It seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? The Vegas Golden Knights picked off players, one by one, and GM George McPhee fleeced general managers, one by one. McPhee lined up 10 side deals leading up to the Golden Knights expansion draft, and so many were lopsided.
So, so many.
In hindsight, most of those NHL trade market robberies look even better for the Golden Knights. Accept a first and second-round pick for a 40-goal scorer? Sure! Accept a second-rounder in exchange for the bravery to select one of the best goalies in the league? Golly gee, that’s a tough one!
Here we go–Honoring the five most lopsided deals that built the Vegas Golden Knights.
5. A 2nd rounder to select Marc-Andre Fleury
The Pittsburgh Penguins knew they had to shed one of their two goalies. Their crease and salary cap weren’t big enough for Matt Murray and Fleury. McPhee convinced former Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford that selecting Fleury wasn’t a sure thing.
Yes, really. And somehow did it with a straight face, we assume.
There was no one else close to Fleury’s value available on the list, and certainly not anyone on the Penguins list. But the Penguins and Rutherford paid the tax with a 2020 second-round pick.
With the pick, the Golden Knights selected goalie Drew Commesso, who just finished his sophomore season at Boston U.
4. Shea Theodore in exchange for selecting Clayton Stoner
A top-four defenseman in exchange for not raiding the Anaheim Ducks unprotected list of borderline NHL players. Yep, McPhee had to smile with that one, too.
Only two of the unprotected players on Anaheim’s list were actual NHL players, and it is a stretch to say either really impacted the Ducks. The two players available were Josh Manson and Jonathan Bernier. A steady but unspectacular defenseman and a backup goalie.
If you don’t believe us, here’s the Anaheim unprotected list–who would you have picked?
Spencer Abbott, Jared Boll, Sam Carrick, Patrick Eaves, Emerson Etem, Ryan Garbutt, Max Gortz, Nicolas Kerdiles, Andre Petersson, Logan Shaw, Nick Sorensen, Nate Thompson, Corey Tropp, Chris Wagner.
Nate Guenin, Korbinian Holzer, Josh Manson, Jaycob Megna, Jeff Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Sami Vatanen.
Jonathan Bernier, Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Faragher, Matt Hackett, Dustin Tokarski.
Shea Theodore acquired. Swing and miss there, Anaheim.
3. Jets traded down 11 spots and gave up a third-rounder, and McPhee selected Chris Thorburn.
That was a lot of maneuvering, and it cost Winnipeg a valuable center to keep one of these players: Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Scott Kosmachuk, Tomas Kubalik, J.C. Lipon, Shawn Matthias, Ryan Olsen, Anthony Peluso, Ben Chiarot, Toby Enstrom, Brenden Kichton, Julian Melchiori, Paul Postma, Brian Strait, Mark Stuart, Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec.
The player it cost Winnipeg was Nick Suzuki, who is showing to be a solid pivot, now for the Montreal Canadiens. We’re going to leave that part alone.
So, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff traded a first-round pick (13th overall) and third-round pick for Vegas to select Chris Thorburn and returned a lower first-round selection (24th overall).
Winnipeg selected a Finnish prospect, Kristian Vesalainen, who hasn’t yet become a mainstay in the NHL.
2. Columbus trades a #1, a #2, and David Clarkson’s LTIR salary. Vegas selects William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled to find scoring on the NHL trade market for a few years. Karlsson hit the desert running with 43 goals in the Golden Knights first season.
“Wild Bill” was one of the original Vegas Golden Misfits who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final, too. He’s been a solid scorer for the Golden Knights, which have become an annual Stanley Cup favorite.
Just remember, Columbus gave up two high picks for the privilege of losing Karlsson. Vegas spun the 24th overall pick to Winnipeg in the Thorburn deal and later traded away the second pick, too.
That was a pretty, pretty good trade.
Drum roll, please. And the number one, most terrible, lopsided, wow, deal to spring from the NHL trade market is:
1. Florida traded Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights to select Jonathan Marchessault.
It was like a BOGO sale at the NHL trade store.
Marchessault has scored 225 points (92-133-225) in 280 games for the Vegas Golden Knights, including three straight 20 goal seasons (27, 25, 22, respectively). This season, Marchessault scored 18 goals in the COVID shortened year.
Smith scored 192 points, including 82 goals in four seasons at T-Mobile Arena.
Whew, it’s a good thing Florida protected everyone else.