A Very Busy Week For The NHL!

Marc Elliott

ELY… This week promises to be one of the busiest of the entire calendar year for the National Hockey League even though the competition is over for the year and players have headed for the offseason. In short order you will have the Expansion Draft so the newly minted Vegas Golden Knights can stock their roster. Then the annual NHL Awards show on Wednesday eve which will also include the announcement of the VGK initial roster. And then Friday night the league will hold it’s annual Entry Draft. How’s that for a week of off-ice activity? I have noted here before that I’m not much of a draft geek, but I must admit that with this expansion draft being held this year that I have been paying attention.

There is plenty of intrigue to go around as some clubs stand to lose some significant players in this process, the Minnesota Wild included. Fans have been waiting in anticipation as the teams had to release their “protected” lists by last Saturday at 500pm ET. In turn the league would review that list and submit it to the VGK by 1000am ET on Sunday. The list would also be released for public consumption at that time as well. Sunday came and the league wasn’t actually ready to release the list until about 1030. Once it was, the debating and teeth gnashing began. 

The basic format of this was unlike any prior Expansions in the league. Of course, no club had ever paid a half a billion dollars to get in before either. As a result of the format decided upon the VGK stand to be in position to have a competitive team right off the bat if they select carefully, and knowing their GM George McPhee, they will. But here it is; the teams can choose from two ways for their protected list; 7 Forwards, 3 Defense and a Goalie or 8 skaters and 1 goalie. Teams must expose 1 D and 2 F who played 40+ games this past year or 70 over the past two and are already with contract for next year and each club must expose 1 G who will be under contract for next year or will be a RFA at the end of this contract season. (6/30) 

The VGK must select 14 F, 9 D and 3 G. The other 4 choices can be from any position. (they select one player from each of the 30 teams) 20 of the 30 picks must be under contract for next year. The contracts in place must equal from 60 to 100% of last seasons salary cap. ($73mil) All players with no-trade clauses must be protected. All pro players with 2 years experience or less, and unsigned picks are protected, but do not count against the clubs protected total. The VGK must give the league their list of selections by Wednesday 10am. (6/21) The VGK can also sign any free agents it desires (UFA or RFA) if that player is of the unprotected status. If signed that would represent the “pick” from that players previous club. 

I would have to believe that the league has considered this as a possibility, but is it an unintended consequence that the other NHL clubs are having to make side deals with the VGK to leave certain players not on the protected list alone? If you are a GM on the other 30 teams aren’t you a bit furious over this? Case in point, the Wild could not protect either Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba and speculation is that Vegas is hot on Dumba. And the Wild aren’t the only team in this position. The VGK have already accumulated draft picks and the like in return for the promise of laying off of certain unprotected players a team wants to keep. Did the league NOT consider this? This certainly must be a double dip in the process isn’t it?  They’re not only getting their 30 players, they stand to accumulate a pile of draft choices to boot. 

The Wild chose the 7-3-1 format and protected Coyle, Granlund, Koivu, Neiderreiter, Parise, Pominville, Zucker, Brodin, Suter, Spurgeon, and Dubnyk. Poms has a No-Move clause or he would have been my first guy on the unprotected list, and even though Dumba seems to arouse some fan angst in these parts, his best years are yet ahead. Certain defensemen hit their full stride between 26 and 34 years of age. I still believe he will be one of the best in the league during that window, and sadly, the Wild are probably going to lose him. Would Chuck Fletcher make a side deal w/VGK to lay off of him? We will find out soon enough I guess… 

FOR THE AWARDS show, my picks are; (remember, these are based on regular season performance) The Hart/Sidney Crosby, the Ted Lindsay/Crosby, the Norris/Erik Karlsson, the Vezina/Sergei Bobrovsky, the Lady Byng/Mikael Granlund, NHL Foundation Award/Wayne Simmonds, the Messier Leadership/Ryan Getzlaf, the Jack Adams/John Tortorella, the Masterton/Andrew Cogliano and the GM of the Year to Peter Dorion. Other awards based on statistical performance are; the Art Ross for scoring; Connor McDavid and the Rocket Richard for Goals will go to Crosby. Congrats to these players.

THE NHL ENTRY DRAFT is Friday eve and the consensus this year is that there are only a couple of players that could maybe make the clubs roster that will draft them next season and the rest will need to accumulate more training and experience. Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are the top two players ranked on most lists. A rising star though is a young D-man by the name of Cale Makar. Eden Prairie and Gopher signee Casey Middlestadt is considered to go in the top 5-10 players selected. He is considered to be the top US prospect this draft year. Lakeville’s Ryan Poehling (SCSU) is a top 20 ranked pick and fellow Lakeville alum G Jed Oettinger (BU) is ranked as the 26th top pick available. I am looking forward to the 1st round and you can catch that on NBCSN. I never miss this, it is pretty cool. I will probably sleep through Saturdays Rounds 2-7. As of now the Wild will have no 1st or 2nd round picks, will pick 85th in the 3rd, 97th and 116th in the 4th, 147th in the 5th, 178th in the 6th and 209th in the 7th round and are still nowhere close to a Stanley Cup. Won’t be after this draft either. Yikes…. PEACE