Vegas Expansion Draft Hints at Flyers Approach for Seattle Expansion

The 2017 expansion draft was chock-full of back-door deals in order for teams to keep their valued players that they weren’t able to protect, one way or another. All-in-all, 10 deals were made with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they chose a player of the other team’s choosing. A list of the deals is as follows:

Buffalo Trades6th Rd. Pick (2017)Vegas Selects(F) William Carrier
Florida Trades(F) Reilly SmithVegas Selects(F) Jonathan Marchessault
Trades – 4th Rd. Pick (2018)
Carolina Trades5th Rd. Pick (2017)Vegas Selects(F) Connor Brickley
Winnipeg Trades1st Rd. Pick (2017)
2nd Rd. Pick (2019)
Vegas Selects(F) Chris Thorburn
Trades – 1st Rd. Pick (2017)
Tampa Bay Trades2nd Rd. Pick (2017)
4th Rd. Pick (2018)
(F) Nikita Gusev
Vegas Selects(D) Jason Garrison
NY Islanders Trade1st Rd. Pick (2017)
2nd Rd. Pick (2019)
(F) Mikhail Grabovsky
(D) Jake Bischoff
Vegas Selects(G) Jean-Francois Berube
Anaheim Trades(D) Shea TheodoreVegas Selects(D) Clayton Stoner
Minnesota Trades(F) Alex TuchVegas Selects(F) Erik Haula
Trades – Cond. 3rd Rd. Pick (2017/2018)
Columbus Trades1st Rd. Pick (2017)
2nd Rd. Pick (2019)
(F) David Clarkson
Vegas Selects(F) William Karlsson
Pittsburgh Trades2nd Rd. Pick (2020)Vegas Selects(G) Marc-Andre Fleury

In retrospect, the Golden Knights made out like bandits with these deals. They acquired numerous draft picks, a good bit first round picks, and some quality players in the process. The trade with Minnesota sticks out as one Vegas came out looking great from. They essentially got Alex Tuch and Erik Haula for a conditional third round pick. Any guess as to the general manager of the Minnesota Wild at the time of this deal?

Chuck Fletcher was General Manager of the Minnesota Wild from 2009 until 2018. Now going into the 2021 expansion draft, Fletcher is at the helm of another team that could potentially be looking to make a deal. Just like Fletcher traded Tuch to make sure Vegas took Haula, he could look to sweeten the pot so Seattle takes either James van Riemsdyk or Shayne Gostisbehere. Let’s flash back to the 2017 expansion draft to figure out what Chuck might have up his sleeve.

Cap Situation

Minnesota was in a bit of a pinch. The NHL salary cap was set at $75 million and the Wild came in at the end of the season with $297,858 in cap space. Fletcher had some very difficult decisions to make when it came to how he wanted to approach this expansion draft. Did he want to try and unload some salaries and free up some cash, or did he want to strike a deal to make sure the team stayed competitive? Zach Parise had started to decline in the stat column, but his no-trade clause made him exempt from being exposed. Charlie Coyle and Nino Neiderreiter were both coming off one of their best years, so exposing them posed a big risk.

Fletcher had his hands tied in protecting three forwards and one defenseman due to no-trade clauses. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter all needed to be protected. Add those for cap hits up, and you get almost $27.5 million staying on the books. Exposing an expensive player was looking more and more realistic, and almost a necessity due to the players already in need of being protected.

Protection List

The Wild chose the 7-3-1 format, protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The protection list was as follows:

  • Forwards – Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu (NTC), Nino Neiderreiter, Zach Parise (NTC), Jason Pominville (NTC), & Jason Zucker
  • Defensemen – Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, & Ryan Suter (NTC)
  • Goalie – Devan Dubnyk

Choosing which players to protect is hard enough, even when four of them have seemingly been chosen for you with their no-trade clauses. With these picks, the Wild left some quality forwards and defenseman available for Vegas’ taking. Those players are:

  • Exposed – Martin Hanzal, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Ryan White, Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, & Marco Scandella

Two big names in Matt Dumba and Eric Staal were left exposed due to the numbers game. Vegas was likely set to take one or the other depending on how the rest of the expansion draft unfolded. Then, Chuck Fletcher made a deal. Chuck sent 20 year old forward Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights for assurance that they would select Erik Haula in the expansion draft. Tuch was on his entry-level deal, making $925k while Haula was on a two year, two million dollar deal.

With the 2021 expansion draft looming, Fletcher has a new group of players to assess and figure out which ones to protect. While most are obvious, others are difficult depending on what type of angle Fletcher wants to take with this one. The Flyers have more cap space than Minnesota did in 2017 ($2.26mil) and have essentially a full roster with a pretty solid cupboard of prospects. While Fletcher could stay par the course and not make a deal, the resources are there, and history shows that it could very well happen.

The Temptation

It’s pretty clear that the salary cap should be close to the forefront of Fletcher’s mind. With it staying flat for this and next year at a minimum, the Flyers will need every penny they can salvage. The expansion draft could come at a perfect time. With Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, and Scott Laughton all due new deals at the end of the 2020/21 season, clearing a big contract could go a long way in keeping your core in tact without having to finagle your way around the cap. While Carter Hart may not command a big-time contract for a goalie just yet, Fletcher has shown his interest in locking up young players to longer term, reasonably priced deals.

The temptation of making a deal to ensure Seattle takes James van Riemsdyk, or to a lesser extent Shayne Gostisbehere, could be too good to pass up. The Flyers have the resources to make that happen as well. They have all of their draft picks, minus a fifth rounder next year, for the foreseeable future. They have a farm system with plenty of quality players. If Seattle is looking to jettison their farm system, the Flyers would be the team to help them get out of the blocks.

History Repeating Itself

One could say that this type of decision hinges on JvR and Ghost’s performances this coming season. In reality, their fate is all but sealed in Philadelphia. While van Riemsdyk can still contribute at a decent rate, it just isn’t worth the $7 million price tag. With the signing of Erik Gustafsson during the off-season, the writing is on the wall in permanent ink for Gostisbehere.

Chuck Fletcher will likely look to make a deal. Even though they might be comfortable not making one and just letting the cards fall as they will, being able to control who Seattle takes has its advantages. In the flat-cap era, Fletcher would be wise to stick to his previous expansion draft approach and work out a deal so Seattle takes JvR off his hands. Since he’s done it once already, it’s easy to see him doing it again this time around. While it might be more difficult to pull of in 2021, it’s definitely a route Fletcher needs to explore.

Photo Credit – Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

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