Tonight, the NHL will be airing the Las Vegas Expansion Draft... during the NHL Awards. The award ceremony/draft begins at 8 PM and can be watched on NBCSN.
Las Vegas will be announcing their roster during the broadcast by selecting one player from every other team. Each NHL team was allowed to submit a protected list of seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or of eight skaters and a goalie. Unsigned draft picks and first- and second-year veterans cannot be selected. Vegas can also select a pending free agent in lieu of a roster player. Allegedly Vegas is working on deals with other teams for draft picks in exchange for not selecting certain players.
A number of BC players were left unprotected - these are the former Eagles that could end up in Vegas:
Patrick Eaves (Anaheim Ducks): Eaves had a career best season, scoring 51 points and 31 goals. He has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, but is playing the best hockey of his career right now. I’m biased, but if I were George McPhee, I would seriously consider Eaves as my Anaheim pick. The biggest strike against him is that he will be a free agent on July 1, so Vegas would have to be confident he would sign with them.
Joe Whitney (Arizona Coyotes): Whitney split last season between 2 AHL teams and scored 36 points on the year. He’s a strong offensive player that does really well in the AHL, but it would be a big surprise if he was Vegas’ Arizona pick. Whitney will also be a free agent in July.
Tommy Cross (Boston Bruins): Cross, who just signed a new contract with the Bruins, is a terrific leader and strong AHL defenseman. He is a fan favorite, but has struggled to make it to the NHL. It would be wonderful to see him given a chance in Vegas, but there are more valuable unprotected Bruins players that Vegas would choose ahead of him.
Jimmy Hayes (Boston Bruins): Hayes had... a rough year. If Vegas takes a chance on him, they could be rewarded. One popular take on Hayes’ struggles is that playing for his hometown team in front of family and friends every night is just too much pressure. Hayes had only 5 points this season, but he recorded 35 points in his first full season with the Panthers in 2014-15. Hayes might do better in Vegas, but chances are the Golden Knights will pass on him.
Brian Gionta (Buffalo Sabres): Gionta, the captain of the Sabres, is probably nearing the end of his career. He can definitely still play (he recorded a respectable 35 points last season), but at 38 years old and with over 1,000 NHL games under his belt, he has a few years left in him at best. While Gionta could provide some valuable veteran leadership to Vegas, it is tough to see them taking a veteran captain away from his hometown team when there is younger talent on the table. Gionta will also be free agent this summer, which should make Vegas hesitant to select him.
Patrick Brown (Carolina Hurricane): Brown, who captained the Charlotte Checkers this past year, is a solid AHL forward who saw 14 games of NHL time in 2016-17. With a number of NHL caliber players on the unprotected list, Vegas is unlikely to go for an AHLer. Brown will also be a free agent in July.
Philip Samuelsson (Carolina Hurricanes): Like Brown, Samuelsson spends most of his time in the AHL. He joined the Checkers mid-season after struggling to find a place with the St. John’s Ice Caps. Samulelsson play is sometimes inconsistent, so it is unlikely Vegas would select this AHL defenseman. He will also be a free agent in July.
Rob Scuderi (LA Kings): Scuderi barely played last season and spent most of the year on the AHL roster. His 2016-17 season suggests that he is much more likely to be heading to retirement than to Vegas.
Stephen Gionta (New York Islanders): Gionta missed much of last season due to injury, and split the season between the AHL and the NHL. Gionta is a fun player to watch, but he does not put up big enough numbers for Vegas to pick him over other Islanders options. Additionally, Gionta will be a free agent on July 1.
Brian Boyle (Toronto Maple Leafs): Boyle is a veteran player with strong face-off skills and decent offensive numbers... but he’s going to be a free agent in July. He could be a good choice for Vegas, but they are not going to pick him unless they have a guarantee that he will sign with them.
Ben Smith (Toronto Maple Leafs): Smith is a BC favorite, but he has not been able to live up to his potential in the NHL, in part because of a couple of bad concussions. It is unlikely that Vegas will chose him out of all of Toronto’s unprotected players.
Paul Carey (Washington Capitals): Carey has shown himself to be a terrific AHL player that will likely make the jump to spending more time in the NHL soon. However, he will be a free agent on July 1 and there are a number of quite talented unprotected players on Washington’s list. It is unlikely he will be chosen by Vegas.
Brooks Orpik (Washington Capitals): It is tough to say how much longer Orpik has as an NHL player. He still puts up great +/- ratings and plays tough, but he has had a number of concussions and will be 37 in September. If the Golden Knights want a hard-hitting defenseman with leadership experience, Orpik could be a good choice. He is not the most skilled player that Washington has left unprotected, but his salary could help them meet the cap floor and his leadership could be vital on a young team.