Selecting Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Roster: Take One

Throughout the past couple of weeks, I have looked at every NHL team’s expansion draft strategy. Today, I use the list of exposed players to select my version of the Vegas Golden Knights.

If you need a refresher for the exposed players for the Vegas Golden Knights, here are the links for the Central Division, the Pacific Division, the Metropolitan Division, and the Atlantic Division.

STRATEGY

The Golden Knights do not have to spend to the cap floor in their first season, but their total salary cap must be above $43.8 million. The advantage to maintaining the lowest possible cap, is the ability to use their leverage to acquire prospects along with bad contracts. Think of the Pavel Datsyuk to Arizona deal that saw the Coyotes nab the draft pick that became Jakob Chychrun.

Another thing I tried to do is to emphasize the selection of young defencemen with potential. It’s obvious that young defencemen have the most value, so stockpiling good young defencemen becomes the top priority.

I also tried to keep in mind George McPhee‘s relationships around the league to make the draft more realistic. McPhee was working for the New York Islanders as a special advisor prior to becoming the Golden Knights’ GM, and prior to that he had a lengthy tenure as GM of the Washington Capitals. There will be a few former Capitals on this team without a doubt.

My final roster included 15 forwards, 12 defensemen and 3 goaltenders. I matched the required 20 existing contracts, which was the bare minimum. My total salary came in at $53.1 million, meaning the Golden Knights will have $20 million in cap space to work out deals once their roster is established.

Dec 13, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad (27) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Panthers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

At centre, I selected Florida’s Nick Bjugstad, Detroit’s Darren Helm, Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok, Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons, Philadelphia’s Nick Cousins and Calgary’s Hunter Shinkaruk.

Nick Bjugstad has not lived up to his lengthy contract, which prompted Florida to expose him. He is worth the risk considering he is only 24-years-old and he had a 43-point sophomore season. This year he only has nine points in 42 games. Injuries have been a problem in Bjugstad’s career, but hopefully he can put them behind him and develop into a solid pivot.

I selected Darren Helm to be a leader on an otherwise young club. While Helm has not produced more than 33 points in his career, he is a valuable two-way player. Helm’s contract will keep him in Vegas for the next four seasons at a cap hit of $3.85 million which is solid for a leader.

Calle Jarnkrok is on an absolute bargain contract of $2 million per for the next five seasons. He’s a strong two-way player who chips on an average of 30 points per season. Jarkrok is a solid third line centre and will play a vital role on a budget.

Nobody expected Zemgus Girgensons to be a scorer in the league, but it looks like he will never be able to contribute enough to warrant a spot in the top nine. Either way, he’s a 23-year-old with four years of NHL experience and will play a bottom six role. Maybe the increased ice time will prompt more offence.

Nick Cousins is playing in his first full pro season in the NHL and it looks like he will be able to become a top nine forward. He’ll fight it out for a job in the top nine, whether it be on the wing or at centre. Another 23-year-old player with potential.

The selection of Hunter Shinkaruk is based solely on rekindling his offence. The 2013 1st rounder is struggling this season, but he has all the tools to put it together. Vegas will keep Shinkaruk in the minors in his first season with the club.

nhl expansion draft

Jan 19, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers forward Michael Grabner (40) reacts after scoring a shorthanded goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period at the Air Canada Centre. New York defeated Toronto 5-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

On the wing, I selected mostly young wingers with potential to breakout in the next couple of seasons. The top line will likely consist of scoring veterans however.

Arizona’s Jamie McGinn will be a veteran presence on one of the top lines, but he projects better as a third line winger.

Nabbing the Rangers’ Michael Grabner was an absolute steal. How often do you get a 30-goal scorer for free? Grabner immediately becomes the team’s feature player up front, and will play on the top line for certain.

Tampa Bay’s Vladislav Namestnikov has the most offensive potential among the new Vegas forwards. He can play centre as well, and will have a solid opportunity to lead the team in scoring.

Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford brings the grit. I selected Clifford over Gaborik or Brown to save money. Clifford does have three years left on a deal that pays him $1.6 million per season. His cup winning pedigree will be vital when the club is ready to make a run for the playoffs.

Carolina’s Joakim Nordstrom is a good special team’s player who won’t be asked to produce much offence, while Toronto’s Seth Griffith will get a chance to play in a scoring role.

St. Louis’ Dmitrij Jaskin, Winnipeg’s Marko Dano and Edmonton’s Jujhar Khaira will get a chance to take their careers to the next level. Each player is 22/23 years old and won’t be getting as good a chance to play as Vegas can offer. Look for Dano to challenge for 20 goals and 40 points.

Dec 31, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) waits for the faceoff in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The blueline may be the best thing the franchise has to offer. While there are only eight spots on the NHL’s roster, that means at least four of these solid defencemen could be traded before even having a chance to show Vegas what they can do.

Columbus’ Jack Johnson and Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin highlight the top pairing. Johnson has all the experience on his side while Brodin is a stud waiting to expand his game.

The second pairing can consist of New Jersey’s John Moore and Chicago’s Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Moore may be one of the more underrated players in the league, but he will make Vegas his fifth organization at the ripe age of 26. TVR is coming from the school of the Chicago Blackhawks and will be expected to take his game to new heights with the added ice time.

The bottom pairing will consist of a combination of Montreal’s Brandon Davidson, Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole, Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak, Anaheim’s Josh Manson and Ottawa’s Chris Wideman.

Ian Cole has a cup ring and he earned playing a solid bottom pairing role with the Penguins so he would be automatic. Josh Manson and Chris Wideman have more experience than Oleksiak and Davidson so they may get the first chance to play.

Adding to the incredible depth on the blueline, Vegas has some very intriguing prospects in the remaining four spots. Former first rounders Ryan Pulock (Islanders) and Mirco Mueller (Sharks) will be able to percolate a little longer in the minors until they force their hand. They could also be used to acquire a bigger name player up front if the team feels it is necessary.

Vancouver’s Andrey Pedan rounds out the defensive group.

Dec 22, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) watches a shot go wide in the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Pepsi Center. The Maple Leafs won 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In considered selecting more than the minimum of three goaltenders, but only found three worth taking a flyer on.

George McPhee selected Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov when he was with the Capitals so he knows the goaltender well. Despite two years remaining on his contract, Varlamov is a bonafide number one goaltender and he will be the leading man in Vegas.

Waiting in the wings is current Capitals backup goaltender Phillipp Grubauer whom George McPhee also drafted. Grubauer will be ready to take the wheel when Varlamov’s contract runs out, but also will be ready if Varlamov is injured.

I selected Boston’s Malcolm Subban as my third string goaltender. Subban’s development has stalled drastically, but he still has potential to be a decent goaltender. I valued him higher than the Scott Wedgewood‘s, the Jordan Binnington‘s and the Marek Mazanec‘s.

I fully expect the Vegas team to look at NCAA goaltenders and CHL goaltenders to add to their pool, therefore three goaltenders was the best decision.

Feb 19, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm (43) takes the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

FORWARDS

Vladislav Namestnikov – Nick Bjugstad – Michael Grabner
Marko Dano – Darren Helm “C” – Jamie McGinn “A”
Joakim Nordstrom – Calle Jarnkrok – Dmitrij Jaskin
Nick Cousins – Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Clifford
——————————————-

Jujhar Khaira – Hunter Shinkaruk – Seth Griffith
Reid Duke

DEFENCE

Jack Johnson “A” – Jonas Brodin
John Moore – Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Ian Cole – Chris Wideman
Jamie Oleksiak – Josh Manson
———————————

Brandon Davidson – Ryan Pulock
Mirco Mueller – Andrey Pedan

GOALIES

Semyon Varlamov
Philipp Grubauer
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Malcolm Subban

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