I hate chess. I mean I used to try to play – it looked like fun, but as a kid, I quickly learned that I was terrible at the game because for every move made, I had to try to think several steps ahead and get into the mind of my opponent. I won’t lie – I hate it because I am pretty bad at it. This whole Las Vegas Expansion Draft is like one huge chess board with 30 different sides, one for each of the current teams, the stuff nightmares are made of, but now that the protection lists are out, here are the best options for Vegas by team.
Anaheim Ducks – Best options for LV would be Sami Vatanen or Jaycob Megna. Both defensemen are young and it’s very probable that Vegas will draft young due to sharing an AHL team next season.
Arizona – Lots of “big” names here, but likely it’s Jamie McGinn, Peter Holland, or Alexander Burmistrov here. Of course they could go with Louis Domingue in goal too.
Boston – Forward Alexander Khokhlachev is unprotected, but in all honesty, Malcolm Subban would be the guy to take or young d-man Colin Miller. Subban is a young goalie that could head to Chicago (AHL) for the season.
Buffalo – D-men Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian are young enough that they may draw LV’s attention.
Calgary – Troy Brouwer is unprotected, but at 31 he’s unlikely to be heading to Vegas. However, he could be the leader the club will undoubtedly need. Others unprotected here include Kris Versteeg, Michael Stone, and Deryk Engelland.
Carolina – Cam Ward and Eddie Lack are both unprotected goaltenders. Lots of young skaters available here, too, like Joakim Nordstrom.
Chicago – Recognizable names available like former Cap Michael Latta, Andrew Desjardins, and Johnny Oduya, but Trevor Van Riemsdyk may just be too good to pass up.
Colorado – Avs have eight unprotected centers including Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne, and Mikhail Grigorenko. Age wise, I’d guess Grigorenko would be very attractive.
Columbus – Lots of centers available here too. Scott Harrington on D along with three young goaltenders may keep LV’s eyes off of William Karlsson and Matt Calvert.
Dallas – Stars are dangling Cody Eakin out there. Don’t see GMGM passing up a kid he drafted. That said, five goaltenders on the list here too.
Detroit – Riley Sheahan headlines a list of potential forwards who could go. Additionally, Gustav Nyquist is available as is defenseman Xavier Ouellet.
Edmonton – Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, and David Desharnais are available as are Mark Fayne and Kris Russell on D.
Florida – Jaromir Jagr would sell tickets for sure, but at 45 this is highly unlikely. Roberto Luongo is available in goal, but he’s 38. More than likely Reilly Smith will head west, but Jagr would sell those tickets.
Los Angeles – They protected four defensemen and left the likes of Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, and Kyle Clifford available. Brown would be a terrific leader, but can LV pass up Clifford?
Minnesota – Speaking of potential leaders, Eric Staal is available as are Matt Dumba, Mike Weber, and Marco Scandella.
Montreal – Alexander Radulov is available as is Tomas Plekanec. Both have huge contracts that Montreal seems willing to lose (Radulov is UFA). Value-wise, Torrey Mitchell and Dwight King look good (King is also UFA).
Nashville – James Neal, enough said.
New Jersey – Devante Smith-Pelly is the most attractive option here.
New York Islanders – Cal Clutterbuck, Jason Chimera, Shane Prince, and Dennis Seidenberg are highly recognizable names as is Jaroslav Halak. Thomas Hickey could go too. Lots of guys under contract and whichever one goes, the Islanders will have some cap breathing room for sure.
New York Rangers – Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg, and Antti Raanta are all unprotected, but the name that is intriguing because of seeing what he did in the AHL, is Nicklas Jensen. That would be a great find for LV. He’s a RFA and should be getting a nice contract because he has huge potential.
Ottawa – Viktor Stalberg is one of their many guys due for contract negotiations. Bobby Ryan’s contract is huge. Tommy Wingels, Clarke MacArthur, and Alexandre Burrows are also available.
Philadelphia – Hard not to add in AHL knowledge of these guys. Jordan Weal or Taylor Leier could be a good bet as they’re young and would have upside.
Pittsburgh – Carl Hagelin headlines this list of available players. The youth on this club though should be very attractive to Vegas as the guys who stepped in for injured players showed their potential. Hagelin is a good bet, but everyone believes it will be Marc-Andre Fleury.
San Jose – Not much proven youth on this list, but Dylan DeMelo, Brenden Dillon, or Mikkel Boedker would be good bets.
St. Louis – Jori Lehtera, David Perron, and Dmitrij Jaskin are all high value guys currently under contract, but Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo are also available.
Tampa Bay – JT Brown, Erik Condra, Cedric Paquette, and Jason Garrison are all available.
Toronto – James Van Riemsdyk would be a good bet, but Toronto has so much youth (Eric Fehr, Steve Oleksy, Connor Carrick, and Brooks Laich).
Vancouver – Brandon Sutter is a big name. They also have Christopher Tanev, Luca Sbisa, and Erik Gudbranson on D. Additionally, Jacob Markstrom is available in goal along with 36-year-old Ryan Miller.
Washington – Jay Beagle, Nate Schmidt, and Philipp Grubauer – should be one of those three and I really hope I’m wrong.
Winnipeg – Toby Enstrom waived his NMC. He’s 32. That’s a gamble, but heck, it is Vegas. My money’s on Mark Scheifele though. Interestingly, Mathieu Perreault is available.
Absolutely stunned that some teams went the eight skaters route (Arizona, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders (actually protected 5 D and 3 F), and Pittsburgh). That said, the guys they’ve protected are pretty much as expected. But, Nate Schmidt? WHY?????
Many teams dangling huge contracts out there – rolling the dice with cap space and even age of players. Not too shocking. If LV does what is expected and drafts young, there shouldn’t be too many guys 30+ on the team.
Go play on Capfriendly.com and share your thoughts with us. You have until Wednesday to prove to us just how great you are as arm-chair GM!
By Julie Beidler