Saturday, May 06, 2017

Pool Outlook for Vegas

Only a couple days after the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals had concluded and the Pittsburgh Penguins were still dreaming of spending their day with the Cup in the Summer, word got out that the NHL Executive Committee unanimously said yes to a new franchise in Las Vegas.  A week later, the move became official, just short of the NHL Awards, that the NHL would then become 31 teams for the 2018 season.

After the free agency period finally came to a head in the middle of July, the team from Las Vegas named their first General Manager, starting the process of getting the hockey operations office together.  The chosen man for the job, George McPhee.

Seven weeks into the season, the announcement finally came around for their name and logo... the Vegas Golden Knights were born!

Unfortunately, with how the Pool Outlook posts go, the team that will be playing out of Sin City doesn't quite have a roster yet, but it will start to come around, shortly after the playoffs conclude.  Of course, once the team became qualified to make some moves, which came around at the trade deadline, they were able to sign college free agents and undrafted junior players, which led to their first signing, Brandon Wheat Kings forward Reid Duke.

The Golden Knights also announced their first head coach, weeks after their first signing, picking up Gerrard Gallant, who last coached in Florida, known as a player's coach, which should bode well for a new organization, made up of unprotected castaways and other assorted traded players and draft picks.

And then, just this past Thursday night, the Golden Knights announced a huge signing, Russian forward Vadim Shipachyov was brought over from the KHL as a free agent and automatically became the best player on the team, with his known scoring prowess in the Russian league.

So, with all of that being said, the Golden Knights are now a team, they have a coach, they have a player, soon to have many more, come June 21st, the day of the expansion draft and the NHL Awards, which will quickly be followed up by the entry draft, where they hold the 6th pick in the opening round.  More to come on that below.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

Boy, I would sure like to see the NHL expand to 32 teams, a franchise in both Las Vegas and Quebec City would be great for this league, in terms of balance in the schedule and a couple more teams for the hockey pool to choose from would be great too.

This may not be a direct quote, but it was certainly the sentiment that I had towards NHL expansion at this time last year.  Two teams would have had a far greater positive effect on the league, likely giving balance to the NHL schedule, not that it has propped itself up as a problem in recent years, but the optics of it all would certainly look more organized.  That 32nd team likely isn't too far away from becoming a reality, but for now, we'll all have to focus on one new team and the off-season fun that it will bring.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Vadim Shipachyov 4.500
Reid Duke 0.770

Well, it's hard to draw any conclusions from how the team will fare by just the team's two signings, but I would have to imagine that they will be getting some help in a number of positions, some of which will be pool worthy next season.

Potential Gains in the Expansion Draft

The potential gains are quite staggering, really.  The parity in the league and the depth of talent on a lot of teams will mean that when the Golden Knights do their drafting on June 21st, they should have a fair number of talented players to snag from the unprotected lists of teams.  Kind of like the mock entry draft that I do with the needs above, I will be outlining the players that I think the Golden Knights may receive from each team.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

With the salary cap ceiling (and floor) set to rise for the 2018 season, it will be very interesting to see what kind of spending limits the ownership will have, if any.  The 2017 ceiling was set at $73 million and depending on how the players want to deal with their escrow payments and such, they could be seeing a rise in that ceiling number to anywhere around the $76 million mark.  After spreading the wealth of some big contracts around at the expansion draft, it could be very fun to watch.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

June 23rd will be the date of the first entry draft for the Golden Knights, a couple of days after the expansion draft and the draft lottery finished up with the Golden Knights taking the 6th overall pick.  If I was starting a new franchise, I would try and make this pick as sexy as possible and saying that, I would be taking a big centre in Michael Rasmussen from the Tri-City Americans in the WHL.  It sounds like this kid has above average offensive upside for a kid that is already 6'6" and 215 lbs..

The Golden Knights have the potential of being a fairly competitive team, if the expansion draft mock-ups are any indication moving forward.  Their real difficulty will be to come together as a complete unit in time, as they will be starting from scratch in the literal sense.  An entire group of players, coming from different teams and different systems, all trying to learn the new systems and their new teammates as quickly as possible.  Given that, it is seemingly improbable that they are going to make the playoffs, but certainly not impossible.  Without a doubt, however, they will be exceptionally fun to watch, as the team develops before our very eyes.
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