The intrigue around the Vegas expansion draft has already begun as general managers scramble to structure their rosters so as to protect their most important players and assets. But who the team ultimately selects in the draft may not be the most fascinating part of the process.
While each expansion draft is unique, Barry Trotz has a good perspective of what to expect given that he was the first head coach of the Nashville Predators during their expansion draft in 1998.
“There's so much that's going to happen from now, especially when the lists come out,” Trotz told the media in May, “Then a lot’s going to happen in that 48 hours for [Golden Knights general manager George McPhee] and that group because people are going to try to make deal for players and picks and you take this guy and I'll give you this. There's going to be a lot of horse-trading.”
NOTE: Vegas’ window was extended to 72 hours after Trotz’s comments were made.
As compelling as it will be to see just who McPhee initially selects, the real fun of the expansion draft will be the trades surrounding it.
The Capitals traded for Tyler Graovac on Wednesday in order to expose him and protect Lars Eller. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, shipped out budding star Jonathan Drouin, whom the team would have had to protect or risk losing for nothing. These are the types of moves being made as general managers to try to best position their teams for Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline when they must submit their protected lists to the NHL.
But the intrigue won’t stop once the lists are submitted. Once teams have exhausted every option at their disposal to protect certain players, then those general managers will go to McPhee looking to make deals in order to prevent the Golden Knights from selecting those players.
“Some of the best deals that we made in Nashville were those, I'll give you a pick and you pick from this list of players because we don't have a lot of interest in these guys,” Trotz said. “Those deals we got Tomas Vokoun, those deals we got Kimo Timonen. Those deals were better than anybody we could have picked from the expansion draft or traded for. Those were franchise guys for us in Nashville. They were the throw-in guys and they ended up being pretty prominent guys.”
That is what makes the 72-hour draft window so intriguing. Only one team in the NHL will be conducting business and everyone will have to work with them to make deals. Plus, let’s not forget that Vegas won’t be done once the expansion draft is finished. McPhee won’t simply be drafting his top roster for next season, he will be drafting the most valuable assets he can in order to trade to help build that roster.
This is going to be one riveting offseason.
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