional Picks Acquired80
Additional Players Acquired70
Post Expansion Trades5???
Players Signed Before Draft31
Players w/ 20 Goal Season in Career43
Players Younger Than 25611
Players Older Than 3082
6'3" or Taller710
5'11" or Shorter34
210 Pounds or Heavier114
175 Pounds or Lighter11
Canadian1819
American46
European85

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Why More Stars Are Available To Seattle Than Were To Vegas

The Expansion Draft is officially underway and boy oh boy do the Seattle Kraken have some decisions to make. From Carey Price to Vladamir Tarasenko to Mark Giordano to free agents Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Ovechkin, the number of star players available to the NHL’s newest team seems almost unbelievable.

Thinking back to the Golden Knights’ Expansion Draft, it didn’t feel like the same level of talent was available to Vegas. The Golden Knights did end up with Marc-Andre Fleury, David Perron, and James Neal, but those were three of the biggest names on the board and they took them all. Here’s a quick look back on who else was available to the Golden Knights and then an explanation as to why it is so different this time around.

Dustin Brown (LAK)

Brown came with a hefty contract that he’s still playing under right now. The AAV of $5.875m would have been the second most expensive player on the roster at the time and would remain the 6th highest now. There were rumors that the Kings were actually willing to pay the Golden Knights to take Brown and the salary. In the end, VGK passed on it and just took the best exposed player, Brayden McNabb.

Sami Vatanen (ANA)

Vatanen was coming off a season in which he was a huge piece of a Ducks team that made a run to the conference final. Vatanen carried a large $4.875m AAV cap hit but at the time appeared to be well worth the price of admission. Vegas certainly used Vatanen’s exposure to acquire Shea Theodore in an Expansion Draft trade.

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Vegas Golden Knights Offseason Primer

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unfortunately, as the Stanley Cup Final rolls on, the Golden Knights have officially begun the offseason. With the 2021 season running into July due to the late start, this is as jam-packed an offseason as we’ve ever seen in the NHL. Here’s a primer of what’s coming up, when, and where the Golden Knights stand.

Free Agency

Typically on July 1st, free agency opens this summer on July 28th at 9 AM Pacific Time.

The Golden Knights currently have 42 players under contract with 18 of them on the NHL roster. Here is a list of those players with the number of years left on their contract in parentheses.

*Restricted free agent upon expiry (VGK remain rights)

Forwards
NHL: Mark Stone (6), Max Pacioretty (2), William Karlsson (6), Jonathan Marchessault (3), Reilly Smith (1), Alex Tuch (5), Chandler Stephenson (3), Ryan Reaves (1), William Carrier (3), Nic Roy (1*), Keegan Kolesar (1*)
Minors: Jack Dugan (1*), Pavel Dorofeyev (2*), Cody Glass (1*), Peyton Krebs (3*), Mason Primeau (3*), Maxim Marushev (2*), Jonas Rondbjerg (1*), Marcus Kallionkieli (3*), Jake Leschyshyn (1*), Lucas Elvenes (1*), Ben Jones (1*), Paul Cotter (2*)

Defensemen
NHL: Alex Pietrangelo (6), Shea Theodore (4), Brayden McNabb (1), Nick Holden (1), Nic Hague (1*), Zach Whitecloud (1*)
Minors: Layton Ahac (3*), Peter Diliberatore (2*), Daniil Miromanov (1*), Connor Corcoran (2*), Lukas Cormier (3*), Zack Hayes (2*), Kaedan Korczak (3*), Brayden Pachal (1*), Jake Bischoff (1)

Goalies
NHL: Marc-Andre Fleury (1), Robin Lehner (4)
Minors: Jiri Patera (2*), Logan Thompson (1*), Dylan Ferguson (1*)

The Golden Knights have just one restricted free agent. That is Dylan Coghlan. Coghlan played 29 NHL games this past season which means he is not eligible for a larger qualifying offer. The Golden Knights may extend him a one-year, two-way offer worth $750,000. Coghlan does not have arbitration rights this year.

This leaves seven players who played NHL games for the Golden Knights as unrestricted free agents this summer. They are Tomas Nosek, Mattias Janmark, Dylan Sikura, Patrick Brown, Tomas Jurco, Alec Martinez, and Oscar Dansk. The Golden Knights hold each of these players’ rights until July 28th at which point they become free to sign with any team.

