The Vegas Expansion Draft: One Year Later

Less than a year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were still a fuzzy picture with a front office and coaching staff in place but without a roster. That changed on June 21 when Vegas announced their Expansion Draft picks and the team came together. Now, with Vegas beating expectations and reaching the Stanley Cup Final in year one, it’s time to look back on the Expansion Draft and re-evaluate the picks they made.

A couple of notes: CapFriendly still has the Expansion Draft tool and this is where I found the protected lists. When grading the team’s decisions, I use a “C” grade as average and it took an impactful move, positive or negative, to sway from that grade.

Anaheim Ducks

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Clayton Stoner. They also received defenseman Shea Theodore in a trade that ensured they wouldn’t select Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson.

Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks, Expansion Draft
Clayton Stoner was Vegas’s pick from the Ducks but didn’t see playing time after Vegas placed him on Injured Reserve to start the season. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Jared Boll, Logan Shaw, and Chris Wagner

Player Performance

Clayton Stoner: Vegas placed Stoner on Injured Reserve in October and he never appeared in a game for the Golden Knights.

Shea Theodore: In eight AHL games, Theodore had five goals and 11 points before being called up to the NHL. In 61 games with the Knights, he had six goals and 29 points while averaging 20 minutes and 21 seconds of ice time. All were career highs for Theodore and his ice time was second-highest on the team.

Through 19 playoff games, he has three goals and nine points while averaging 21 minutes and 34 seconds of ice time.

Grades:

Vegas: A

In Theodore, the Golden Knights have a franchise blueliner alongside Nate Schmidt and Erik Brannstrom. At 22, he is young and will be a building block for years to come. Stoner didn’t contribute anything but also didn’t take anything away given the cap space Vegas had.

Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore
The Golden Knights acquired defenseman Shea Theodore from the Ducks to avoid losing their core NHL players. In Theodore, they have a franchise blueliner. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Anaheim: B

They were able to keep their NHL defense intact and traded Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for Kyle Palmieri. The Ducks were able to free up over $3 million in cap space by losing Stoner. They likely made the right decision in trading away Theodore since they were going to lose a talented young defenseman regardless.

Arizona Coyotes

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Teemu Pulkkinen

Others Exposed:

Jamie McGinn, Brad Richardson, Kevin Connauton, Louis Domingue and free agents Peter Holland and Alexander Burmistrov

Brad Richardson, Arizona Coyotes
Brad Richardson was a Coyote the Golden Knights passed on in the Expansion Draft, choosing Teemu Pulkkinen instead. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Player Performance

Pulkkinen didn’t reach the NHL this season but appeared in 75 AHL games with the Chicago Wolves, tying for the team lead with 29 goals and solely in front with 65 points.

Grades

Vegas: C

Vegas picked a speedy winger in Pulkkinen who has scored at every level but the NHL. At just 26, Pulkkinen could still develop into a regular NHL player. With a cap hit of less than $1 million, there was no risk in selecting him.

Arizona: C

Arizona was fine with Vegas selecting Pulkkinen. They didn’t have much talent exposed so they didn’t have to persuade the Golden Knights from selecting a particular player. They also didn’t have any bad contracts they needed to part with.

Boston Bruins

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Colin Miller

Vegas Golden Knights, Colin Miller, Expansion Draft
The Golden Knights selected defenseman Colin Miller from the Bruins, setting career highs with Vegas. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Adam McQuaid, Anton Khudobin, and free agents Drew Stafford and Malcolm Subban

Player Performance

In 82 regular season games, Miller scored 10 goals and 41 points, including 17 points on the power play, while averaging 19 minutes and 21 seconds per game, all career highs. He played with Brad Hunt and Jon Merrill during the regular season and with Merrill and Luca Sbisa in the postseason. In 19 postseason games, he has three goals and six points.

Grades:

Vegas: B+

Miller was lost in the shuffle on Boston’s blue line, playing no more than 61 games in either of his two seasons as a Bruin. He was relegated to the third pair and averaged less than 16 minutes per game. Vegas did a great job at taking Miller over other exposed Bruins and later claimed Subban off waivers. In the 25-year-old Miller, they have a booming shot from the point and a player who can anchor the power play for years to come.

Boston: B

The Bruins had a luxury that many teams didn’t. They were able to part with Miller, who would have been protected by other teams, and not lose a step. Their defensive depth with Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk made it easy to lose Miller. They were also able to keep their forwards, a key for Boston.

