The Vegas Golden Knights are primed and ready to pluck unprotected prime players from NHL teams. The Carolina Hurricanes are one of those teams, and the consensus is that they will get plucked hard at the net before the expansion dust settles. Whether this will hurt the ‘Canes in the short-term or longer will remain to be seen. But, with the NHL’s Expansion Draft looming, the entire league is holding its breath in advance of finding out what players will be gone, and what players will stay with their current teams.
Cam Ward Exposed
The NHL released the protected and available lists on June 18. One player from each of the 30 teams’ available list will be up for grabs. For the Hurricanes, there is one player among those that are exposed that most feel has the greatest likelihood of being plucked. That player is goaltender, Cam Ward. Of the entire 19 on the list of unprotected Hurricanes, Ward appears to be the most tempting for the Golden Knights. At least ‘Canes fans are bracing for that possibility.
Marc-André Fleury Then Cam Ward
Marc-André Fleury has the most buzz surrounding the most likely pick for a Golden Knights goaltender.
— Las Vegas Sun (@LasVegasSun) June 21, 2017
Close behind in some camps is Ward. Both are previous winners of the Stanley Cup Finals, Ward in 2006 and Fleury, while being with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the past two seasons, was really the lead goaltender when they won in 2009. These Penguins are Matt Murray’s team, the rookie leading them to back-to-back Cups. Fleury played well this season, even shaking his “playoff jinx” reputation early in this season’s playoffs. But, in the end he was replaced by Murray and the rest is history. Still, Fleury is a three-time Cup winner and would be a great pick for the Golden Knights.
In an article today, Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press wrote,
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury seems like the most reliable pick on the board, a recognizable face of the franchise who can easily start 50-60 games and give the Golden Knights chances to win. Fleury waived his no-movement clause so the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t have to force another trade, and the 32-year-old can go back to being a clear No. 1 goalie.
Fleury may be history with the Penguins. The same can be said of Ward, who still enjoys the appreciation of Hurricanes fans for bringing a Cup to Raleigh.
Of course, there are other goalies that may appeal to the Golden Knights. For example, Whyno mentions Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, Detroit’s Petr Mrazek, Colorado’s Calvin Pickard or New York’s Antti Raanta. But, the expansion draft allows for three goalies, and Ward may be in the mix. On June 20, Jim Cerny wrote at sporting news.com,
Of the veterans, Fleury and Ward make the most sense for Vegas, though would the Golden Knights pass up a young, affordable defenseman like Brian Dumoulin, who likely will be made available by the Penguins, in order to select Fleury? At 33 and on an expiring contract, Ward would be a terrific mentor who could step in to play and take on a larger role if needed.
Cerny also touts the same names as Whyno, as possibilities, but the “mentor role” for Ward may make a lot of sense for the new team. Mike Harrington at buffalo news.com wrote Sunday, “The top names available to be selected by Vegas include Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Carolina goalie Cam Ward…”
Eddie Lack is also exposed on the Hurricanes’ roster. There has been little mention of him as a serious target for the Golden Knights. With a season that was complicated by two concussions and very little regular playing time, it does not make sense to think that he would be a target. Especially with all the other previously mentioned goaltenders as possibilities.
As we await the unveiling of the Golden Knights picks tonight, don’t be surprised if the Ward era for the Hurricanes is over. Certainly, there may be a surprise and neither Ward nor Lack gets plucked. Maybe the Golden Knights take Lee Stempniak or Joakim Nordstrom instead. but, the house money is currently on Fleury and Ward.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.