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Fleury To Former GM: “Get Me To Vegas”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This past offseason most Golden Knights fans thought the face of the franchise would be traded. Based on reports, it almost happened. However, that face, Marc-Andre Fleury, made it known publicly that he desired to stay in Las Vegas and hadn’t asked to be moved. Luckily for the Golden Knights front office, a deal never materialized.

The front office that gifted the Golden Knights with the future Hall of Famer knew long before, that Fleury wanted to resume his career in Las Vegas.

I knew he had lots, lots left in him. In Fleury’s case, when he knew that he was the odd man out he came and met with me and said ‘if there’s any way you can get me to Las Vegas, that’s where I’d like to go.’ So, I made sure I made that happen. I felt like I owed that to him. –Jim Rutherford, former Penguins GM w/ Cam & Strick podcast

Long before his name was called by The Creator in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Fleury was focused on becoming the starting goaltender for the Golden Knights.

After being drafted by Vegas, the 33-year-old, at the time, went on to have one of the best seasons of his career. After losing his starting position in Pittsburgh, the “I’ll show them” motivation factor was high for Fleury. Sort of like what’s happening this season.

I’m emotionally connected to guys that I win a championship with. The Marc-Andre Fleury trade was the hardest one for me, because I love the guy. He’s a special, very special person. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Minnesota was only Fleury’s fourth of the season. In those four losses, the goaltender allowed eight goals combined. He’s second in the league with a 2.04 GAA in losses, and number one overall with a 1.57 GAA. Win or lose, the numbers show that Fleury keeps his team in the game more than any other goalie in the NHL.

Of course, they’ll be no way to prove it but the handwriting was on the wall for the goaltender and the new franchise. Pittsburgh knew they had to move on, Fleury was aware and the Golden Knights were opportunistic. It was the perfect second marriage, and both parties were excited to form a union of misfits.

I make a lot of trades, I’m not going to get them all right. When I don’t get one right I’m not afraid to say it. I move on. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

It was set up to be a storybook ending for Fleury in Vegas, but questionable decisions seemed to derail that path, until now. He told Rutherford in 2017, and Golden Knights fans in 2020, the goaltender wanted to be in Vegas and didn’t want to leave Vegas. His performance this season is showing that.

Oh, and make no doubts about it, Fleury has a little motivation to prove them wrong. He didn’t need to but he does nightly.

McPhee Bobbles Another Russian, This Time In A Much Different Way

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In exchange for selecting Jason Garrison, and his exorbitant contract, in the Expansion Draft, the Golden Knights received a 2nd round pick (which they traded for Keegan Kolesar), a 4th round pick (which they selected Paul Cotter) and Nikita Gusev.

Three assets in exchange for not only taking a bad contract off the hands of a contending team, but also laying off players like Yanni Gourde, J.T. Brown, Andrej Sustr, Slater Koekkoek, and others.

It was a cross between the expansion situations with Columbus and the New York Islanders and that of Minnesota and Florida, but it most resembled the pickle Anaheim found itself in.

With the Ducks, Vegas received Shea Theodore for laying off Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson and picking up the bad contract of Clayton Stoner. Anaheim’s available options were better, but Garrison’s contract was much worse.

So, from Tampa Vegas got a pair of picks and an asset who was sitting over in Russia waiting for the time to come to make the leap to the NHL. No matter when that happened, he would become a Golden Knights.

If you go through every trade Vegas executed at the Expansion Draft, it’s reasonable to believe that Gusev’s value at the Expansion Draft was somewhere between a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick. The exact value depends on how badly Tampa needed to get rid of Garrison’s contract as well as how much they valued their exposed players.

Since that day, George McPhee and the Golden Knights tried to diminish Gusev’s market price, while the Russian has done nothing but raise it. Finally it came to a head yesterday when the Devils sent a measly package of a 2nd and a 3rd round pick to end the Gusev in Vegas saga.

When Vegas acquired Gusev, he had just finished a breakout season putting up 71 points in the 2016-17 season. It was the first time he scored more than 40 points in the KHL. On the international stage he had dominated the World Junior tournament years prior and put up impressive numbers at the World Cup but his track record as short.

