Once the Stanley Cup Final is over between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins is over, we can expect a lot of actions off the ice between the NHL teams. In fact, it might actually be one of the craziest off- season ever. Call it the perfect storm! The ingredients contributing to this storm are near status quo for the salary cap, the NHL expansion draft by the Las Vegas Golden Knights and finally the low-quality pool of unrestricted free agents.
This is the first NHL expansion draft since the implementation of the salary cap. The last NHL expansion draft took place in 2000 for the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. This one will see the Las Vegas Golden Knights pick up their first crop of players from the NHL. The expansion terms will be much more generous towards the other 30 NHL teams. Despite those rules, some teams who have a lot of young talent may end up exposing some quality players, particularly on defense. The Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild are two of those teams.
Instead of losing them and not get anything in return, these teams will want to trade them and get either players or draft picks. Some of these players could end up being defensemen Sami Vatanen (Ducks), Jonas Brodin (Wild) and Matt Dumba (Wild).
One other team in the same situation is the Tampa Bay Lightning. General manager Steve Yzerman has some quality forwards to sign and keep but will only be able to keep seven forwards. This may leave a player like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn unprotected. Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson are restricted free agent looking for hefty raises. Yzerman may want to trade one of these players to bring in a quality defenseman to play with Victor Hedman.
Other teams who may have to trade a quality player due to the expansion draft are the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets.
Vegas and the Goaltender Odds
There is no doubt Las Vegas Golden Knights general manager Georges McPhee will want to pick a quality goaltender immediately at the draft. The name we hear the most is Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury. Other notable names from the crease that could end up in Vegas are Antti Raanta and Philipp Grubauer. With Fleury, McPhee would have a goaltender capable of keeping his team competitive in most of their games played. In addition, it was rumored that Fleury’s wife was recently seen in Las Vegas checking on houses and schools for their children.
Adding to the craziness…
The Colorado Avalanche are expected to be very active on the trading front after a season of only 48 points. The Colorado Avalanche have done little since their embarrassing 48-point season. Matt Duchene was already on the block in March. Might Tyson Barrie and/or Nathan MacKinnon also be on the way out of town?
The Edmonton Oilers will be looking to add a top-four defenseman and letting go Jordan Eberle with his 6M cap hit. It is already rumored there is an offer on the table for Eberle and the Dallas Stars may be the other team dealing with Edmonton. It’s been known for a while that the Dallas Stars are looking to deal their third overall pick at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, in Chicago. Eberle had a dismal playoff with no goals in two rounds.
We can also add the Ilya Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL after a stint in the KHL. Kovalchuk who is now 34 years-old has expressed the desire to return and play for a team that is in the New York area. Kovalchuk wants to play for a contender so that will take the New Jersey Devils out of the running. The New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers are rumored to be interested in Kovalchuk. there has also been some interest from the Los Angeles Kings.
Finally, many will want to trade players due to the low-quality pool of unrestricted free agents available this year. Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest name but after it is limited on quality.