By Matthew Cunha
In the first expansion draft in sports since the 2004 NBA expansion draft for the Charlotte Bobcats, the Las Vegas Golden Knights accumulated a team that can be competitive from the start. The draft which was held alongside the NHL awards, also featured nine trades from teams influencing the Knights picks. It held my interest for all two hours or maybe it had something to do with former NESN broadcaster Kathryn Tappen hosting the proceedings.
The Vegas roster selections were highlighted by three time Stanley Cup goaltender from the Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury and 8-time 20 goal scorer and now former Nashville Predator, James Neal. The Golden Knights will field a team that won’t be a laughing stock in the NHL as the 2004 Bobcats were in winning just 18 games in their first campaign. The Golden Knights will likely win about 30 games and could even hover around .500.
Other highlights of the Golden Knights roster include 30-goal scorer forward Jonathan Marchessault from Florida. Florida, unable to pay Marchessault likely contract demands after the season, decided to leave the 26 year-old unprotected. The Golden Knights also landed former Bruin and 45 point per season guy Riley Smith from the Panthers in a contract dump (If you are following along, yes, the Panthers moves make no sense.)
What makes the Golden Knights team able to be competitive in the upcoming season is the depth they were able to acquire on defense. Thanks to the rule only allowing teams to protect three defencemen lots of good defenders were available. Potential Golden Knights captain Marc Methot from Ottawa, highlights the group. Methot led Ottawa to the Eastern Conference Finals playing alongside one of the best defenseman in the league Erik Karlsson. David Schlemko from the Sharks, Jason Garrison from the Lightning, Deryk Engelland from the Flames, and Alexi Emelin from the Canadiens round out a veteran D core. Everybody from this group are over the age of 30. Mix that experience with veteran goalie in Marc Andre Fleury, and the Knights will be able to tally some wins.
The issue for Vegas is obviously top end talent, especially in the goal scoring department. Vegas will look to find some of that via drafts. Vegas added a total of 10 draft picks thanks to teams being afraid of losing a player. Their ability to acquire these picks creates a team headed for success. Two of those acquired picks were first rounders in the upcoming draft. In addition to the 6th pick, which Vegas won in the lottery, they will also have the 13th and 15th pick. I would have to assume those will all be spent trying to land goal scorers. Nine more picks will follow for Vegas and any excess players likely fill out the roster of their AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves.
As it comes to the Bruins, the Golden Knights selected 24 year-old Colin Miller as expected. Vegas has been rumored in trade talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs surrounding Miller. It is unfortunate to lose a young defencemen in Miller, but the B’s have better prospects in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Both of whom play on the same side as Miller, making him the odd man out. Not much harm done, just strips the B’s of a little youthful depth.
Now that the expansion process is over, teams can start to trade working up to Friday’s draft. Transactions not including Vegas were on halt until after the expansion draft. It has been rumored that deals are all but done but we could be in for an interesting couple of days. As for the Bruins, the trade rumors remain quiet. I am expecting a quiet off season from Don Sweeney and Cam Neely, but you never know. The lost time I let my guard down in an NHL off season, 2nd overall pick Tyler Seguin got shipped out of town. Never again.
Matthew Cunha is a producer on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.