Buffalo Sabres

Vegas Golden Knights, William Carrier, Expansion Draft
Vegas selected forward William Carrier from the Sabres in the Expansion Draft. While he hasn’t had a large impact on the scoresheet, his tenacity on the forecheck has been great. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Player(s) Selected:

Forward William Carrier

Others Exposed:

Matt Moulson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Justin Falk, Linus Ullmark, and free agent Dimitry Kulikov

Player Performance

Carrier played 37 regular season games with the Golden Knights and had one goal and three points. As a speedy and hard-hitting fourth-liner, Carrier also contributed 113 hits. In nine playoff games, he was pointless but had 52 hits.

Grades:

Vegas: C

Buffalo had little to offer the Golden Knights. Vegas either had to go with a free agent, take on a bad contract, or select Carrier. One alternative was goaltender Ullmark who had a .935 save percentage (SV%) in three starts for the Sabres. In Carrier, Vegas got a gritty bottom-six forward who is strong on the forecheck. He was a role player in helping the team get through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres, Expansion Draft
Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark was the only other exposed player worth selecting from Buffalo. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo: C+

Somehow Buffalo didn’t lose Ullmark, who should be the Sabres’ starter next season. Losing him would have been problematic given how well he performed in 2017-18. Carrier wasn’t a big loss and his absence wasn’t the reason they finished in the league’s basement.

Calgary Flames

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Deryk Engelland

Others Exposed:

Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Hunter Shinkaruk, Matt Bartkowski, and free agent Michael Stone

Player Performance

In 79 regular season games, Engelland had five goals and 23 points and averaged 20 minutes and 17 seconds of ice time per game, all career highs. In 19 playoff games, he has two assists.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland
Vegas selected defenseman Deryk Engelland from the Flames and he immediately became a leader and key piece of their blue line. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Golden Knights were always going to take Engelland, who calls Las Vegas his home in the offseason. Selecting him was the second-least surprising pick after Marc-Andre Fleury. Engelland has fit in well as a veteran mentor and leader on the team.

On the ice, he has also been good with the best production of his career while reducing the number of penalties that have plagued him in the past. The Calgary Flames also didn’t have many intriguing options so it’s not like they passed on a better player for Engelland.

Calgary: C

The Flames didn’t have to do anything to get Vegas to take Engelland and they didn’t lose a roster player from this year’s team as he was a free agent. It would have been nice if they were able to part with Brouwer’s contract but giving up a first-round pick or top prospect wouldn’t have been worth it.

Carolina Hurricanes

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Connor Brickley

Others Exposed:

Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom, Klas Dahlbeck, Cam Ward, and Eddie Lack

Player Performance

Connor Brickley, Florida Panthers, Expansion Draft
Vegas selected forward Connor Brickley from the Hurricanes. However, as a free agent, the Golden Knights didn’t sign him and he later signed with the Florida Panthers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brickley, who was a free agent at the time of the Expansion Draft, went unsigned until the Florida Panthers picked him up. In 44 games with the Panthers, he had four goals and 12 points.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Hurricanes traded a 2017 fifth-round pick to Vegas to ensure the Golden Knights wouldn’t select Stempniak, Nordstrom, Lack, or Ward. Not certain if that would have been necessary for anyone but Nordstrom, but Vegas received a draft pick they can use. With no interest in the remaining players, they picked Brickley who needed a new contract.

Carolina: C-

The Hurricanes traded a draft pick to protect players that may have been no interest to the Knights. Even if Vegas was interested, they should have just let that player be selected rather than give up an asset.

Chicago Blackhawks

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk

Others Exposed:

Marcus Kruger, Jordin Tootoo and free agent Johnny Oduya.

Player Performance

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Carolina Hurricanes, Expansion Draft
Vegas’s pick from the Blackhawks, Trevor van Riemsdyk never played for the Golden Knights. Instead, they dealt him to the Hurricanes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Van Riemsdyk was traded to the Hurricanes along with a 2018 seventh-round pick for a 2017 second-round pick. With that pick, originally belonging to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas selected center Jake Leschyshyn of the Regina Pats. With Carolina, van Riemsdyk and three goals and 16 points in 79 games.

Grades:

Vegas: B-

While van Riemsdyk never played for the Golden Knights, he yielded them a second-round pick, a solid return given what they received for other defensemen they flipped. Picking van Riemsdyk was a better option than taking on the bad Kruger contract.

Chicago: C-

The Blackhawks should have done more to protect van Riemsdyk. After the Expansion Draft, they dealt Kruger to Vegas and Chicago should have pushed for that trade at the draft. Van Riemsdyk would have been a valuable piece on Chicago’s blue line this season as they lacked defensive depth.

