Six great mysteries of Vegas Golden Knights NHL expansion draft

The NHL’s 30 teams that don’t reside in Las Vegas have until 5 p.m. ET on Saturday to submit their expansion draft protected lists to the NHL. After that time, the Vegas Golden Knights and GM George McPhee can start going over the options and building the first team in their franchise’s history.

“Team,” of course, being a relative term, seeing as how the a number of their selections will never actually skate for the Knights and will be flipped to other franchises this summer.

As we creep closer to the Saturday 3 p.m. ET trade freeze in the NHL – one that affects trades that don’t directly involve Vegas – here’s a look at some of the mysteries surrounding the expansion draft and the run-up to it.

As aside: We highly recommend the Washington Post’s Golden Knights expansion draft feature, which polled 30 writers on their teams’ potential picks. It’s great.

What the heck are the Anaheim Ducks going to do? 

They went for it, and now they’re going to pay the price.

The defensemen they apparently want to protect are Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson. They want their forwards Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg protected. So it would appear Sami Vatanen, by some way shape or form, is the odd-man out.

From Eric Stephens, via the Washington Post:

It’s unclear if the Ducks asked defenseman Kevin Bieksa to waive his no-move clause for the expansion draft — or if Bieksa agreed — but this Anaheim list of protected players assumes Bieksa either waived it, got bought-out or was traded before the draft. Even with Bieksa out of the picture, the Ducks still have the dilemma for who to save on their talented blue line. With Vatanen older than Fowler, Lindholm and Manson and also coming off a postseason shoulder injury that will have him sidelined for more than four months, he is the odd man out. It’s possible Anaheim trades Vatanen before the expansion draft to avoid losing him to the Golden Knights for nothing.

Tough calls for GM Bob Murray. 

What the heck are the Minnesota Wild going to do?

The Wild have three spots for five defensemen: Ryan Suter, who has a no-move clause, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. Will they deal one before the draft? Will they deal with Vegas to ensure that the defensemen aren’t touched? Do they hope that Jason Zucker, LAS VEGAS NATIVE, is enough to entice the Golden Knights to not take one of their defensemen?

As Michael Russo writes, there’s heavy interest in Dumba and Brodin.

Does Marc-Andre Fleury stay Knighted?

The rumors are that when the Knights select Fleury, he will be their starting goalie. This is a smart move on several fronts, none the least being that Fleury is great in the room and a solid face-of-the-franchise guy for a first-year team.

However, you have the Calgary Flames’ goalie situation, and we’re still enamored with the idea that former Penguins GM Jason Botterill somehow imports Fleury to the Buffalo Sabres.

But the odds are on Fleury being the Knights’ starting goalie and, likely, All-Star Game rep in 2018.

Can the Kings make Dustin Brown disappear? 

Brown’s ridiculous contract, which carries a $5.875 million cap hit through 2022, festers on the Los Angeles Kings’ cap like a case of herpes. While his point total climbed to 36 in 80 games this season, his shots per game (2.19) was his lowest since 2005-06.

He lost the captaincy. He lost his greatest advocate in GM Dean Lombardi. The question is how much it’ll cost the Kings to lose him to the Golden Knights, who are much more likely to draft defenseman Brayden McNabb and may ultimately decide that Brown’s contract is too toxic even for an expansion salary cap.

How many ex-Washington Capitals does McPhee select?

Well, we know there will be at least one ex-Capital on the roster, as ex-Capitals GM George McPhee will immediately make his choice from Washington an ex-Capital. The early money was on that player being goalie Philipp Grubauer, the backup to Braden Holtby, but it appears that defenseman Nate Schmidt could be the play. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by McPhee.

Will there be other ex-Capitals joining Vegas? Perhaps. Eric Fehr, a McPhee favorite, will be available from the Toronto Maple Leafs, although 22-year-old Kerby Rychel is more likely the guy they snag. What about Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks? Again, one assumes there are going to be better options, like defensemen Brenden Dillon or Mirco Mueller. McPhee would snag Mathieu Perreault in a millisecond, but the Winnipeg Jets’ signing of Marko Dano likely means Perreault will be protected.

Will there be any players over 30 taken?

The last time there was an expansion draft in 2000, veteran players like Mathieu Schneider, Joe Juneau and Kevin Dineen were among those taken. But if we’re to go by the Washington Post’s beat writers list, there would be only three players north of 30 years old taken, and only two of them making significant money: Fleury ($5.75 million) and Tomas Plekanec, 34, who makes $6 million against the cap.

It’s weird to think that Vegas isn’t a place for rich old guys, but here we are.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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