Our recommendations on who to know for Vegas fans rolls on and we’ve reached a team that you can still watch if you have the means. Ottawa is up next, and the Golden Knights are sure to have some intriguing options to choose from.
Big, small, bank-breaker, bargain bin. The Senators have a little bit of everything and it’s served them well. They’ve been just dull enough to scorch their way into the Eastern Conference Finals.
But win or lose, the Sens are losing a piece next month. Catch what’s left of the playoffs, Vegas fans. You may have the opportunity to watch a future Golden Knight. Here are four Senators that Vegas fans should know.
If Senators forward Bobby Ryan is exposed, whether or not to add him to the inaugural Vegas roster may be the biggest decision that Golden Knights general manager George McPhee makes in the expansion draft.
The good is that Vegas will come across few players next month more established than Ryan. This season he took a step back on the stat sheet as he struggled through a variety of injuries. When he’s at full strength he’s a consistent 50-point a season scorer for Ottawa, and before that, Anaheim.
The bad is that if that’s an addition McPhee wants to make to his club, it’ll cost him. Ryan has five years remaining on a seven-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2014. Dollars that big could make it an easy decision for Senators GM Pierre Dorion to expose Ryan. Either he sheds a weighty contract, or he thinks McPhee is disinterested in such a financial commitment. In that scenario, he can expose Ryan and use a protected spot elsewhere. Vegas fans should watch him, though. If the signing of Vadim Shipachyov is any indicator, the Knights aren’t afraid to spend.
For the frugal general manager that’s unwilling to pull the trigger on a $35 million top line purchase, there’s Chris Wideman.
If his name is called next month at T-Mobile Arena, it’s not going to generate a lot of buzz among fans. That said, he has the potential to be a fantastic addition to head coach Gerard Gallant’s team, for all of the reasons we told you back in 2014. Bonus points for how he chooses to use his social media outlets.
On the ice, Wideman has impressed most of the year. Kindly forget his Game 5 effort against the New York Rangers on May 6, and he’s been an important piece to Ottawa’s postseason run as well. He’d probably bring the most value to the Golden Knights simply as a good teammate, though. That’s certainly a desirable quality for an expansion franchise, particularly in Sin City.
If McPhee decides he’d like a little more muscle on the VGK blue line, Senators defensemen Marc Methot may be the player that he’s looking for.
Methot is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, but criticism as to how he uses that size is fair. His physicality on the ice has left plenty to be desired at times throughout his career. It’s worth noting though that he’s picked up his physical play considerably during this playoff season, notably in Ottawa’s opening series against the Bruins.
As far as blueliners go, Methot would be a vastly different addition than Wideman. The latter is owed $800k for one more season. The former has two years left on his deal, totaling just under $10 million. Unless Vegas knows something we don’t, I don’t know that the difference in talent between Wideman and Methot is enough to justify such a wide gap in salary. I suspect that money gets spent elsewhere.
Jyrki Jokipakka has the honorable distinction of appearing on one of our earlier “Vegas Fans Should Know” articles. In late January, we identified Jokipakka as a player that may be relocating from Calgary to Las Vegas.
The unspoken possibility that always exists when predicting an expansion draft is that most players that could be lost for nothing will first be shopped around on the trade market. It would not have been a difficult decision for the Flames to expose Jokipakka. Either way, he was dealt for Curtis Lazar at the trade deadline.
The swap didn’t move the needle for either team. It was a deal that involved talented players that can’t seem to find their place in this league. And while it’s a longshot, that’s the reason McPhee may consider selecting Jokipakka. He elects to fill his more critical needs using other teams, and he sees some of the qualities we identified when he was a member of the Dallas Stars in 2015.
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