Colorado Avalanche

Player(s) Selected:

Goaltender Calvin Pickard

Others Exposed:

Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, Mark Barberio, and free agents Duncan Siemens and Mikhail Grigorenko

Mikhail Grigorenko, Colorado Avalanche, Expansion Draft
With names like Mikhail Grigorenko (above), Duncan Siemens, and Mark Barberio, the Avalanche didn’t offer much in the Expansion Draft. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Player Performance

Pickard was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in early October for forward Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 sixth-round pick. With Toronto, Pickard played in 33 AHL games with a 21-9-2 record, a .918 SV%, and 2.31 goals against average (GAA). After the deal, Vegas sent Lindberg to the AHL where he played in 64 games and scored 10 goals and 23 points.

Grades:

Vegas: C

Pickard was an unnecessary pick for Vegas. They took three goalies in the Expansion Draft and parted with two of them before the season. They were able to get a decent return for Pickard from the Leafs as Lindberg will be 23 when next season starts and could develop into a bottom-six forward for Vegas in the future. However, the Avalanche didn’t leave much exposed so dealing Pickard may have been the best scenario.

Colorado: C

The Avalanche lost a backup netminder but ended up signing Jonathan Bernier to serve that role. They also didn’t have to give up any assets to protect players and didn’t lose any members of their core.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Player(s) Selected:

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Vegas bet on William Karlsson and their investment yielded a great reward as he developed into their top center and finished third in the league in goals. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Forward William Karlsson. They also acquired two draft picks and David Clarkson’s contract in exchange for not selecting Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo, Jack Johnson, or David Savard.

Others Exposed:

Matt Calvert and free agent Oscar Dansk

Player Performance

Karlsson became Vegas’s first line center and scored 43 goals and 78 points, both career highs, and became the league’s biggest surprise. At five-on-five, the Golden Knights controlled 69.1 percent of goals with Karlsson on the ice. In 19 playoff games, he has seven goals and 15 points.

Grades:

Vegas: A+

Vegas’s scouting department did its greatest work in scouting Karlsson. Prior to this season, he had 18 career goals in three seasons. Vegas saw something in his game, either in the NHL or in helping Sweden win the 2017 IIHF World Championships, and he excelled with increased playing time. Not only did they get their number one center but they also got a first round pick that they ultimately used on Nick Suzuki.

Columbus: C-

While it’s unfair to rip apart the Blue Jackets, if any team knew Karlsson’s potential it should have been them. His scoring prowess would have helped them in the regular season and playoffs. That being said, no one could have predicted his breakout. What makes Columbus’s Expansion Draft worse is that they traded two picks to get rid of Clarkson’s deal but also to protect some average players.

Dallas Stars

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Cody Eakin.

Cody Eakin, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Cody Eakin provides depth scoring and plays multiple roles for the Golden Knights after they took him from Dallas in the Expansion Draft. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Others Exposed:

Curtis McKenzie, Adam Cracknell, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, and free agents Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth.

Player Performance

Eakin has performed well as Vegas’s third line center and scored 11 goals and 27 points in 80 regular season games. He was also strong on the faceoff dot, winning 52.1 percent of draws. In 19 playoff games, he has three goals and one assist.

Grades:

Vegas: B

The Golden Knights did a great job staying away from Dallas’s goaltenders with the goal of flipping one of them. They were also smart to avoid the Stars’ skaters. In Eakin, Vegas has a bottom-six center who kills penalties, stays healthy, and as a three-time 15 goal scorer brings offensive depth.

Dallas: B

The Stars had too many centers last offseason after Radek Faksa emerged as one of the game’s best, making Eakin expendable. They freed themselves of his $3.85 million cap hit, which allowed them to sign Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov. The only thing that would have made their Expansion Draft better was if they had convinced Vegas to take Lehtonen or Niemi.

Detroit Red Wings

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Tomas Nosek

Tomas Nosek, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, former Red Wing Tomas Nosek scored two goals, including the game-winner. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Others Exposed:

Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Petr Mrazek, and free agent Xavier Ouellet.

Player Performance

With Vegas, Nosek has been a fourth-liner and posted seven goals and 15 points in 67 regular season games, both career-bests. A solid penalty-killer, he scored one goal and one assist while shorthanded. In the postseason, he has four goals and two assists in 16 games.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Golden Knights were smart to avoid Detroit’s expensive contracts like Helm, Kronwall, and Ericsson. Nosek has developed into a solid depth forward who is tenacious on the forecheck while reliable in his own zone.

Detroit: C

The Red Wings didn’t lose anyone of great value in Nosek but ideally would have parted with one of their large cap hits.

