It’s nearly expansion draft time.
The Vegas Golden Knights will have their shot at stealing talent from across the NHL from June 18-20, with 30 selections from the league’s collective pool of unprotected players to be announced June 21 in — you guessed it — Las Vegas.
With Gerard Gallant in the mix as the franchise’s first head coach and ex-Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee running the show, the Golden Knights added their first player, Western Hockey League standout Reid Duke, back in March.
But more prominent names figure to be on the horizon for Vegas thanks to the expansion draft.
As the historic event draws closer and prepares to give the NHL’s 31st team a full roster, here are three questions that might be answered:
Will Marc-Andre Fleury officially land in Vegas?
The question regarding the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins goalie has evolved from “Is he done as a Pen?” to “When will he officially be a Golden Knight?”
Maybe that’s a stretch. But probably not. Mock drafts have Fleurywith the veteran backstop reportedly waiving his no-movement clause by Pittsburgh’s request. And a union between “Flower Power” and Gallant’s upstart defense makes too much sense, from giving Fleury a renewed shot at being No. 1 to giving a new hockey market an immediately recognizable name, not to mention a capable starter.
Should the Golden Knights go for a high-priced free agent-to-be?
This applies mostly if someone like Kevin Shattenkirk somehow lands on an unprotected list due to his impending free agency, but it makes for a potentially big decision for the Golden Knights entering Year One of the franchise.
Vegas has not been shy about wanting to go big in its first offseason, whether through trades, the open market or expansion draft-fueled deals. And there wouldn’t be a more prominent way to go big than by jumping on the rights of a prized, soon-to-be unsigned talent a la Shattenkirk. The pressure would then be on the Golden Knights to pony up in contract talks, but if the team is set on acquiring immediate talent, so be it.
How will Vegas’ moves continue to impact the rest of the NHL?
The Golden Knights’ expansion possibilities arguably have already forced the hands of other teams. Just look at Thursday’s swap between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, who perhaps in part to avoid leaving another forward unprotected.
GMs around the league have gone on record to note the secrecy — and sometimes worrisome approach — in deciding between which players to protect and which to leave exposed. And plenty of additional fallout deals could surface in the wake of the Golden Knights’ selections in the coming days.