Vegas plays long game at NHL expansion draft
The Vegas Golden Knights played the long game in constructing the base of their first very NHL roster.
Knights general manager George McPhee went heavy on defenders and short on high-end help in selecting 30 players at the first NHL expansion draft in 17 years. Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal were among the few high profile picks, which were revealed Wednesday evening during the NHL awards show in Las Vegas.
“Obviously, we’ve got great fans already, having sold out the season tickets and the reception we had tonight here,” Fleury said after he walked out on stage in a Golden Knights jersey. “I’ll give it everything I’ve got to win some games and try to get into the community to meet people and spread the word about the Golden Knights.”
Fleury was joined by the likes of Jonathan Marchessault, Marc Methot, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and former Edmonton Oilers winger David Perron.
After meeting with the Board of Governors earlier in the day, Knights chairman and CEO Bill Foley said he was already “very proud” of the roster assembled by McPhee.
“I believe we’ve put together a great team from the net out,” Foley said. “I believe fans are really going to like the team, and the trades and the draft picks and the prospects that we have. It’s not just a player per team. In many cases, it might have been two players a team. It might have been an upgraded draft pick plus a player, all kinds of different situations.”
McPhee opted not to pick the top unprotected player on many rosters and instead, landed his club extra draft picks, prospects and players. In one such example, Vegas did not select Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella or Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild and got in return prospect Alex Tuch and a conditional third round pick.
The Knights also scooped up second and fourth round selections and the rights to a prospect from Tampa, a sixth from Buffalo, a first and third from Winnipeg as well as a fourth rounder and former 20-goal-scorer Reilly Smith from Florida.
McPhee took advantage of wide-ranging reluctance among clubs to lose valued contributors, adding promising defenceman Shea Theodore from Anaheim and first and second round picks from Columbus.
Teams could protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender from exposure or eight skaters and a goalie. The Knights were allowed one player from each roster for a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders.
Fleury, who also netted Vegas a second round pick, will likely be the face of the first roster. The 32-year-old opted to waive his no-movement clause with the Penguins for the chance to become a starting netminder once more after Matt Murray stole his long-time No. 1 job in Pittsburgh.
Joining him in the crease for Vegas are two inexperienced types: Calvin Pickard and Jean-Francois Berube, the latter formerly of the Islanders.
Vegas landed a first rounder in 2017 and a second in 2019 from New York — all to likely keep the Knights from selecting one of Brock Nelson, Calvin de Haan, or perhaps Ryan Strome.