Edmonton Oilers

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Griffin Reinhart

Others Exposed:

Benoit Pouliot, Jujhar Khaira, Iiro Pakarinen, Mark Fayne, Laurent Brossoit, and free agents Kris Russell, Eric Gryba, and Jordan Oesterle.

Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers, Expansion Draft
Forward Jujhar Khaira would have been a better Expansion Draft selection from the Oilers. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Player Performance

Vegas signed Reinhart, a restricted free agent (RFA), to a two-year, $1.6 million deal after the Expansion Draft. He spent all of 2017-18 in the AHL and had two goals and 12 points in 60 games.

Grades:

Vegas: C-

This pick was basically a throwaway for Vegas as Reinhart didn’t play in the NHL this season. Khaira with 11 goals and 21 points in 69 NHL games or defenseman Oesterle with five goals and 15 points in 55 games with the Blackhawks were better options.

Edmonton: C+

Did well to not lose Khaira or Pakarinen, both appeared in at least 40 games with the Oilers this season.

Florida Panthers

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Jonathan Marchessault. The Panthers also dealt winger Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights for a 2018 fourth-round pick.

Vegas Golden Knights, Jonathan Marchessault, Expansion Draft
Jonathan Marchessault was Vegas’s selection from the Panthers and he fit in immediately on the top line and scored 27 goals and 75 points. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Others Exposed:

Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, Colton Sceviour, Jason Demers, Roberto Luongo, and free agents Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek.

Player Performance

In 77 regular season games, Marchessault netted 27 goals and posted a career-high 75 points and Vegas controlled 63.4 percent of five-on-five goals with him on the ice. In 19 postseason games, he has eight goals and 20 points, tying or leading the team in both.

Smith had 22 goals and a career-high 60 points in 67 regular season games and played just under two shorthanded minutes per game. In 19 playoff games, he has four goals and 20 points.

Grades:

Vegas: A+

Head coach Gerard Gallant had experience coaching both players and put them on a line with Karlsson. Both have been great and accounted for 19 percent of Vegas’s points in 2017-18. While Marchessault is a prominent playmaker, Smith is a great two-way forward who plays in all situations. With Smith signed through 2021-22 and Marchessault through 2023-24, Vegas has two-thirds of its top line signed for a combined $10 million cap hit.

Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Reilly Smith (right) was the second player Vegas received from Florida but did not arrive via the Expansion Draft. Rather, the Panthers wanted to part with his salary and received just a fourth-round pick for the former 25-goal scorer. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Florida: F

While Columbus may not have known Karlsson’s potential, the Panthers knew what they were giving up in Marchessault and Smith. Marchessault scored 30 goals last year and Smith had 25 two seasons ago. They gave Vegas two-thirds of a top line and their presence would have propelled Florida into the postseason. Even though dealing Smith was a salary dump, losing both players set the Panthers back.

Los Angeles Kings

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Brayden McNabb

Others Exposed:

Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Nic Dowd, Nick Shore, and Jeff Zatkoff

Player Performance

Brayden McNabb, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Defenseman Brayden McNabb has performed well on the top line for the Golden Knights and set a career-high in goals with five. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

In 76 regular season games, McNabb scored a career-high five goals and posted 15 points while averaging just over 20 minutes per game. In 19 postseason games, he has two goals and three assists, including the series-winning goal in the opening round against the LA Kings.

Grades:

Vegas: B+

McNabb was a questionable selection. He had seven goals and 50 points for his career entering 2017-18 and was a second or third-pair blueliner. What Vegas got was a defenseman who, with Nate Schmidt, formed their first pair and thrived, controlling over 58 percent of five-on-five goals. Vegas was smart to avoid the contracts of Brown or Gaborik and added defensive depth with McNabb. They also did well when they signed him to a four-year, $10 million extension mid-season.

Los Angeles: B

If the Kings were graded immediately after the Expansion Draft, their grade would have been worse. They failed to part with Brown and Gaborik, both with cap hits north of $4.8 million, and lost a serviceable defenseman. But, Brown had a rebound season and finished second on the team in points and the Kings included Gaborik in the trade to acquire Dion Phaneuf.

Minnesota Wild

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Erik Haula. Vegas also acquired forward Alex Tuch to not take Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, and Eric Staal in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick.

Vegas Golden Knights, Alex Tuch, Expansion Draft
Alex Tuch was the prized piece Vegas received from the Wild. In his first full NHL season, he had 15 goals and 37 points. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Chris Stewart and Alex Stalock and free agents Martin Hanzal and Darcy Kuemper.

