Whenever a new team joins the National Hockey League, it has to start somewhere. And that somewhere, for the Vegas Golden Knights, is this Wednesday when they release the players they’ve chosen from the 30 other teams’ rosters.
Obviously, they don’t get to poach just anybody. There are rules to make the Expansion Draft as fair as possible for all parties involved. This morning, the NHL released the protected list for all 30 NHL clubs and, naturally, the Nashville Predators’ protected list was released along with that announcement.
The following players are protected by General Manager David Poile and the Preds:
- G – Pekka Rinne
- D – PK Subban
- D – Roman Josi
- D – Ryan Ellis
- D – Mattias Ekholm
- F – Ryan Johansen
- F – Filip Forsberg
- F – Viktor Arvidsson
- F – Calle Jarnkrok
As TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reminds us, this is only the official list.
A reminder: some of the players you will see exposed today may already be protected in another fashion by a side deal with Vegas.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 18, 2017
Some are surprised that sniper James Neal has been left unprotected. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean he’ll be going anywhere.
Case in point: when the Predators went through their Expansion Draft process in 1998, they received Kimmo Timonen and Jan Vopat from Los Angeles because the Kings didn’t want to lose veteran defenseman Garry Galley but were forced to leave him unprotected based on the rules in place that year. This was an all around win for Nashville as Galley only lasted in the League three more years (tallying 66 points in 186 games) and, of course, Timonen played eight seasons in Music City and is still, to this day, fourth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list (301 points).
Point being, Neal may not be going anywhere and, per LeBrun, there are on-going negotiations between the team teams.
Still no dice between Nashville and Vegas but keep in mind David Poile has until Wednesday morning to convince GM GM of something…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 17, 2017
One reason for the delay could be because Golden Knights GM George McPhee knows he has all the leverage here and can wait for a deal that truly benefits his hockey club. Another possible reason is what former Predator forward Eric Nystrom pointed out yesterday.
George Mcphee is lookin for the best way to stick it to the Preds for that Forsberg deal! Ha
— Eric Nystrom (@enystrom23) June 17, 2017
McPhee was the GM of the Washington Capitals back in 2013 when the Caps were looking for a veteran winger for their playoff run and paid a huge price in order to get it. Washington acquired disgruntled Preds winger Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta in exchange for blue chip prospect Filip Forsberg. It has long been regarded as one of the worst NHL trades in recent memory.
Regardless of the reason, Poile and the Preds have until Wednesday to finalize something that will either satisfy both teams or, more realistically, finalize something Nashville is willing to live with.
The notable players available to be chosen by Vegas, in alphabetical order by position, are as follows:
- F – Pontus Aberg
- F – Cody McLeod
- F – James Neal
- F – Colton Sissons
- F – Craig Smith
- F – Austin Watson
- F – Colin Wilson
- D – Anthony Bitetto
- D – Matt Irwin
- D – Yannick Weber
- G – Marek Mazanec
Another wrinkle to this whole process is keeping an available player away from other teams. For example, if the Columbus Blue Jackets think Neal is a missing piece to their playoff run next season, they could work out a deal with Vegas for the Golden Knights to take him in the Expansion Draft and then flip him to Columbus once the draft is over. Poile could be working against that dynamic as well.
Just for argument’s sake, let’s say Poile has offered McPhee both Wilson and Smith in exchange for not taking Neal. McPhee may think the deal he’s getting from the Blue Jackets (using the scenario above) is better than both of those players. Therefore, he’s not willing to agree and Poile has to further add assets to find out what the threshold really is.
And that line of thinking could be why Jarnkrok is protected over Neal in the first place. Teams would fall all over themselves for a second/third line center, who can play wing, who’s had back-to-back career seasons who’s locked up for five more years at just $2 million a year. Neal, on the other hand, is only under contract through next season. Would another team strike a deal with Vegas — that Nashville would refuse to match — for a guy who’s only guaranteed to be around for a single campaign?
In short, there’s a lot of strategy going on here.
Whatever the case, come Wednesday night, we’ll see how it all plays out.
EXPANSION DRAFT IMAGE courtesy of the NHL