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Three Years Later, Still Hard To Find Expansion Draft Mishaps

In 2000, both the Wild and Blue Jackets passed over Martin St. Louis. He went on to score 391 goals and put up over 1,000 points before being elected into the Hall of Fame. In 1993, Dominik Hasek was there for the Ducks and Panthers. He went on to win six Vezina trophies, two Hart trophies, two Stanley Cups, and become one of the best goalies ever before he was elected into the Hall.

In every Expansion Draft through the history of sports, there’s at least one. One big name that slipped through the cracks and would have changed everything for the new team that didn’t take him.

It’s been just over three years since the Golden Knights announced their expansion roster dealing with the best rules any expansion team had ever seen. They amassed tons of extra picks, selected multiple diamonds in the rough like William Karlsson and Nate Schmidt, and they even got themselves a superstar in Marc-Andre Fleury.

There were misses though. Ranked in order, here are the most influential misses from the 2017 Expansion Draft. (I ranked them in order from most to least influential.)

Colorado Avalanche
VGK Pick: Calvin Pickard (traded for Tobias Lindberg and 2018 6th Round pick which became Peter Diliberatore)
Exposed: Carl Soderberg

Since not being selected in the Expansion Draft, Soberberg has amassed 86 points in 159 games. Only four Golden Knights have reached at least 86 points in the two-year history of the team (Marchessault, Karlsson, Tuch). Soderberg also received Selke votes in 2018-19. The $4,750,000 cap hit would have been a bit tricky on the Golden Knights, but a player like Soderberg certainly seems exponentially more valuable than what Vegas got out of Pickard.

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Offseason Outlook: Defensemen

Through the course of the playoffs, the surprise unit for the Golden Knights were the defensemen. They completely shut down the Kings, they stifled the Sharks, and they bent but didn’t break against the Jets. Then, in the Stanley Cup Final, it kind of fell apart for the Vegas blueliners.

So, as we head into the offseason the burning question for George McPhee and the Golden Knights front office is whether or not they need to add to bolster their defense or of the missing piece is already on the roster.

Here’s a look at who the Golden Knights currently have under their control.

Nate looks like he’s become a star in the NHL. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Established and Signed
Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt

While this list contains 310 games played and three players who played all 20 playoff games, there are really only two fully reliable options as full-time starters moving into 2018-19. McNabb and Schmidt are expected to be stalwarts on the Golden Knights blue line this season and moving forward. They may not be paired together again next season, but they’ll certainly be in the top four.

Engelland is a bit of a mystery as he probably had the best season of his career at the age of 35. The question is can he continue playing at that consistent level as he heads into the final few seasons of his career.

Then there are Merrill and Hunt. Hunt is a player that’s bounced around the NHL and AHL and has never really gotten a full-time shot to prove himself. The reason for that is because he’s a bit of a liability defensively due to his size. He’ll have to play well in camp once again to make the roster, but even if he doesn’t, Hunt will be a good option in the event that a puck-moving defenseman becomes unavailable during the season. Merrill is a bit of a different story as he’s more of a defensive-minded player but has the ability to pinch in and help out offensively. The Golden Knights signed Merrill to an extension last season which indicates they believe in him, but it’s still not probable that he’s a 60+ game defenseman next season.

Established and under VGK control
Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

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SHEA THEODORE (D) HAS BEEN RECALLED FROM CHICAGO; GRIFFIN REINHART (D) CLEARS WAIVERS, REASSIGNED TO CHICAGO

It took a little while, but finally, the clown car that was the Golden Knights roster to start the season has sorted itself out enough to make room for what is probably the Golden Knights most talented defenseman, Shea Theodore.

The 22-year-old has been recalled from Chicago and will likely be in the lineup for the Golden Knights against the New York Islanders tonight.

Griffin Reinhart was placed on waivers on Sunday to make space for Theodore. Reinhart cleared and will stay in Chicago where he was previously on a conditioning stint.