Since, he’s won back-to-back KHL MVP’s, broke the record for assists in a season, won a Gold medal, dominated at the IIHF World Championships and cemented himself as the best player outside of the NHL. (Read more about that here.)

In other words, he went from a player who appeared to be headed in the right direction to one who burst into a full fledged superstar everywhere but the NHL. Whatever his stock was in June of 2017, it has surely risen dramatically since.

Then there are the Golden Knights who did the opposite. At every pass, they diminished his value.

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Expansion Draft 2020: Vegas’ Exemption Creating Anxiety And Drama For Other Clubs

In late June of 2020, Seattle, the 32nd franchise, will have the opportunity to pluck other teams talent at the Expansion Draft like the Golden Knights did on June 21st, 2017. George McPhee and his group masterfully duped 30 other NHL general managers, and whoever is at the helm in Seattle (maybe Kelly McCrimmon) will try to do the same. Okay maybe not all 30, but a good percentage of the league felt slighted, enough that those same general managers may just reach out to McPhee this time so it won’t happen again.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was on Montreal radio this week and brought up how teams are very concerned with next year’s expansion draft. Teams aren’t in the business of giving away good players… again.

It’s also created I think a bit of a unique situation… because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list and all of that jazz. I think they’re going to be a team that some clubs are going to look to as a safety valve in trying to navigate the waters around the Seattle expansion process. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Radio Montreal

LeBrun explained that the way McPhee and his staff maneuvered the expansion rules has teams running to protect themselves this time around. LeBrun used Nashville as a team that could find themselves in a protection problem and may be forced to expose one really talented defenseman. In the scenario, this is where McPhee gets a call.

It would behoove them to try and send them to Vegas for a first round pick or a top prospect. As opposed to losing them for nothing to Seattle. I don’t know at this juncture how the league feels about that kind of trade. -LeBrun

Another twist to the expansion process is the side drama from other clubs. LeBrun noted several general managers are upset Vegas is protected from the expansion draft and won’t be losing a player.

There are GM’s I think who felt that once Seattle’s start was delayed by a year, that Vegas should be subject to lose a player like everyone else. There are definitely GM’s grumbling behind the scenes. But as Bill Daly said because Vegas is not getting a piece of the pie from Seattle, they’re the only one not getting a check, then they’re not losing a player… so that’s created some tension for obvious reasons. -LeBrun

What makes GM’s mostly worried, with good reason, is that McPhee could take advantage of franchises with protection issues, or get a jump on adding players.

Because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list they’re more willing too add players during that particular time then any other team. -LeBrun

Bill Daly told league officials not too fret about Vegas abusing their exemption. Other teams want to be reassured that the Golden Knights wont be making unfair trades during that small window before the 2020 Expansion Draft. The league will be keeping an eye on Quick Draw McPhee.

Daly hears that Vegas can’t interfere with the Seattle expansion process. The league will pay close attention to the type of trades the involve Vegas around that… Bill Daly says he’ll know when he sees it as far as something that doesn’t pass the smell test. -LeBrun

One scenario that clearly makes sense for Seattle is hiring Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon. Obviously, as McPhee’s right-hand man he’s fully capable of handling the pressure and creativity of an expansion draft. However, if McPhee is whispering to 30 other compadres it’ll make McCrimmon’s job much tougher the second time around. Any other Seattle general manager would be at even more of a disadvantage.

All along we’re always under the assumption that Seattle will have a bit of a tougher time this time around. Teams are more familiar with the rules and the process, saw what happened with a couple of teams overreacting and overpaying on side deals with Vegas. -LeBrun

Teams like Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington gifted Vegas a core to win with immediately. I’m sure most teams would like a redo. Well, they’ll have their chance in the summer of 2020. With McPhee watching on with a bowl full of Crunch ‘n Munch.

George McPhee Expansion Draft Interview Transcripts

The other day I was asked to do an interview for an upcoming documentary on the Golden Knights magical season. It’s called Valiant and it’s supposed to be released by the Summer of this year, but more on that when it comes out. I knew I would be asked plenty of questions about the Expansion Draft, so I was going through some of my notes, reading some of the articles we published around the time, and trying to relive the entire thing so I’d be prepared.

