NHL Expansion Draft: 5 best players available for Golden Knights

The Sabres released their expansion draft protected list Sunday morning.

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee has the rest of the National Hockey League by its strings. Opportunistic GMs can feed the Golden Knights' future to get a player who otherwise wouldn't be on the trade market. "You had a number of teams that had expansion issues that they were trying to deal with".

In addition to Rask, forwards David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak are not available to the Golden Knights, nor are defensemen Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller. It's possible the Canes could offer McPhee a draft pick to select a goalie - perhaps Lack. That is, if he even goes to sleep.

"Whatever you want to give us has to be better than what we can claim from that club", McPhee said in Las Vegas on Sunday. "It's a different phase. We have some control over what's happening now - but now we're on the clock".

Veteran Columbus beat writer Aaron Portzline reported earlier in the week that Columbus had a deal in place to have Vegas select from a small group of players exposed (likely William Karlsson), which would allow them to keep Josh Anderson, Jack Johnson and backup netminder Joonas Korpisalo, who just signed a two-year contract extension.

Some of the more interesting available players: Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup victor; Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba, a right-hand shot who is just 22 years old; and Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, both of whom could help the Knights although only one of them could be taken. Most importantly, each team could only protect one goalie. Drafting/signing Stone and then flipping him down the road (perhaps at the deadline) could make sense for a team looking to stockpile assets.

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Assuming that the Golden Knights select Dillon or Schlemko Wednesday night, DeMelo would slide onto the third pairing where he's acquitted himself well over the last two seasons when injuries have arisen.

There appears to be an overabundance of young, talented goaltenders available and McPhee can use it to his advantage.

Among players with previous connections to McPhee available are Stars center Cody Eakin, Red Wings defenseman Mike Green, Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Neuvirth, whom he drafted in Washington.

Need a goalie? McPhee might be able to help. It was what we expected. "In fact, it's already started to happen". How do we want to do this? Michael Grabner is available via the New York Rangers after a 27-goal campaign, while veteran defender Calvin de Haan might make sense especially given that McPhee did some scouting for the New York Islanders before taking the Vegas job last off-season. And teams aren't prohibited from making trades that would keep certain unprotected players from being selected. "Then we're going to go to that club and say: 'We have interest in this player, there's another club that has interest in this player". "One of the reasons we want to complete the dialogue today and pick our team tomorrow is it's going to take us a while to pick our team tomorrow".

Hartman is coming off a great rookie season during which he recorded 19 goals and 12 assists, and considering that work the Blackhawks were going to do what was necessary to protect him. "You can negotiate your way out of this if you wish", McPhee said.

"We can put a good team on the ice, and accumulate draft picks and be in a surplus situation in the next couple of years", he said, according to SportsNet. But now that the lists are set, McPhee said he's more willing than ever to talk deal with his team-building counterparts.

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