From one extreme to the other.
Yesterday, I published a mock expansion draft that showed the potential of the Vegas Golden Knights selecting the best players available from every team without making any trades or side deals.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) June 18, 2017
Today, I’m taking a different approach and instead selecting the best contracts available from every team — with a few exceptions to ensure the Golden Knights reach the salary-cap floor of $55 million.
The actual Vegas roster, to be revealed on Wednesday, will probably wind up somewhere between these two extremes, and Golden Knights general manager George McPhee will certainly be wheeling and dealing in the meantime.
It is my belief that Vegas will be building a team more for the future than the present and thus today’s mock could be closer to reality. And, to make it as realistic as possible, I’m avoiding picking players who are rumoured to be staying with their current teams through side deals.
Without further ado, here is my sixth — and likely last — attempt at a mock expansion draft for the Golden Knights.
Ottawa Senators — Bobby Ryan ($7.25 million, five years remaining)
Montreal Canadiens — Alex Radulov (UFA, signed to five-year, $32.5-million contract, $6.5M cap hit)
Washington Capitals — Karl Alzner (UFA, signed to six-year, $34.5-million contract, $5.75M cap hit)
Pittsburgh Penguins — Marc-Andre Fleury ($5.75 million, two years remaining)
Buffalo Sabres — Zach Bogosian ($5.14 million, three years remaining)
Free Agent — Vadim Shipachyov ($4.5 million, two years remaining)
Philadelphia Flyers — Jordan Weal (UFA, signed to three-year, $9-million contract, $3M cap hit)
Carolina Hurricanes — Eddie Lack ($2.75 million, one year remaining)
Dallas Stars — Cody Eakin ($3.85 million, three years remaining)
Minnesota Wild — Matt Dumba ($2.55 million, one year remaining)
New York Islanders — Ryan Strome ($2.5 million, one year remaining)
San Jose Sharks — David Schlemko ($2.1 million, three years remaining)
Los Angeles Kings — Brayden McNabb ($1.7 million, one year remaining)
St. Louis Blues — Nail Yakupov (RFA, earned $2.5 million last season, signed to two-year, $3-million contract, $1.5M cap hit)
Arizona Coyotes — Alexander Burmistrov (RFA, earned $1.55 million last season, signed to two-year, $3-million contract, $1.5M cap hit)
Colorado Avalanche — Mikhail Grigorenko (RFA, earned $1.3 million last season, signed to two-year, $3-million contract, $1.5M cap hit)
New Jersey Devils — Jon Merrill ($1.14 million, one year remaining)
Toronto Maple Leafs — Kerby Rychel ($863,333, one year remaining)
Calgary Flames — Hunter Shinkaruk ($863,333, one year remaining)
Winnipeg Jets — Marko Dano ($850,000, one year remaining)
Vancouver Canucks — Reid Boucher (RFA, $715,000, signed to one-year, one-way contract worth $850,000)
Tampa Bay Lightning — Slater Koekkoek (RFA, earned $894,167 last season, signed to one-year, two-way contract worth $950,000 in NHL and $100,000 in AHL, guaranteed $250,000)
Edmonton Oilers — Griffin Reinhart (RFA, earned $863,333 last season, signed to one-year, two-way contract worth $950,000 in NHL and $100,000 in AHL, guaranteed $250,000)
Boston Bruins — Malcolm Subban (RFA, earned $863,333 last season, signed to one-year, two-way contract worth $950,000 in NHL and $100,000 in AHL)
Columbus Blue Jackets — William Karlsson ($1 million, one year remaining)
New York Rangers — Antti Raanta ($1 million, one year remaining)
Chicago Blackhawks — Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000, one year remaining)
Florida Panthers — Jonathan Marchessault ($750,000, one year remaining)
Anaheim Ducks — Nic Kerdiles ($650,000, one year remaining)