Looking back, that whole week was a complete blur, and I’m assuming it was for everyone as the Golden Knights went from having Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, and Vadim Shipachyov to building an entire roster which would eventually go on to win the Western Conference all within about five days time.

While going through everything I found something interesting, transcripts from George McPhee’s press conferences during the three days of the Expansion Draft. If you don’t remember, teams submitted their protection lists, and then Vegas had 72 hours to submit its list of 30 selections to the league. The next day each of the 30 players were announced to a massive crowd at T-Mobile Arena and Marc-Andre Fleury, Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, and Deryk Engelland donned Vegas jerseys after being selected. Each morning during those 72 hours, McPhee met with the media to take questions and his answers were pretty amazing now that we have context.

It truly was a wild time and as always, time gives us perspective on things. The entire transcripts from those press conferences are below (plus a video of the Expansion Draft), but I wanted to highlight a few comments McPhee made during a time when everyone believed the Golden Knights would be among the worst teams in the league.

I think it’s going to be a pretty good team. We’re happy that, you know, we got a lot of defensemen, we got really good goaltending, we’ve got a lot of centers and we’ve got scoring on the wings. Should have good speed, so it’s going to be a good team. -McPhee on 6/20/17

Actually, I think we’ve done pretty well in all the positions. We have lots of defensemen lined up, we have lots of centers and we have scoring on the wings, a little more scoring than we anticipated. The goaltending is going to be pretty solid. It’s looking pretty good. It’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish and that is have a competitive club that people are going to enjoy watching play, and then having the draft picks to be able to draft our way to a contending team, a championship team. -McPhee on 6/20/17

Most mock drafts were full of players even fans of the teams they were being selected from had never heard of, yet McPhee was confident in speed, scoring, and goaltending. Not sure he ever thought he had just selected one of the fastest teams in the NHL, but the foresight is pretty cool.

Also, the plan was to draft the way to a championship team. Instead, they went to the Stanley Cup Final and have a chance to do so again, and not a single drafted player has stepped on the ice for the Golden Knights. Things changed quickly.

We’ve got all kinds of different screens that we’re working off of that were getting us different kinds of data that we needed. And just in terms of trying to put the team together, again, it’s not easy, because you’re trying to put all of these bodies together and you have to meet all these requirements, and again, as I mentioned yesterday, if you move one, if you make one change, it sort of changes the whole matrix. So, we just designated certain people in blue and I always use blue sort of as a ‘blue chip’ in ratings, and we usually have lots of different ratings. But, blue in this case was, this was probably a player that we’re claiming and keeping and don’t have interest in moving, and we used a different color for a player that we would claim and may have to move, just to allow us to see what the team sort of looks like as we’re making all the deals. -McPhee on 6/20/17

The mental image of that war room with names like Marchessault, Schmidt, Tuch, and Theodore highlighted in blue as “blue chip” guys is fascinating. We have a sense of which ones they got right based on long-term contracts, but it makes you wonder if there were any major misses among the blue chips. Griffin Reinhart? Oscar Lindberg? Brendan Leipsic? All were selected and kept following the Expansion Draft. Heck, Lindberg even signed a contract the next day.

Negotiating with GMs has been the same, but maybe the best way to put all of it on this whole experience, there’s just a glow about it. You know? It’s been such a positive experience for all of us that I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it can continue to go the same way. -McPhee on 6/18/17

Hopefully, those fingers are still crossed.

Click through for the full transcripts.

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Golden Knights Exempt From Seattle’s NHL Expansion Draft

Historically when new teams are added to the NHL, they are exempt from the next Expansion Draft. The same was expected to be the case for the Golden Knights when the NHL inevitably adds Seattle. However, earlier this year Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly left the door open for the owners to change their mind and force Vegas to give a player up to Seattle.

Luckily, today, Gary Bettman put a halt to that potential disaster and confirmed the Golden Knights are indeed exempt when Seattle comes into the league.

This is significant news for multiple reasons for the Golden Knights.

The first, and most obvious, reason is that Vegas will not lose a player in the Expansion Draft. Clearly, that’s a benefit as every other team will be subject to the same rules the Golden Knights had when they entered in 2017.

