Keep up, Vegas Golden Knights fans. There are plenty more names you need to know ahead of the NHL Expansion Draft next month. Take a second and get caught up with the teams and players we’ve already covered. When you’re all caught up, let’s talk about the Arizona Coyotes.
Arizona finished just a point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks to stay out of the Pacific Division cellar this season. They’re doing a youth movement thing, common among teams that have not been to the playoffs in five years.
So I expect plenty of veteran players to be exposed. Likely they’re veteran players Vegas general manager George McPhee is disinterested in having on his inaugural roster. That said, if Coyotes GM John Chayka is concerned with losing an important piece of his rebuild, this may be a circumstance where the Golden Knights are able to obtain a draft pick by leaving a player untouched.
Either way, it’s an intriguing scenario. Vegas may not be picking up a franchise player with its Arizona selection, but the dance the Coyotes and Golden Knights do until protected lists are submitted on June 17 will be worth watching. Start educating yourself today. Here are four Coyotes Vegas fans should know.
Firstly, Teemu Pulkkinen is a good player. It would not surprise me if Arizona elected to use a protected spot on the 25-year-old fourth-round pick, if for no other reason than he comes on the cheap and the Coyotes can take a season to determine if he fits into their long-term plans.
That’s a decision that Detroit and Minnesota have already had to make. To this point, Pulkkinen’s impact on the NHL has not been particularly significant. He’s lit it up in the AHL, though. When the Wild sent him to Iowa last season, he used his 47 games to log 18 goals and 36 points en route to an All-Star Game appearance.
If his name is called in June, Pulkkinen may not move the radar among Golden Knights fans. He’d be a wise pickup for McPhee, though. Young enough to still fulfill expectations, cheap enough to not warrant buyer’s remorse if things don’t work out.
Jamie McGinn is older and pricier than Pulkkinen as an option for the Golden Knights at the forward position, but he’s also more of a proven commodity.
Nearly $7 million across the next two years will be the damage if this is a move that Vegas wants to make. Relocation won’t be a big deal for the 28-year-old. He appeared in 72 games for the Coyotes this season. Last year he split time between Anaheim and Buffalo. The year before he was with the Colorado Avalanche.
I suspect the potential upside of McGinn’s offensive productivity will not be enough for Vegas to absorb a contract like his. Additionally, the Golden Knights will have to consider the back issues that have followed McGinn throughout his career. He’s played despite them, but it’s fair for the Knights to have concerns as he nears 30.
For different reasons, Arizona would likely want to hold on to Pulkkinen, McGinn, and Peter Holland. Holding on to all three may present a challenge, though.
Holland’s a first-round pick who was unable to live up to expectations in Anaheim, then in Toronto. He didn’t see a lot of time on the ice with the Maple Leafs, thanks to a youth movement of their own, and was dealt to the Coyotes for a conditional draft pick last December.
Holland has good size at the center position, though it’s fair to criticize the way he uses his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. McPhee has said in the past that he want to fill his roster with physical players. If he thinks he can get a tougher version of Holland than we’ve seen to this point, he could make a nice addition to the Golden Knights.
I think Luke Schenn will end up being the Coyote who makes his way to Vegas.
Offensively, there’s not a lot to talk about with this blueliner. Defense is the only reason for Vegas to call Schenn’s name. While they’re certainly talented in different ways, the above names on this list are not going to add anything from the forward position that the Golden Knights cannot get elsewhere.
Schenn, on the other hand, brings size and physicality that I think will be harder to come across. Adding those attributes will cost Vegas just $1.25 million. If it works out, McPhee could get exactly the kind of leader he’s looking for on the inaugural Golden Knights blue line. A 4-4 expansion draft strategy from the Coyotes would mean Schenn is likely staying in Arizona. If seven forwards are retained, the Golden Knights should have the option to add Schenn and plenty of toughness in Vegas.
Las Vegas local covering Golden Knights hockey since 2016.
Ball State University ’05
Credentialed NBA writer covering the Phoenix Suns,
Credentialed NCAA football writer covering the UNLV Rebels