Penguins' Fleury left available for Vegas expansion draft

Posted June 20, 2017

There are very good players available, but rather than select them for a middling club, Vegas is going to ransom them in exchange for young players or for draft picks, in the hopes of building a legitimately good roster a few years down the line.

Michal Neuvirth Still a bargain at $2.5 million and could be so much more if he ever had a full healthy National Hockey League season.

There's a three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie in Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury available and several 20-plus-goal-scorers in Nashville's James Neal and Minnesota's Eric Staal. That forced the team to also expose top-pairing blueliner Marc Methot.

"We can put a competitive team on the ice and accumulate draft picks", McPhee said. No surprises there; those are the 11 players that made the most sense to shield, and the list was confirmed late Saturday by The Washington Post.

Mike Smith went from Arizona to Calgary and a couple of defensemen traded places as National Hockey League teams made last-minute moves before the Vegas expansion draft roster freeze. That player would count as his former team's selection in the expansion draft.

Mark Messier left a Tier II team in St. Albert to play for Cincinnati. The Golden Knights are able to complete trades and TSN reports they already have trades in place. "Then we're going to go to that club and say: 'We have interest in this player, there's another club that has interest in this player".

The list is likely moot as the Vegas Golden Knights are expected to claim Fleury, meaning the rest of the players on the list will remain with the Penguins.

They protected forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, defensemen Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta and goalie Matt Murray.

The Anaheim Ducks are also a strong candidate to pull the trigger on a deal after failing to protect Vatanen and Manson - two coveted defensemen they'd love to retain.

That left 25 Blues available for selection, with the most notable being forwards David Perron, Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak and Magnus Paajarvi, along with defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo as well as goalie Carter Hutton.

The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents.

Keeping those reported trades in mind, here's Postmedia's mock draft of what the Knights roster might look like, including the 2017-18 cap hit for each player.

Among the standouts are Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie and defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, Canadiens right wing Alex Radulov and aging San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and 45-year-old Florida Panthers winger Jaromir Jagr Should they test the market, all could be signing with new clubs before the Canada Day fireworks head skyward that evening. But it's unlikely the two would consider joining an expansion team at this point in their respective careers.

And now Vegas must take one player from each of the other 30 teams by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

"It certainly relieved a lot of the pressure thinking that I had to get him moved so we wouldn't get in a jam here for our list", Rutherford said.

Now that teams are aware of the $2 million bump, it could effect what deals they end up making with Vegas - or anyone else. The Islanders were the only team to protect five defensemen, and they might still lose blue-liner Calvin de Haan.

With two years and $4.9 million left on his contract, Methot, who has been captain Erik Karlsson's defence partner for five seasons, would be hard to replace.

Based on previous mock drafts, McPhee doesn't expect the Golden Knights to have any difficulty getting to the NHL's minimum payroll of 60 percent of the $75 million salary cap.

Every GM in the league can see the list of unprotected players, and may want some of them. Vegas' first team will be announced during the NHL Awards on Wednesday night.

Then comes the start of free agency, which opens on July 1. According to the league, first- and second-year pros and unsigned draft choices can not be picked.