Player Performance

A former first-round pick, Tuch began the season in the AHL and had five points in three games. After his call-up, he scored 15 goals and 37 points in 78 regular season games in his first full season. He has six goals and nine points in 19 postseason games jumping between the second and third lines.

Without a contract, Vegas signed Haula to a three-year, $8.75 million deal before the season began. In 76 regular season games, he had 29 goals and 55 points, both career-highs, while centering the second line. In 19 playoff games, he has three goals and nine points.

Vegas Golden Knights, Erik Haula, Expansion Draft
Erik Haula thrived in his first season with the Golden Knights, centering the second line and playing more minutes than at any point in his career. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Grades:

Vegas: A-

Haula appeared to be an uneventful pick as his previous career-highs were 15 goals and 34 points. Tuch was to be the major prize from the Wild and it turned out that both have been pivotal for the Golden Knights. The only other players worth taking from Minnesota would have been Staal or Dumba.

Minnesota: B-

The Wild gave up a lot to protect Staal, Dumba, and Scandella, but it was a worthwhile price to pay. Staal scored 42 goals this season and Dumba stepped up with Ryan Suter’s injury. Considering the Wild are a win-now team, it made sense to give up Tuch and Haula to protect present key contributors.

Montreal Canadiens

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Alexei Emelin

Others Exposed:

Tomas Plekanec, Torrey Mitchell, Charles Hudon, Chris Terry, Brandon Davidson, Al Montoya, and free agent Andrei Markov.

Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens, Expansion Draft
Charles Hudon was left exposed by the Canadiens but Vegas took Alexei Emelin instead. Getting little return for Emelin in a trade, selecting Hudon would have been the better option. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Player Performance

The Golden Knights traded Emelin to the Nashville Predators and received a 2019 third-round pick in return. With the Predators, Emelin had one goal and nine points in 76 regular season games.

Grades:

Vegas: D

Emelin was part of the surplus of defensemen Vegas selected with the goal of flipping them. They received little value in Emelin, making this selection a bust given the other talent available from the Canadiens. A better option would have been Hudon who had 10 goals and 30 points in his first full season. Given how other young forwards excelled for the Golden Knights this season, there’s no reason to think Hudon wouldn’t have done the same.

Montreal: B+

The Canadiens didn’t make any side deals to protect players and could have lost the 23-year-old Hudon, a potential key piece of the roster. Vegas banked on getting value for Emelin and that trumped choosing the more talented player. Instead, Montreal parted with a costly contract and got to keep important pieces.

Nashville Predators

Player(s) Selected:

Forward James Neal

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Others Exposed:

Craig Smith, Cody McLeod, Colton Sissons, Mikko Salomaki, Anthony Bitetto, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, and free agents Pontus Aberg, Austin Watson, and Brad Hunt.

Player Performance

With Vegas, Neal had 25 goals and 44 points in 71 regular season games. It marked the fifth time in his career he reached the 25 goal mark. In 19 postseason games, he has five goals and 11 points.

Grades:

Vegas: C-

Vegas took Neal with the intention of trading him at the deadline to get future assets. But, the Golden Knights ended up being a good team and Neal was a key part of that, so they kept him. Don’t get me wrong, he was good but given the talent Nashville left exposed, they made the wrong choice.

Smith matched Neal’s 25 goals and bested him in points, Sissons set career-highs in goals and points, and Watson was electric in the postseason. All three are also younger and under team control longer than Neal.

Nashville: B

The Predators were going to lose a key piece, it was just a matter of who. They couldn’t protect everyone, even by giving up a high draft pick, so losing Neal was the easiest to part with. Most importantly, they were able to keep Jarnkrok and their entire defense intact.

New Jersey Devils

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Jon Merrill

Jon Merrill, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Jon Merrill has performed well in a relief role for the Golden Knights and filled in admirably in Luca Sbisa’s absence. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Others Exposed:

Mike Cammalleri, Devante Smith-Pelly, Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout and free agent Keith Kinkaid.

Player Performance

In 34 regular season games, Merrill had one goal and three points while playing well on a pair with Miller while Luca Sbisa was injured. In eight playoff games, he had no points.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Devils didn’t leave much exposed so Vegas didn’t have much to choose from. However, with six goals and 36 points in his career, it was evident what they were getting in Merrill. The only other players worth considering were Smith-Pelly and Kinkaid. Although selecting Merrill was questionable, extending him for two years during the season didn’t make sense.

New Jersey: B

The Devils did well not leaving much exposed and were lucky to hold onto Kinkaid, who played well and was a reason they reached the postseason for the first time since 2012.