Nashville Predators — Colton Sissons ($625,000, two years remaining)
Detroit Red Wings — Ryan Sproul ($625,000, one year remaining)
TOTAL: 30 players at approximately $66.24 million/31 at $70.74 million counting Shipachyov
Anaheim Ducks — Chris Wagner/Logan Shaw/Nick Sorensen/Jaycob Megna
Arizona Coyotes — Louis Domingue/Kevin Connauton/Peter Holland
Boston Bruins — Colin Miller/Joe Morrow/Alex Khokhlachev/Jimmy Hayes
Buffalo Sabres — William Carrier/Linus Ullmark
Calgary Flames — Alex Chiasson/Emile Poirier/Tyler Wotherspoon/Brett Kulak
Carolina Hurricanes — Joakim Nordstrom/Connor Brickley/Klas Dahlbeck/Cam Ward
Chicago Blackhawks — Ville Pokka/Kyle Baun
Colorado Avalanche — Calvin Pickard/Mark Barberio
Columbus Blue Jackets — Sam Gagner/Matt Calvert/Anton Forsberg
Dallas Stars — Jamie Oleksiak/Curtis McKenzie/Mattias Backman/Ludwig Bystrom
Detroit Red Wings — Martin Frk/Tomas Nosek/Xavier Ouellet/Riley Sheahan
Edmonton Oilers — Jujhar Khaira/Laurent Brossoit/Tyler Pitlick
Florida Panthers — None
Los Angeles Kings — Trevor Lewis/Nick Shore/Nic Dowd/Jack Campbell
Minnesota Wild — Eric Staal/Gustav Olofsson/Christian Folin/Erik Haula
Montreal Canadiens — Charles Hudon/Jacob de la Rose/Brandon Davidson
Nashville Predators — Pontus Aberg/Austin Watson/Anthony Bitetto
New Jersey Devils — Beau Bennett/Stefan Noesen/Devante Smith-Pelly
New York Islanders — Brock Nelson/Josh Bailey/Calvin de Haan/Thomas Hickey/Shane Prince
New York Rangers — Oscar Lindberg/Michael Grabner/Jesper Fast
Ottawa Senators — Fredrik Claesson/Chris Wideman/Marc Methot
Philadelphia Flyers — Michal Neuvirth/Taylor Leier/Greg Carey
Pittsburgh Penguins — Bryan Rust/Josh Archibald/Derrick Pouliot
San Jose Sharks — Aaron Dell/Dylan DeMelo/Barclay Goodrow
St. Louis Blues — Dmitrij Jaskin/Ty Rattie/Magnus Paajarvi/Petteri Lindbohm/Jordan Bennington
Tampa Bay Lightning — Andrej Sustr/Jake Dotchin/Yanni Gourde/Cedric Paquette
Toronto Maple Leafs — Brendan Leipsic/Martin Marincin/Antoine Bibeau
Vancouver Canucks — Brendan Gaunce/Anton Rodin
Washington Capitals — Philipp Grubauer/Nate Schmidt/Brett Connolly
Winnipeg Jets — JC Lipon/Scott Kosmachuk/Ben Chiarot
Vegas Golden Knights Depth Chart
(Evgeny Dadonov/Ilya Kovalchuk/Thomas Vanek)-Vadim Shipachyov-Alex Radulov
Cody Eakin-Ryan Strome-Bobby Ryan
Jordan Weal-William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault
Mikhail Grigorenko-Alexander Burmistrov-Nail Yakupov
Kerby Rychel-Colton Sissons-RW
Reid Boucher-Marko Dano-RW
Nic Kerdiles/Hunter Shinkaruk-C-RW
Karl Alzner-Zach Bogosian
Brayden McNabb-Matt Dumba
David Schlemko-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Jon Merrill-Ryan Sproul
Griffin Reinhart/Slater Koekkoek-RD
I really like the look of that roster and feel as though this is my best (and most realistic) mock to date.
Obviously there is a hole to fill in the form of a top-line left winger. James Neal and Mike Cammalleri were available in the expansion draft, but I preferred Sissons and Merrill based on their contracts.
I did draft a lot of depth at left wing, so Gerard Gallant could experiment with any of Grigorenko, Yakupov, Rychel or Boucher alongside Shipachyov and Radulov.
However, as McPhee, I would look to sign a free agent this summer by trying to lure Dadonov out of Russia or, failing that, attempt to win the Vanek sweepstakes on July 1.
The 28-year-old Dadonov has been Shipachyov’s wingman in the KHL the past few seasons and is coming off a career-high 30-goal campaign for St. Petersburg SKA. Dadonov finished with 66 points in the regular season to Shipachyov’s 76, which included 50 assists. They continued to be a dynamic duo in the playoffs, with Shipachyov’s 20 points edging Dadonov’s 19 in leading their team to a league championship.
