Who’s Going to Vegas?

This morning, the NHL released the protection lists each team submitted ahead of the expansion draft.  So in a completely useless exercise, I’m going to break down which player on the Flyers roster is most likely heading to Vegas.

The Flyers initial list was close to what I thought.  They did in fact use the 7-3-1 protection method as I predicted, but protected Scott Laughton instead of Jordan Weal and Brandon Manning instead of Robert Hagg.

That leaves some notable names available for the NHL’s 31st team to pick through from the Flyers lineup, though it’s nothing compared to what’s available throughout the league.  There are some damn good players out there.

First thing you need to know is that Vegas is only taking ONE guy from the Flyers and every other team.  That’s it.  They have to take 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.  That’s only 26 players, so they have four slots to add depth at any position they want.

I’m sure there’s a high percentage of Flyers fans salivating at the thought of Andrew MacDonald getting chosen, but honestly, the only way that happens is if Vegas needs to make the cap floor, which, again, is unlikely.

Here are the big names available in my mind:

Pierre-Eduoard Bellmare (F)
Michael Raffl (F)
Matt Read (F)
Jordan Weal (F)
Dale Weise (F)
Michael Del Zotto (D)
Andrew MacDonald (D)
Steve Mason (G)
Michal Neuvirth (G)

There are plenty of other names available, including Greg Carey and Andy Miele from the Phantoms, but these are the guys that will most likely be chosen.

Right away, Raffl and Neuvirth are the names that jump out at me the most.  None of the players are anything Vegas is overly excited about – there’s some solid players, but they’re mostly depth guys.  Raffl is arguably the best forward available from the Flyers roster.  He’s versatile, can move up and down the lineup, and his $2.35 million cap hit for the next two years is a decent deal.

Looking at all the players available throughout the league, there’s a slew of good forwards out there.  Thomas Vanek (FL), Martin Hanzal (MIN), James Neal (NSH), Bobby Ryan (OTT), and TJ Oshie (WAS) are just a few.  But Vegas has to manage their cap situation and can’t just take players without thinking about costs, meaning Raffl’s cap hit comes into play.

Neuvirth was the other attractive name off of that list to me.  One of the big reasons I feel like it’s possible is George McPhee, the Vegas GM.  McPhee used to be the head-guy in Washington, where Neuvirth began his career, and he’s a big fan of the goalie.  A few years back, Washington had Braden Holtby, Neuvirth and Philipp Grubauer in their system.  Neuvirth was eventually dealt, but McPhee still thinks Neuvirth is a fundamentally sound goalie and they, of course, need a backup.

That being said, there are a lot of strong goalies unprotected.  To name a few that I’d seriously consider before Neuvirth–Roberto Luongo (FL), Petr Mrazek (DET), Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) and Ryan Miller (VAN).  Luongo, Fleury and Miller are all older, but all have been exceptional at least in parts of their careers.  Neuvirth is without question a tier below all of them, along with some other available netminders like Jonathan Bernier (ANA), Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen (DAL), and Jaroslav Halak (NYI).

It’s hard to say what path Vegas may take.  The salary cap makes this a more complex game to play and McPhee has also made it known that they’re open to wheeling and dealing with teams about who they should pick.  So if they Flyers are really hoping to keep Raffl and Neuvirth, it’s possible they make some kind of deal with the Golden Knights.  But I wouldn’t bet on Ron Hextall dealing away his highly-coveted draft picks to keep replaceable depth players.

Bellmare, Weise and Del Zotto all offer something intriguing to Vegas.  But if the Golden Knights are taking a forward, Raffl offers them the best mix of offense and defense along with a great contract.  If Vegas decides to buff up on defense, MDZ is a decent pick, but is also a restricted free agent, meaning they’d have to get him a new contract.  His assets are his ability to move the puck and his youth, but Del Zotto has struggled to find consistency and floated in and out of the lineup due to injury.

If I had to put money down on it, I’d say Michael Raffl will be the player most likely packing his bags.  We’ll find out in a couple of days.

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