The Carolina Hurricanes will lose a player when the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newly minted team, finally stocks their roster next week.
It could be veteran Lee Stempniak, the well-traveled forward. Then again, it could be a goaltender. Then again …
What we do know is that the first expansion draft of the NHL’s salary-cap era will be held and the Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st team, will pick their team. The selections will be announced Wednesday during the annual NHL Awards Show – in Las Vegas, no less.
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The Golden Knights have hired a general manager, George McPhee, the point man in the draft selections. They’ve hired a head coach, Gerard Gallant.
Now, it’s about putting together the team for 2017-18, their inaugural season. Vegas, which will play in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division, must select one player from each of the 30 NHL teams and must have a roster with a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.
“It has been interesting,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said Friday. “We’ll just have to see what happens and go from there. George McPhee is the one holding all the keys for now. Until he lets us drive ...
Here’s a look at the expansion draft and what it means for the Hurricanes:
What are the options?
NHL teams have two options for the expansion draft: protect eight skaters and a goalie, or protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie.
Players with no-movement clauses must be protected – in the Canes’ case, center Jordan Staal.
Helping the Canes are that players who have just completed their first or second year of professional hockey are not eligible for the expansion draft — in the Canes’ case, forward Sebastian Aho and defensemen Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin.
“We’re a little bit lucky in this expansion draft because of our young players,” Francis said. “They’re exempt. That helps a lot. If there’s another expansion draft down the road we could be affected dramatically.”
When will we know the lists?
The NHL is expected to announce Sunday at 10 a.m. what players are being protected by each team. Initially, those lists weren’t going to be made public, but NHL officials wisely changed their minds.
Who do the Canes protect?
Francis indicated the Canes are “leaning” toward the 7-3-1 option. He did not say which players would be protected but a guess would be: forwards Staal, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe, and defensemen Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy and possibly Trevor Carrick.
That would mean Stempniak and forward Joakim Nordstrom would be available to the Golden Knights, and Stempniak could be the choice.
The Canes traded for goalie Scott Darling and have signed him to a four-year contract. He’ll be the protected goalie, putting Cam Ward and Eddie Lack on the expansion list.
Each team must expose one defenseman and two forwards under contract for next season who played a minimum of 40 NHL games last season or 70 games over the past two.
Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, who was signed to a one-year, $850,000 contract after the season, should be the D-man exposed.
“The players who are exposed are a part of your team, and it will be tough to lose the one who’s picked,” Francis said
What happens to Ward and Lack?
Good question. The Canes could have Darling and Ward as their two goalies next season – their version of the Penguins’ Matt Murray and Marc Andre-Fleury this year, if you will.
The price tag may be a tad high: Darling will make $4.15 million and Ward $3.3 million next season. But Lack also is due $2.75 million, so the situation is problematic.
One option might be for Francis to work a deal with McPhee in which Vegas selects one of the Canes goalies – probably Lack – in exchange for, say, a draft pick. That would settle the Canes’ goalie situation and keep the Knights from taking Stempniak or Nordstrom, two versatile skaters with added value.
Francis didn’t tip his hand Friday on his goalies, simply saying the Canes would go through the expansion draft and then “see where we are.”
And after the expansion draft?
Probably a lot of wheeling and dealing once the trade freeze is lifted Thursday, a day before NHL Entry Draft begins in Chicago. The Golden Knights could look to trade some of the selected players for extra draft picks or other assets, although a player can’t be returned to the team from which he was selected until Jan. 1, 2018.
The Canes used a draft pick in the Darling deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and have 10 picks in the Entry Draft, so losing one to resolve the goalie situation would not be a huge hit. And Francis, who has said the Canes are “open for business,” could make more deals with other NHL teams before or during the draft in Chicago to fill the Canes’ most glaring need: a top-six scoring forward.
Saturday, June 17
NHL teams have until 5 p.m. to submit expansion draft protection lists.
Sunday, June 18
NHL plans to publicly release teams’ protection lists about 10 a.m.
Wednesday, June 21
Golden Knights submit expansion draft picks by 10 a.m. to the NHL and NHL Players Association.
The NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas begins at 8 p.m. and the Golden Knights’ draft picks will be announced during the telecast.
Friday, June 23
NHL Entry Draft begins in Chicago