New York Islanders

Player(s) Selected:

Goaltender Jean-François Bérubé. They also received forward Mikhail Grabovski, defense prospect Jake Bischoff, a 2017 first-rounder, and a 2019 second-round pick in exchange for not taking Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, or Calvin De Haan.

Erik Brannstrom, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Erik Brännström was the player Vegas selected with the pick they received from the Islanders. (Photo: Johan Freijd, HV71).

Others Exposed:

Nikolai Kulemin, Cal Clutterbuck, Alan Quine, Jason Chimera, Shane Prince, Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg, and Jaroslav Halák.

Player Performance

Bérubé, an RFA, went unsigned by Vegas and signed with the Blackhawks, splitting time between the NHL and their AHL club. With the Blackhawks, he had a 3-6-1 record, a .894 SV % and a 3.78 GAA. In 15 AHL games, he had a .920 SV% and a 2.37 GAA with a 7-8-0 record.

Grabovski, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, missed all of the past two seasons with lingering concussion symptoms. Bischoff spent all of the 2017-18 season playing for Vegas’s AHL team and posted seven goals and 23 points in 69 games.

Grades:

Vegas: B

While the Golden Knights didn’t receive an active NHL player from the Islanders, they got a pick used on defenseman Erik Brännström, who performed well as an 18-year-old in the SHL, and Bischoff, who just finished his first AHL season. Even Grabovski’s contract wasn’t a big deal because it expires this summer.

NY Islanders: C

The Islanders were smart to part with Grabovski’s contract yet they didn’t spend to the cap ceiling. They also gave up a lot to lose his contract and there were numerous defensemen with upside near the pick they gave up which would have filled a need. However, they needed to ensure their key forwards weren’t selected, which they did.

New York Rangers

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Oscar Lindberg

Vegas Golden Knights, Oscar Lindberg, Expansion Draft
The Golden Knights took Oscar Lindberg from the Rangers while they should have taken Michael Grabner. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Michael Grabner, Antti Raanta, and free agents Jesper Fast and Brendan Smith.

Player Performance

In 63 regular season games, Lindberg had nine goals and 11 points while playing a bottom-six role. In three playoff games, Lindberg has one assist.

Grades:

Vegas: D

Lindberg is a good role player for the Knights but has limited upside. They should have taken Grabner and his 27 goals, 25 at even strength. His speed would have helped the fast pace at which Vegas plays.

NY Rangers: B

The Rangers didn’t lose Grabner and traded him to the Devils at the deadline. They also kept Raanta, who they dealt last offseason to the Coyotes.

Ottawa Senators

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Marc Methot

Marc Methot, Dallas Stars, Expansion Draft
Vegas selected defenseman Marc Methot from the Senators and quickly dealt him to the Stars.

Others Exposed:

Bobby Ryan, Alex Burrows, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Fredrik Claesson, Andrew Hammond, and free agents Tommy Wingels and Mike Condon.

Player Performance

Methot was traded to the Stars for goaltender Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 second-round pick. With the Stars, Methot had one goal and three points in 36 games. Ferguson appeared in one game for Vegas and faced two shots, allowing one goal. In 59 WHL games with the Kamloops Blazers, he had a 24-28-4 record, a .907 SV%, and a 2.95 GAA.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Senators didn’t leave many options for Vegas. Maybe they should have taken Claesson who was 24 but it is possible the Knights were looking to deal their pick from Ottawa and Methot had more value. They were smart to stay away from Ryan and Burrows and they received a goaltender they can develop and a pretty high draft pick for Methot.

Ottawa: C

The Senators would have preferred to keep Methot, who was Erik Karlsson’s partner for the majority of five seasons. Yet they were unwilling to part with the necessary assets to protect him. They were able to keep the still-young Claesson but he struggled at preventing shots all of 2017-18 despite partnering with Karlsson.

Philadelphia Flyers

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Vegas Golden Knights, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Expansion Draft
From the Flyers, the Golden Knights selected Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who has performed well centering Vegas’s fourth line. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Matt Read, Dale Weise, Taylor Leier, Jordan Weal, Andrew MacDonald, Michal Neuvirth, and free agent Steven Mason

Player Performance

In 72 regular season games, Bellemare had six goals and a career-high 16 points while playing on the fourth line and serving as a strong penalty-killer. In 19 playoff games, he has three assists.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Golden Knights received a veteran leader in Bellemare who takes the toughest draws by starting in the defensive zone over 55 percent of the time and still wins the majority of faceoffs. Like many Golden Knights, he too set a career high in points.

