The Caps' 10 most likely expansion draft targets for Vegas
Vegas' top 10 expansion draft targets from the Caps
The protected lists have been submitted and released to Vegas and now Golden Knights general manager George McPhee has until 10 a.m. on Wednesday to make his selections. The Caps, like every team in the NHL, stand to lose one player. But who could it be? The list of available players is a long one, but here are the ten most likely targets for McPhee and the Golden Knights.
10. Tyler Graovac, F
It's a longshot, but f Brian MacLellan manages to negotiate Vegas out of taking some of Washington's bigger targets, Tyler Graovac could be someone McPhee has a nominal interest in. He just wrapped up a 52-game season with the Wild with nine points and is still just 24 years old. He is essentially a prospect with a season of NHL experience under his belt, a young player McPhee could take a chance on.
9. Justin Williams, F
A team with no history will need to instill a culture within the locker room right away. This team will need leaders and Williams certainly can be that. The question is whether Vegas would want to spend their expansion draft pick on an unrestricted free agent who will turn 36 at the start of the 2016-17 season?
8. Jay Beagle, F
Finding a valuable center in the expansion draft may be difficult, but McPhee will know exactly what he's getting from Beagle. A grinding center and strong face-off man, Beagle could also provide some veteran leadership to a team starting from scratch. The problem for Vegas is that he is a fourth-line center. He had a chance to establish himself as a third-line guy and the result was the Caps acquired Lars Eller the next season. He's one of the best fourth liners in the business, but a great fourth-line player still may not be worth an expansion draft pick.
7. Karl Alzner, D
There may be no general manager in the league who values Karl Alzner as much as McPhee does, but let's face it, Alzner's style of play is becoming dated. In the age of quick transitions and puck possession, teams are moving away from the shutdown, shot blockers.
6. Christian Djoos, D
The expansion draft will net Vegas 30 players. An NHL roster can only carry a maximum of 23 players. That means the rest will be trade bait or prospects and one of Washington's top prospects is on the table. Djoos is the Caps' second best defensive prospect and is loaded with talent. His skill set is well suited to the current NHL, but he is small and unproven as he has not played a single game in NHL.
5. T.J. Oshie, F
As an unrestricted free agent, Oshie holds all the cards here. Vegas would love to have him, especially given how limited their scoring options will be. They also will be able to pay him far more than Washington can. But, if Oshie doesn't want to go to the Golden Knights, he can tell them he won't sign and they will have to move on. Oshie has already said he wants to stay in Washington, plus he has a wife and two kids to think about. Yes, there are plenty of people who live in Las Vegas—it's not all hotels and casinos—but there are probably a lot of other more family-friendly destinations he could go to.
4. Brett Connolly, F
Connolly rekindled his career a bit in one season with the Caps and would be an appealing target for the Golden Knights. He is only 25 years old and, with 15 goals last season in a limited amount of ice-time, a proven goal-scorer. He also has added value as a restricted free agent, meaning his next contract should be relatively cheap.
3. Kevin Shattenkirk, D
Shattenkirk is the top blue line free agent on the market and McPhee will get a chance to talk to him before anyone else does. Unlike Oshie in whom their is mutual interest of a return to Washington, Shattenkirk will almost certainly be gone. On any other team, Shattenkirk would likely be a protected player meaning his talent level is above most of what the Golden Knights will find available to them. As a UFA, Shattenkirk would still have to sign and he has indicated he would like to explore free agency, but besides the chance to negotiate before everyone else, Vegas also has another advantage: Money. They will be able to offer Shattenkirk more money than anyone else can.
2. Nate Schmidt, D
The happiest player on the ice, Nate Schmidt is a mobile, puck-moving blueliner who showed his potential as a top-four defenseman in the playoffs. McPhee saw Schmidt's potential before most and signed him as an undrafted free agent while still the GM of the Caps.
1. Philipp Grubauer, G
There are many valuable goalies for McPhee to choose from, including surprises like Petr Mrazek from Detroit, but the rules stipulate Vegas must select at least three goalies and they could easily select more to use as trade bait. Grubauer put together an impressive season with a .926 save percentage and 2.04 GAA in 24 games, a performance good enough to warrant a shot at a No. 1 job. Starting caliber goalies are valuable commodities so even with Mrazek and Marc-Ande Fleury being available, Grubauer seems likely the top target even if his future is not in Vegas.