This isn’t your typical quiet off-season in the NHL, in fact the next few days are going to be what the league hopes is someday remembered as a monumental time in its history.
In addition to the usual NHL Awards ceremony on Wednesday (8, NBCSN) which is annually held in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights (Vegas’ first top-level professional sports team) will announce its Expansion Draft selections as well during the show. It’s the first NHL Expansion Draft since 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets came into existence. As the NHL’s 31st club (playing in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division), the Knights must select at least one player from every other team for a total of 30 players (with a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders). Last Sunday, each franchise had to submit a protected list of players (that Las Vegas couldn’t select) and the Bruins chose to shield seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender.
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The players who are still officially Bruins are forwards David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner; defensemen Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller; and goaltender Tuukka Rask. Those left unprotected by Boston were forwards Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes; defensemen Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow; and goaltender Malcolm Subban. Keep in mind that first and second-year professionals (such as talented young defensemen Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy) along with all unsigned draft choices of the B’s are not allowed to be picked by Las Vegas. The only real surprise from the Bruins in this case was that they chose Miller (3 goals and 10 assists in 58 games) over Colin Miller (6 goals and 7 assists in 61 games). Granted that Kevan had a better 2016-17 campaign (in terms of consistency game-to-game) than Colin and a real solid playoff series vs. Ottawa, but Colin is younger and cheaper with more skills that jump out at you (great skater and a big-time shot).
The Golden Knights have to stay under the recently released NHL salary cap of $75 million for next season so it’s not like they can just assemble a team of all the best players available in the Expansion Draft. Still, Colin Miller is 24-years-old and he is set to only earn $1 million in 2017-18 which is a bargain. In other words, don’t be surprised to see him selected by Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Bergeron will be bidding for his fourth career Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) on Wednesday after he previously won it in 2011-12 then back-to-back seasons starting two years later (2013-14 and 2014-15). The league-wide roster freeze ends on Thursday morning and the 2017 NHL Draft begins on Friday in Chicago with Round 1 followed by Rounds 2-7 on Saturday. The Draft is always the site of many deals involving both draft picks and established players in the league so you’ll want to pay attention to the news coming from this weekend. It also serves as a nice prelude to free agency beginning the following Saturday