Philadelphia: C-

While losing Bellemare didn’t hurt the Flyers in 2017-18, parting with MacDonald’s $5 million cap hit would have been ideal. With two first-round picks each in 2017 and 2018, they had the assets to lose MacDonald’s contract.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Player(s) Selected:

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and a 2020 second round pick.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
The Golden Knights selected goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Penguins and with him Vegas has a franchise netminder. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Ian Cole, Derrick Pouliot, Frank Corrado, and free agents Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz.

Player Performance

In 46 regular season starts, Fleury had a 29-13-4 record with a .927 SV%, including .932 at even strength, and a 2.24 GAA. In 19 playoff starts, he has a 13-6-0 record with a .929 SV% and a 2.15 GAA.

Grades:

Vegas: B

Vegas was guaranteed to get a quality goalie from the Penguins when they didn’t trade Fleury at the deadline. That made him the least surprising pick and, with Fleury, they have a franchise netminder. They were also able to land a second-round pick that ensured they would take Fleury.

Pittsburgh: C-

Losing a goaltender was inevitable and losing Fleury was better than parting with Matt Murray. However, there were rumors Fleury was going to be traded at last year’s deadline but with a No Movement Clause, he controlled his destination. Either way, losing him for nothing and giving up a draft pick hurt the Penguins. However, losing Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit helped with player personnel.

San Jose Sharks

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman David Schlemko

David Schlemko, Montreal Canadiens, Expansion Draft
After the Expansion Draft, the Golden Knights dealt defenseman David Schlemko to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Others Exposed:

Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, Barclay Goodrow, Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, Aaron Dell, and free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Player Performance

Vegas dealt Schlemko to the Canadiens after the Expansion Draft, yielding Vegas a 2019 fifth-round pick. With Montreal, Schlemko had one goal and five points in 37 games.

Grades:

Vegas: D

Taking Schlemko is an example of Vegas overvaluing how much they could get in return for defensemen. San Jose offered better players than Schlemko including Boedker, who had six points in 10 playoff games this year, or free agents Thornton and Marleau.

San Jose: B+

They were able to keep Boedker, who was important in their advancement through the first round of the playoffs and retained goaltender Dell, who is a quality backup behind Martin Jones.

St. Louis Blues

Player(s) Selected:

Forward David Perron

David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights, Expansion Draft
Vegas took David Perron from the Blues and he set a career-high in points while playing on the second line. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)

Others Exposed:

Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, Magnus Paajarvi, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, Carter Hutton, and free agent Nail Yakupov.

Player Performance

In 70 regular season games, Perron scored 16 goals and a career-high 66 points. In 14 postseason games, Perron has no goals and eight points.

Grades:

Vegas: B+

Like Neal, many viewed Perron as a trade candidate after his selection. Had the Golden Knights not been so successful, Perron would have yielded them a decent draft pick or prospect in a trade. Instead, they won and he was a major part of it, typically playing on Vegas’s second line with Neal and Haula.

ST. Louis: D-

Looking back, the Blues should have protected Perron over Ryan Reaves. Perron is the more skilled and productive player and either could have been held onto by St. Louis or traded like they did with Reaves.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Player(s) Selected:

Nikita Gusev, Expansion Draft
In exchange for taking Jason Garrison from the Lighting, Vegas received Gusev (foreground), who has spent all six seasons in Russia since Tampa drafted him in 2012. (Nikita Gusev. Photo: Alexander Golovko)

Defenseman Jason Garrison. They also received the rights to forward Nikita Gusev in the KHL and two draft picks.

Others Exposed:

J.T. Brown, Cédric Paquette, Peter Budaj, and free agents Andrej Sustr and Yanni Gourde.

Player Performance

Garrison appeared in eight regular season games with Vegas and registered one assist but the team only controlled 30 percent of five-on-five goals with him on the ice. In 58 AHL games, Garrison had eight goals and 28 points.

With SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, Gusev had 22 goals and 62 points in 54 regular season games. He added seven goals and 12 points in 15 playoff games. He also played for Team OAR at the Olympics.

Grades:

Vegas: C+

Garrison didn’t produce much for the NHL club but his $4 million cap hit expires this offseason so it didn’t hurt the team. They flipped one of the picks to Columbus in the deal that helped them get Karlsson. The deal will be a major win for Vegas if Gusev comes to North America, as he has the talent to have an immediate impact in the NHL.

Tampa Bay: B+

They were able to part with Garrison’s contract, kept key players like Sustr and Gourde, and didn’t have to give up a first-round pick to do it.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Brendan Leipsic

Brendan Leipsic, Expansion Draft
After Vegas traded Brendan Leipsic (center) to the Canucks, he performed well with nine points in 14 games. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Kerby Rychel, Ben Smith, Eric Fehr, Alexey Marchenko, Martin Marincin, and free agents Brian Boyle, Matt Hunwick, Curtis McElhinney, and Garret Sparks.

