Now that the Penguins have captured their second consecutive Stanley Cup and the roar of the crowd has subsided in Nashville, a major question involving every team in the NHL will soon have an answer. What will the roster of the Las Vegas Golden Knights look like when it’s announced tonight? In case you need a refresher on the rules, you can find them here. The Golden Knights must draft one player off of every team, so no team is safe. The protection rules, meant to give Las Vegas a chance to compete for a playoff spot right away, mean that other teams will have to part with valuable players. Since teams around the NHL cannot protect all of their most valued players, they will attempt to make deals in order to squeeze assets out of them. Obviously, it will be very difficult to predict the trades that teams will make. I will do my best to discuss trade potential but I believe that this is at least partially what the Golden Knights will look like.
Centers: Jonathan Marchessault Mikhail Grigorenko William Karlsson Darren Helm Brian Boyle Left Wings: Matt Moulson Jamie McGinn Michael Raffl Benoit Pouliot Carl Hagelin Magnus Paajarvi Right Wings: Lee Stempniak James Neal Alex Chiasson Beau Bennett Cal Clutterbuck Defense: Sami Vatanen Colin Miller Trevor Van Riemsdyk Matt Dumba Greg Pateryn Paul Martin Matt Dumba Luca Sbisa Chris Wideman Nikita Nesterov Brayden McNabb Tobias Enstrom Goalies Antti Raanta Peter Budaj Philipp Grubauer Reasoning: The Golden Knights need to make an impact immediately to generate fan interest before the Raiders move to Las Vegas. For this reason, I tended to pick bigger names and higher scoring forwards with shorter contracts. That way, the team would be more likely to compete and contain marketable names, yet maintain flexibility over the next couple years. Consequently, playing the role of George McPhee, it appears I haven’t left myself a lot of cap space. However, with these assets, I do have the ability to make trades for other players and future draft picks to teams looking for short term rentals at the next trade deadline. Here are a few explanations for some the players that I picked. William Karlsson: Karlsson may have been exposed to keep Las Vegas from drafting Jack Johnson. The Blue Jackets made a trade sending their 24th pick overall to Vegas to potentially dissuade them from drafting Jack Johnson, David Savard or Joonas Korpisalo. George McPhee, Las Vegas’ GM may have told Columbus that in order for this to happen, they would need to expose Karlsson. Brian Boyle: Boyle is a UFA but drafting him grants Las Vegas the rights to an exclusive negotiation period before other teams. Boyle brings a veteran presence to the team and proven playoff production. He would fit in well as a captain. This brings me to…. Brayden McNabb: The surprise here isn’t so much that I picked McNabb but that I didn’t pick Dustin Brown. McNabb is younger and a good defensive defenseman. On the other hand, Brown’s slow speed in an ever quickening NHL has diminished his impact. He certainly isn’t worth his burdensome contract solely for his leadership abilities. James Neal: Shit stirrer, scorer, leader, veteran; these words all aptly describe James Neal. Neal could be the big name that the Golden Knights market around. Though he’s hated by many fans, he brings a winning pedigree and has the ability to score. Cal Clutterbuck: Clutterbuck, on the other hand, is a fan favorite in every city he plays in. He plays with grit, physicality and can even put a puck or two in the net. He’s another name the Golden Knights can market to a new fanbase. Defense: The defensive unit that I have chosen is expensive but in a league where defensemen take longer to develop than forwards, taking pricey, experienced veterans over young prospects will help make the team more competitive in the short term. It also stocks the team with potential trade pieces. That’s not to say this defensive core is old. Most of them are still under thirty. Sami Vatanen and Matt Dumba will be a strong top pair. Goalies: The big name I have left out is pretty obvious. Now that Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been traded, many think he’s an excellent starting goalie candidate for the Golden Knights. I, however think that the Knights can get much more out of three, up and coming goalies. In picking Antti Raanta, Peter Budaj and Philipp Grubauer, the Knights can capitalize on three goalies, who have all shown promise and already hold trade value. Additionally, Grubauer and Raanta will have their first chance to earn a starting job without having to compete with a franchise goaltender and Budaj’s performance last year replacing Jonathan Quick would give him value as well. The money for a starting goaltender is extra motivation to play well, not to mention the competition with the other two. Combined, all three goalies make less than Fleury and Fleury’s rollercoaster performances in the playoffs made me hesitate. If I were McPhee, I’d rather throw Raanta, Budaj, and Grubauer against a wall to see who sticks. Tune into the NHL Awards tonight at 8 pm on NBCSN to see how accurate I am.