2017 NHL expansion draft: Top players likely to be selected by Las Vegas GM George McPhee

By Andy Lefkowitz, The Sports Xchange
Las Vegas' George McPhee speaks to the media. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Las Vegas' George McPhee speaks to the media. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

George McPhee has his lists. Now it's time to stock up.

The general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights will choose the players who will suit up first for the NHL's 31st team, and they will be revealed during the NHL Awards ceremony on Wednesday in Las Vegas.


"This has been a fascinating experience to date. There has been a certain intensity to the last two or three days ... " McPhee said Sunday. "It certainly changed today; it's a different phase. We have some control over what's happening now -- but now we're on the clock."

The pool of players from which the Golden Knights can choose was unveiled Sunday. Las Vegas, which has until 10 a.m. ET Wednesday to hand over its selections, must take at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies from those players left unprotected by the league's 30 other teams.


At least 20 players must be under contract for the coming season. Also, the salaries of players selected must total at least 60 percent of the salary cap ($43.8 million) for the season that just ended. The 2017-18 salary cap is $75 million, an increase of about 2.75 percent over last season.

Teams went one of two routes when compiling who would be protected -- either pulling aside seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one netminder. McPhee is willing to be flexible, but made clear that Vegas is in the driver's seat.

"We are still talking to clubs and we are open to doing deals with clubs if they want to protect their rosters," McPhee said.

While some huge and quite recognizable names -- Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton, Cam Ward -- are available, not everyone is up for grabs. According to the league, first- and second-year pros and unsigned draft choices cannot be picked. Neither can players with continuing and effective no-movement clauses.

"The issue for us isn't going to be can we fill out the roster. It would be, do we have too many players (to choose from). There are lots of good players there," McPhee said.


The last expansion draft was in 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league. While some notable names were picked, such as Mathieu Schneider, Geoff Sanderson and Mike Vernon, the likes of Bert Robertsson, Zac Bierk and Michael Bros also were selected.

"I'm really pleased with what's available," McPhee said. "And this has worked out really well for the Vegas Golden Knights."

Sometime late Wednesday, McPhee and the rest of the Knights' front office will be able to relax, if only briefly. Las Vegas hits the ice for its first preseason game on Sept. 17 at Rogers Arena against the Vancouver Canucks.

"At some point, we'll be able to exhale and I'll say, 'Holy smokes, we really accomplished something neat,'" McPhee said. "... I'll look back on this someday and say, 'Those were the golden years.'"

Here are some of the more intriguing names available:


Antti Raanta (New York Rangers) spent two seasons as a backup to Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks -- with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2015 -- and two more playing behind Henrik Lundqvist in New York.


The 28-year-old native of Finland is 47-23-9 with a 2.32 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and eight shutouts in his career. The grind of a long season could be a concern, as Raanta has never started more than 26 games. Would coach Gerard Gallant be able to ride him for 60-plus contests?

Conventional wisdom has the Knights selecting Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Matt Murray ready to take over as the clear-cut starter, the Penguins exposed the top overall pick from the 2003 NHL draft, who has won 375 games and three Stanley Cups and is still only 32.

Among the other available goaltenders: Cam Ward (Carolina); Petr Mrazek (Detroit); Jonathan Bernier (Anaheim); Brian Elliott (Calgary); Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus); Ryan Miller (Vancouver); Jaroslav Halak (New York Islanders); Roberto Luongo (Florida); Antti Niemi (Dallas); Kari Lehtonen (Dallas).


Trevor van Riemsdyk (Chicago) is young (26 on July 24). He's a right-handed shot. He's a Stanley Cup winner. He's also prone to missing long stretches of time with injuries. In 2014, he was sidelined for 43 games with a reported broken kneecap. Last season, he was out for 20 games with an upper-body injury.


Matt Dumba (Minnesota) is just 23 years old. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft and would immediately become one of Vegas' top blue-liners. He set career bests in 2016-17 with 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in 76 games.

Among the other available defensemen: Paul Martin (San Jose); Trevor Daley (Pittsburgh); Ian Cole (Pittsburgh); Dan Hamhuis (Dallas); Johnny Oduya (Chicago); Dmitry Kulikov (Buffalo); John-Michael Liles (Boston); Jack Johnson (Columbus); Andrei Markov (Montreal); Brooks Orpik (Washington); Marc Methot (Ottawa).


Jonathan Marchessault (Florida) broke out in a big way for the Panthers in 2016-17 with a team-high 30 goals, including six game-winners. Defensive prowess seems to be an issue, though, as the 5-foot-9 spark plug had a team-worst minus-21 rating.

After yet another second-round exit from the playoffs, changes are certain for the Capitals. Losing T.J. Oshie would change Washington's dynamic and provide Las Vegas with a proven scorer. Oshie was tied with Alex Ovechkin for the team lead with a career-best 33 goals last season, reaching double digits for the eighth time in nine NHL seasons.


Longtime Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan -- and last original member of the Winnipeg Jets -- is the franchise's all-time leader in just about every offensive category. Doan, who turns 41 on Oct. 10, is 28 points short of 1,000 for his career.

Among the other forwards available: James Neal (Nashville); Jaromir Jagr (Florida); Patrick Marleau (San Jose), Joe Thornton (San Jose); Carl Hagelin (Pittsburgh); Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh); Alexander Radulov (Montreal); Eric Staal (Minnesota); Jarome Iginla (Los Angeles); Sam Gagner (Columbus); Patrick Sharp (Dallas).

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