The next is because Expansion Drafts thin out the talent pool in the NHL. Rather than there being 713 NHL roster spots being available (31 teams of 23), there will suddenly become 736. Thus, it will be easier for players to make an NHL roster, meaning the talent at the bottom of rosters will be lesser than it is now. Every other team will have to replace a player with what used to be an AHL quality player. Vegas will not.

The final reason is that because the Golden Knights are exempt, The Creator will not get his cut of the $650 million expansion fee Seattle will pay to enter the league. This is a blow to the owner of the team, but knowing The Creator, he’d gladly give up $16+ million to ensure his hockey team has a better chance of winning.

No matter how you slice it, this is excellent news for the Golden Knights. Plus, we will all get to sit back and experience all the fun of an Expansion Draft, without fear of the repercussions that come with it.

Golden Knights Exempt From Next Expansion Draft… If It Happens Soon

The Creator better keep as close an eye on expansion as he is whatever is on the KnightTron in this picture. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Vegas Golden Knights are intimately familiar with the rules of the Expansion Draft and their relative favorability compared to those in the past. Thus, if anyone knows the importance of being spared from any future Expansion Drafts it’s George McPhee.

It was reported previously Vegas would be exempt from the next Expansion Draft, however, it now appears there’s a time limit on the exemption.

Actually our expansion agreement with Vegas doesn’t even account for the exemption. We feel having looked at it preliminarily that it is a fair result that they would not have to expose players for the next Expansion Draft, if there is one. I’m sure if it’s Seattle and this application is different than if it’s 10 years from now with some other market. That’s the extent at which we’ve looked at it, it’s not called for in the expansion agreement at all. -Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner

Reading between the lines the simple way to put it is, if the Seattle bid comes through, Vegas would be exempt, if it does not, they would not be.

The bad news in all of this is that there it is not expressly written that the Golden Knights are indeed exempt. Therefore, even though it appears this will not be the case, the NHL Board of Governor’s could choose to change their path and force Vegas to expose players like every other team.

It’s really not something to worry too much about with the puck set to drop on the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas in less than an hour, but it’s certainly something that could come in to play in a big way soon.

Being exempt would be a major benefit for the Golden Knights as not only would they get to keep their entire roster intact, but the league would dissipate even further. Vegas would automatically get stronger relative to the entire league. Also, McPhee would have the ability to be a workaround for some teams in the weeks and days leading up to the next Expansion Draft.

It only makes sense for Vegas to remain exempt, especially if the reports are true that The Creator would not receive a cut of the expansion fee. The league appears to agree, but only for now. Hopefully the next seven games don’t change that.

Expansion Draft Report Card – First Quarter Year 1

We’ve hit the quarter pole of the Golden Knights first season in franchise history. With it comes no better time to begin what’s going to become a staple here at SinBin.vegas, the Expansion Draft Report Card. There will be a total of three report cards each year until it becomes unnecessary. Preseason, post-deadline, post free agency. This serves as the preseason one for year one.

Each selection is graded based on value. Factors taken into consideration rank as follows: Play of player selected, impact on franchise currently, impact moving forward, and other options that were not taken.

So here we go…

Anaheim Ducks
Selection: Clayton Stoner
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Shea Theodore for Expansion Draft considerations**

One day I’ll earn McPhee an A. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Theodore remains the most talented defenseman on the roster and despite the early “number decision” stint in the AHL, he appears here to stay. He’s taken over the main defenseman spot on the power play and even tallied his first goal in a recent game. This guy should be a Golden Knight for a long time and his future looks incredibly bright. It’ll be an A+ if he turns out to be what we expect, but at this point, he’s still finding his place. The grade also has to take a bit of a knock because of all the other options from the Ducks. Oh, and Stoner is likely not going to play for the Golden Knights at all. Grade: B+

Arizona Coyotes
Selection: Teemu Pulkkinen

The hard-shooting winger couldn’t crack the team out of camp. He’s currently tearing up the AHL with the Wolves, but has yet to get the call back to Vegas. The options were thin from the Coyotes so it’s hard to give a terrible grade here, but it doesn’t seem as if Pulkkinen will ever fit with what Gerard Gallant is looking to do with his team. If he gets recalled at some point things may change, but at the moment, it appears to be a pick that won’t ever pay dividends for the Golden Knights. Grade: D

Boston Bruins
Selection: Colin Miller

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