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Just for Fun: Who Would Golden Knights Protect in Expansion Draft?

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Vegas Golden Knights, Brayden McNabb Marc-Andre Fleury, expansion draft, seattle kraken
Photo: Michael Miller, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Sure, the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from the coming expansion draft where the Seattle Kraken will pluck players from each team except the Golden Knights. Teams are scrambling on the NHL trade market to protect players, get assets for players who are likely to be lost, get under the salary cap or create more cap space.

It’s been a mad scramble in public.

It’s been even crazier behind closed doors. 

Even though GM Kelly McCrimmon will not have to sacrifice a player (a rule I’m sure rival GMs are regretting), just for fun, let’s project the Golden Knights situation if they were not exempt.

For those not paying attention because it doesn’t affect the Golden Knights, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft rules are the same as they were four years ago. A team may protect seven skaters, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie.

Using the PuckPedia.com expansion tool… Warning, we’re not going with a conventional layout. The Golden Knights have five forwards with no-movement clauses, which means they would be required to protect them or get permission to expose them.

That creates a problem. If we’re playing GM, it would be tempting to ask Reilly Smith to waive his NMC, and the prospect of protecting Brayden McNabb–thus using the eight skaters formula–was very tempting.

This isn’t as easy as you may think. The Golden Knights could have shocked everyone by exposing a few well-paid, big-name players.

Who would Vegas Golden Knights Protect?

Protected Forwards:

  1. Mark Stone
  2. Max Pacioretty
  3. William Karlsson
  4. Reilly Smith
  5. Jonathan Marchessault
  6. Alex Tuch
  7. Chandler Stephenson

Unprotected

  1. Ryan Reaves
  2. William Carrier
  3. Dylan Sikura
  4. Keegan Kolesar

Why: This is fairly straightforward. The Vegas Golden Knights’ top seven forwards are protected. Why giveaway a player when they could be a trade chip, instead. We waffled on the PuckPedia sim. Should we go seven, three, and one–or–eight and one?

The five NMCs were a factor in our decisions, as well as weighing Brayden McNabb’s value vs. the losses of exposing Stephenson, Smith, and Marchessault. That’s a big difference–only protect four forwards, and you lose a top-six player. Worse, if Smith or Marchessault refused to waive their NMC, then the Golden Knights would lose Alex Tuch.

No Bueno.

So, we played it safe out of necessity.

Protected Defensemen

  1. Alex Pietrangelo
  2. Shea Theodore
  3. Nicolas Hague

Unprotected:

  1. Brayden McNabb
  2. Nick Holden
  3. Carl Dahlstrom
  4. Zach Whitecloud

Why: Boy, this was the tough one. McNabb is a top-four defenseman. Even Whitecloud is a stout young defenseman. We opted for Hague because we project him to have the highest ceiling and top-four potential. The “Haguer Bomb” is a big defenseman with a big of offense and is just 22-years-old.

How do you sacrifice that potential?

McNabb would surely be plucked pending a side deal with Seattle GM Ron Francis. Perhaps McCrimmon could have dusted off George McPhee’s playbook and convinced Francis the team would leave McNabb exposed if Francis also took a salaried forward–say, Smith?–off their hands, too.

Last season, Hague scored 17 points (5-12-17) in 52 games. He’s also entering the final year of his ELC, which means he costs less than $800,000 per season, will be an RFA without arbitration rights. In other words, he’s Vegas property until they decide otherwise.

Whitecloud is another strong defender. With McNabb available, Whitecloud probably stays, but would Francis have picked the 24-year-old, 6-foot-2, 209-pound heavy defender? Last season he put 12 points on the sheet (2-10-12) and turned a few heads with his d-zone work.

Goalie:

This would fill another 1000 words, wouldn’t it? Since it’s just for fun, you tell us. Who do you protect? Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner?

One thing is probably true: if the Golden Knights were subject to the expansion draft, one of the goalies would have a new address by now. There aren’t two better goalies in the league.

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