Player Performance

In 44 regular season games with Vegas, Leipsic had two goals and 13 points. After Vegas traded him to the Vancouver Canucks, he had three goals and nine points in 14 games.

Grades:

Vegas: D

Leipsic performed well in a fourth line role with the Golden Knights but had limited upside. Defenseman Philip Holm, whom Vegas received for Leipsic, had 38 points in 63 AHL games this season and has potential. Rychel, a forward, or netminder Sparks would have been better options.

Toronto: B+

Keeping Rychel allowed Toronto to include him in the trade for Tomas Plekanec while Sparks had a .936 SV% and 1.79 GAA in 43 games with the AHL Marlies and pushed McElhinney for the backup NHL role.

Vancouver Canucks

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Luca Sbisa

Vegas Golden Knights, Luca Sbisa, Expansion Draft
Despite missing 52 regular season contests and the first round of the playoffs, Luca Sbisa has played well for Vegas. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Derek Dorsett, Alex Biega, and free agents Brendan Gaunce and Ryan Miller.

Player Performance

In 30 regular season games, Sbisa had two goals and 14 points while averaging 19 minutes and 31 seconds per game. In 11 playoff games, he has no goals and four assists.

Grades:

Vegas: C

The Canucks didn’t have much to offer and although selecting Sbisa was questioned at the time, he has played well on a pair with Miller. Sbisa is a free agent this offseason, so even if he hadn’t worked out, it wouldn’t have been an issue for Vegas.

Vancouver: C

They didn’t leave much exposed as the majority of their top talent was exempt and losing Sbisa wasn’t a big deal for a team that was missing the postseason regardless.

Washington Capitals

Player(s) Selected:

Defenseman Nate Schmidt

Vegas Golden Knights, Nate Schmidt, Expansion Draft
Vegas took defenseman Nate Schmidt over other attractive options. They made the correct choice as Schmidt became their best blueliner and left the Capitals lacking defensive depth. (John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

Others Exposed:

Jay Beagle, Brooks Orpik, and free agents T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, Christian Djoos, and Philipp Grubauer.

Player Performance

Vegas signed Schmidt, an RFA, to a two-year, $4.45 million contract after the Expansion Draft. In 76 regular season games, he had five goals and 36 points, both career-highs, while leading Vegas skaters in ice time. The team also controlled 56.8 percent of five-on-five goals with him on the ice. In 19 playoff games, he has two goals and six points.

Grades:

Vegas: A

In Schmidt, Vegas got a top pair defenseman who plays well on a pair with McNabb. Many expected Vegas to select goaltender Grubauer, but GM George McPhee’s knowledge of the Capitals’ roster helped him recognize Schmidt’s potential.

Washington: D

The Capitals may have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years, but having Schmidt would have helped a questionable defense. It was all but guaranteed that Washington would lose a quality player with so many RFAs exposed. Losing Schmidt was probably better than losing Grubauer given Holtby’s struggles during the regular season but it remains surprising that they didn’t pay Vegas to pass on Schmidt or Grubauer.

Winnipeg Jets

Player(s) Selected:

Forward Chris Thorburn, the 2017 13th overall pick and a 2019 third-round pick for the 2017 24th overall pick to not take Marko Dano or Toby Enström.

Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack, OHL, 2017 NHL Draft
Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack was the player Vegas drafted with the 13th overall pick they received from the Jets. With his talent, he has the potential to be in the NHL next season. (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images.)

Others Exposed:

Shawn Matthias, Michael Hutchinson, and free agent Ben Chiarot.

Player Performance

Thorburn was a free agent and Vegas chose not to sign him. He eventually signed with the Blues. The Knights used the 13th overall pick to draft center Nick Suzuki, who had 42 goals and 100 points in 64 OHL games with the Owen Sound Attack.

Grades:

Vegas: B+

The Golden Knights did well to accept the package of picks Winnipeg offered to not touch Dano, who had three points in 23 games with the Jets in 2017-18, and Enström. Vegas didn’t have to take on a contract by selecting Thorburn and Suzuki has more value than Dano and Enström.

Winnipeg: C-

Winnipeg is an example of how teams overpaid to protect average players. Dano may have potential but Enström missed 45 games between the regular season and playoffs. They gave up the pick that led to Suzuki, who has the potential to be an elite goal-scoring center.

*All stats came from Hockey-Reference, Natural Stat Trick, Corsica, and Elite Prospects