So, You Made The Golden Knights a Stanley Cup Contender…
We knew going into the expansion draft that the rules were the most favorable that any team had ever received. These GMs, however, are the ones who you should be cursing at while you seethe in anger over the fact that the Golden Knights are in the Cup Final in their inaugural season.
David Poile, Nashville – James Neal (F)
To be fair, having James Neal go to Vegas probably helped the Predators cap situation… still, you protected Calle Jarnkrok over “The Real Deal”? Really? Calle !@#%ing Jarnkrock?
Doug Armstrong, St. Louis – David Perron (F)
It is a scientifically established fact (Don Cherry is never wrong) that Ryan Reaves is the reason that the Golden Knights are preparing to play for the Stanley Cup and the Penguins fell short in their quest for a third straight Championship. This is ignoring, of course, that Reaves was not on the two teams that won. The Blues, the same team that thought trading Paul Stastny would be a good idea while in a playoff race, also protected Ryan Reaves over David Perron. Yep, that actually happened.
Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh – Marc Andre Fleury (G)
Ok, there are a lot of moving parts here, as well as some significant revisionist history and speculation to go along with this move. The Penguins were in quite the bind here. Matt Murray had just backstopped the Penguins to their second Stanley Cup and was clearly the guy moving forward. Marc-Andre Fleury had a full No Movement Clause and could have forced the Penguins to expose Matt Murray should he have chosen to do so. As Twitter was quick to point out to me, there was also concern that the Golden Knights would take Connor Sheary or Bryan Rust instead.
While it seems ludicrous to me that George McPhee would take any other player than a goalie from the Penguins, I was not in the war room and here is where the speculation comes in. At the end of the day, Marc-Andre Fleury agreed to waive his NMC and the Penguins sent the Golden Knights a 2020 2nd round pick to ensure that he was taken. Did the Penguins really need to send that second-round pick to the Golden Knights? We will never know for sure. What I do know is no one expected Fleury to have the Conn Smythe worthy run he has had thus far in these playoffs.
Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota – Eric Haula (F)
Of all the trades that Vegas made during the expansion draft process, this may be the one that is the most fun to debate. The Minnesota Wild were faced with the possibility of losing defenceman Matt Dumba as they protected Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, and Ryan Suter. Dumba is a significant part of the Wild’s blueline and losing a player at that age for nothing would have been a tough pill to swallow. To prevent this from happening, Fletcher gave up top prospect Alex Tuch and a conditional 2017 or 2018 third round pick for them to take Erik Haula.
On one hand, you don’t just replace a defenceman like Matt Dumba. On the other hand, Alex Tuch in his first season as an NHL regular scored 15 goals and 22 assists in 78 games. Eric Haula would also have a breakout season scoring a career-high 29 goals and 26 assists. We will never know what opportunities either would have been given with the Wild this year, but it was a definitely a contributing factor in Chuck Fletcher losing his job at seasons end.
Jarmo Kekäläinen, Columbus – William Karlsson (F)
It’s important to note that before this season, William Karlsson had 18 total NHL goals in his entire career of 183 games. It’s also important to note that he will probably see his numbers dip a little next year as his shooting percentage is nowhere near sustainable. Still, the Blue Jackets gave up a 2017 first round pick, a 2019 2nd round pick, and handpicked William Karlsson to go in the expansion draft to take David Clarkson’s LTIR contract.
There is a ton of hindsight at play here. There is, however, no denying the impact that “Wild Bill” Karlsson has had directly in the success of the Golden Knights season. At this point, I think we can all agree the Jackets gave up way too much to move a bad contract.
Bob Murray, Anaheim – Clayton Stoner (D)
The Anaheim Ducks have been an absolute defense factory when it comes to the development of young players. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they also have a strange addiction to slow, old, or gritty defenceman. In some cases, all three (Hi Kevin Bieksa). So when the Anaheim Ducks wanted to offload one of their bad defensemen, it only made sense to keep things even that a good defenceman would have to go as well. To accomplish this balancing act, Shea Theodore was sacrificed to the Golden Knights so Clayton Stoner could be moved as well.
Confused? Don’t worry, we all are.
Dale Tallon, Florida – Jonathan Marchessault (F)
I don’t even know where to start with Florida. First, in the great computer boys vs. old school hockey guy front office war of 2016, the Panthers fired Gerard Gallant. Gallant was then hired by the Golden Knights and would go on to frankly outcoach his opponents in the playoffs. This was especially true with Peter DeBoer as the Knights eliminated the Sharks.
Florida didn’t stop with simply giving the Golden Knights a great coach. They followed it up by trading Reilly Smith in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick and the Knights agreeing to take 30 goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault. That’s right, please take my 30 goal scorer and all I want back is a 4th round pick. With this move, the Golden Knights would build 2/3 of their top line. Did I mention all Florida got back in the deal was a 4th round pick? Probably a good time to mention that aside from his last season in Florida, Smith had also been good for between 40 and 50 points himself.
So there you have it. This is how, in fact, the NHL GMs turned this team into this crazy story of the little expansion team that could. Yeah, the expansion draft helped them, as it was intended to do, but your favorite NHL team agreed to those terms as well. The real question is going forward is do the GMs actually learn anything to prevent a similar situation when it’s Seattle’s turn to play by the exact same rules as soon as at the end of next season.