Typically this time of year, NHL general managers and their respective staffs are busy preparing for the upcoming entry draft, deciding what to do with their pending free agents, and thinking about potential free agent targets for July 1.
While that’s all surely going on, it’s the expansion draft that is on the top of Doug Wilson’s mind at the moment. The Sharks, like every other NHL team, must submit their list of protected players before Saturday’s 2 p.m. deadline.
The Sharks’ general manager indicated there are plenty of wheels in motion for his club leading up to that deadline. He has still not determined (or is not willing to publicly reveal) whether the Sharks will protect eight skaters and one goalie - allowing them to protect four defensemen - or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
“We’ve fleshed it all out. We can go either way. Still some time between now and tomorrow when we have to submit our list, so things can change between now and then,” Wilson said on Friday.
“I think we’re leaning towards one direction than the other, but between now and then things could change. I’ve been certainly talking to every team and will be talking to Las Vegas prior to our submission time tomorrow.”
The NHL permits its member clubs to make deals with Las Vegas centered around which player is selected. For example – and this is only an example – if the Sharks would like the Golden Knights to select Mikkel Boedker and his hefty contract, rather than someone else from their roster, they could sweeten the pot by offering further assets like a draft pick or a prospect.
Wilson left the option of a deal with Vegas on the table, while indicating there could be moves made with other teams, too.
“[A deal with Vegas] is a possibility, but we’re exploring hockey trades, also,” Wilson said. “All teams have been in communication with each other. There are some teams that are positioned differently than others with the expansion draft. We feel we’re pretty comfortable.”
“Some teams I’m sure are trying to do deals with Las Vegas if they have higher end players that they’re willing to subsidize. I’m sure Las Vegas will explore acquiring players that they could put in the market the following week. It will be an interesting week.”
Leading the Golden Knights’ draft is general manager George McPhee, who spent 17 seasons in charge of the Washington Capitals, helping that club rise to prominence. Wilson expects McPhee, who has hired the well-regarded Gerard Gallant to be the franchise’s first head coach, to ice a competitive team – and a Pacific Division rival of the Sharks – in short order.
“It won’t take them long to be good,” Wilson said. “[McPhee] did it in Washington, he built that organization. They’ll get a pretty good head start, better than a lot of expansion teams have in the past. I remember us 26 years ago probably didn’t have this type of advantage. But, I think they’ll have a good team. I do.”
The protected lists will be revealed publicly on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., while the Golden Knights’ roster will be unveiled at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday, June 21 in Las Vegas. There is a trade freeze from noon Saturday though 5 a.m. on Thursday, June 22.