Shipachyov, 30, signed a two-year contract with a $4.5-million salary on May 4 and speculation was that Dadonov would soon follow him to Vegas, but that has yet to materialize. Perhaps money or term are holding up those negotiations, but the Golden Knights remain the frontrunner to sign Dadonov should he decide to cross the pond. A two-year, $8.5-million contract ($4.25M cap hit) sounds about right — slightly less than his set-up man.
Appears Vegas Golden Knights and Evgeni Dadonov have resumed contract talks and he is likely to end up playing in Vegas next season.
— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) June 19, 2017
Fellow KHL teammate Ilya Kovalchuk is also looking to return to the NHL, but he’s likely looking for Radulov-type money rather than Shipachyov’s salary. So, for the sake of this mock, Kovalchuk would be out of Vegas’ price range and put the Golden Knights over the salary cap.
In reality, Kovalchuk to Vegas has decent potential and he should be considered another candidate to become the Golden Knights’ top left winger. Kovalchuk is still property of the New Jersey Devils, but they have been fielding offers and trying to facilitate a sign-and-trade scenario that could be finalized on July 1.
Dadonov reportedly close to signing with Vegas…and SKA linemate Shipachyov. Who was the 3rd member of their SKA line? Kovalchuk. #Vegas
— Josh Rubin (@jprterp) June 19, 2017
If Dadonov’s deal doesn’t get done by then and Kovalchuk proves too rich for Vegas, then McPhee could turn his attention to Vanek and likely sign him — assuming that interest was mutual. At $4.25 million for Dadonov or Vanek, that would take the Golden Knights right to the cap ceiling based on my projected roster.
I would try to get Vanek on a one-year contract, so he could be flipped to a playoff contender at next year’s trade deadline — much like Detroit did this year in sending him to Florida. The Red Wings were able to ink Vanek for a bargain $2.6 million last summer, but he enjoyed something of a resurgence (15 goals and 38 points in 48 games with Detroit) before tailing off with the Panthers (two goals and 10 points in 20 games) as they missed the postseason.
There aren’t many free-agent left wingers this year, with the consolation prizes including Patrick Marleau, Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler and Chris Kunitz. So that weak crop might drive Vanek’s value north of $4 million. If Vegas was willing to offer more term — a two- or even three-year contract — Vanek would presumably sign for between $3.5 and $4 million. Either way, he’d be my primary target besides Dadonov (and Kovalchuk).
The Golden Knights would also be spending the next couple days, weeks or months shopping Lack and Raanta on the trade market. There wouldn’t be room for both of them on the roster, but either of them would make a fine backup for Fleury.
Raanta is seemingly the better of the two — certainly coming off a better season between them — and should command more in return. But he could also be a keeper for Vegas, with the preference being to flip Lack — perhaps back to Vancouver, where he had his most success, to pair with fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom. That return would be minimal, though, and Lack could rebound with a change of scenery from Carolina, so the Golden Knights may retain him instead.
That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Neuvirth and/or Grubauer among the Golden Knights’ goaltending selections since Vegas has hired their mentor from Washington.
Up front, I definitely foresee Vegas having some Russian flair and surrounding Shipachyov with at least a couple compatriots already playing in North America to help ease that transition on and off the ice.
Predicting two all-Russian forward lines — Dadonov/Kovalchuk-Shipachyov-Radulov and Grigorenko-Burmistrov-Yakupov — may seem farfetched, but I wouldn’t rule it out. McPhee likes his Russians — remember, he had Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Dmitry Orlov and Semyon Varlamov as key contributors in Washington — but Gallant might have mixed emotions about taking on that many.
However, the NHL is trending towards rolling four scoring lines and those Russians would certainly generate offensive chances and be entertaining to watch. They would put butts in the seats at T-Mobile Arena — which would also make owner Bill Foley a happy man — but Gallant’s concern would be from a defensive liability standpoint and putting too much pressure on Fleury to stand on his head as Vegas’ perceived starter.
All in all, I like the make-up of that roster and it’s a team that I’d pay to watch. In fact, I’m already planning a Vegas trip to hopefully see the Oilers battle the Golden Knights this coming season. That will be the first date circled on my holiday calendar once the NHL schedule is released next month.
In the meantime, we have the expansion draft to look forward to. If you wanted to check out my five previous attempts at drafting the Golden Knights’ roster, here are those links (note the publishing dates):
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.