JASON GARRISON (D) PLACED ON WAIVERS, GRIFFIN REINHART (D) REASSIGNED TO AHL ON CONDITIONING LOAN

The Golden Knights have made a pair of roster moves prior to this afternoon’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman Jason Garrison, who has been a healthy scratch for each of the last four games, was placed on waivers and will be reassigned to the AHL if he clears waivers.

Griffin Reinhart has been sent to the AHL on a “conditioning stint.” Basically, it’s a rule in the CBA which allows players who are consistently healthy scratches to be sent to the AHL to play in games. The stint can last for a maximum of 14 days and the player remains on the NHL active roster throughout the entire stint.

Therefore, the moves open up one roster spot for the Golden Knights. That will be used to bring Erik Haula off the IR after his knee injury sustained against the Detroit Red Wings on October 13th.

Teams will have 24 hours to place a claim on Jason Garrison. If one does, Garrison (and his $4.6M cap hit) will become a member of that team.

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Like a lot of things with the Golden Knights, too many guys playing well was not a concern we expected to be an issue. However, five games in, that’s the exact spot Geroge McPhee, Gerard Gallant, and the Golden Knights have found themselves in.

Hey everyone, look how great we’re all playing! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After leaving Vadim Shipachyov, Alex Tuch, and Shea Theodore off the opening day roster due to “numbers decisions,” Vegas started the season 3-0 using the same 20 players in all three games.

Then the injuries and a loss came. Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault were put on IR which freed up spots for Shipachyov and Tuch, and Gallant decided to mix up his healthy scratches following the loss as he inserted Brad Hunt and Jon Merrill for Jason Garrison and Brayden McNabb.

All four “new” players had a major impact on the game Sunday night, and it’s left Vegas with an abundance of players and not enough roster spots to keep them all.

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McPhee Must Make Multiple Tough Waiver Decisions By Tuesday

October 3rd is right around the corner. That’s the day NHL teams are required to cut their roster down to the 23-man squad that will begin the regular season. The Golden Knights now have 30 players remaining in camp who are eligible to make the final 23.

It’s not as simple as picking seven guys to send down to the minor leagues though. In the NHL, if you want to “re-assign” a player to the AHL, the player must go through a process called waivers. In short, every team has the option to buy the player’s contract off the Golden Knights and place them on their NHL roster. Unless… the player is waiver exempt, like Shea Theodore, Tomas Hyka, and Alex Tuch.

To this point, 91 players have been placed on waivers in the NHL, including Chris Casto, Paul Thompson, and T.J. Tynan of the Golden Knights. A total of 1 player was claimed (Jordan Nolan LA -> BUF). Over the past three years, more than 1,000 players were placed on waivers prior to the season, only 15 were claimed. It’s not terribly common, but it does happen.

Are Hyka and Tuch worth the risk to try and sneak Nosek through waivers? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So, who are the guys Vegas may have to consider trying to slip through the process? Starting with forwards, Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, Teemu Pulkkinen, and William Carrier are the four players who have 2-way contracts. Assuming the Golden Knights get James Neal back to start the year, which now seems probable, there are four spots available to go to those four players plus Hyka and Tuch. Send the waiver exempt players to the AHL and there’s no risk of losing anyone, but if George McPhee wants to keep Hyka and/or Tuch, he’ll have to roll the dice to try to get someone through.

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McPhee’s History Indicates Trade Could Come This Week

As the roster continues to thin out with at least five more players being cut (more on this later today), it’s time we start to look at what it’s going to take to put the finishing touches on the final roster the Golden Knights will take to Dallas.

We’ve known since the Expansion Draft ended that there must be a solution to the glut of defensemen in the system, and looking through George McPhee’s preseason roster transaction history, it appears the answer could come soon.

According to Sportstrac.com, the Washington Capitals have only claimed one player (Aaron Volpatti 2/28/13) off waivers in team history, including the 17 years McPhee was at the helm. So we can pretty much rule out a player being added that way. However, don’t mistake a man with an $800 haircut for being content with his roster. I’m guessing, but I’m telling you, it’s a sharp, maintained corporate cut. Sorry, back to hockey. McPhee may not claim players before the opener, but he’ll gladly make trades. 

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