In 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers selected 26 players in the expansion draft. Ten of those players never played a game for the Thrashers.
On Wednesday night, in front of a packed house at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the Vegas Golden Knights unveiled what the majority of their roster will look like in 2017-18.
But when the glitter and glitz from Wednesday night fades, changes will be coming, and quickly.
By the time the NHL entry draft concludes Saturday afternoon in Chicago, many of the players and draft picks selected by the Knights on Wednesday will be sent packing to other teams as general manager George McPhee begins transforming an abundance of unprotected, unsigned and unproven players into a competitive, 23-man roster by the time the Knights open the season on Oct. 6 in Dallas.
Until then, here’s a quick analysis of the NHL’s newest hockey team, with a roster that is made up of players signed before the expansion draft, expansion-draft picks and trades made during the expansion draft:
Marc-Andre Fleury: Fleury ranks up there with John Vanbiesbrouck as one of the top goalies ever selected by an expansion franchise. Vanbiesbrouck was 30 years old when the Florida Panthers selected him from the New York Rangers in 1993. He went 21-25-11 in his first season in Florida, helping the Panthers complete their inaugural season with a respectable 33-34-17 record. Fleury, 32, has an all-time, regular-season record of 375-216-68 and has won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There will be days when he wishes former teammate Kris Letang was in front of him, but he’ll make the Knights competitive from day one.
James Neal: The Knights are likely to struggle to score, and they’ll need Neal, 29, to be the real deal. Few players in the NHL have a release as quick as Neal, who has scored 20 or more goals in six straight seasons, including 31 two seasons ago and 40 in 2011-12.
Marc Methot: At 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, Methot is a legitimate shutdown defenseman capable of logging big minutes for the Knights. But will McPhee keep the 32-year-old blueliner or deal him? Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion tried to make a deal with the Knights so they would lay off Methot, but he was unwilling to part with his first-round pick in 2018. If the Knights are interested in moving Methot, the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens would love to have him. But Methot has 10 teams on his no-trade list, which will limit McPhee’s flexibility and could keep Methot in Vegas.
Swing and miss
When it came to the Sabres’ unprotected list, the Knights could have chosen between hard-hitting defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, 26, or talented goaltender Linus Ullmark, 23. Instead, they selected left winger William Carrier and a sixth-rounder from the Sabres. Carrier, 22, had just five goals and three assists in 41 games as a Sabres rookie in 2016-17.
The Knights took on a pair of contracts — David Clarkson from the Blue Jackets and Mikhail Grabovski from the Islanders — that will help them get to the salary floor but little else. Clarkson, 33, has three years and $15.75 million remaining on his contract and has been sidelined since the 2015-16 season with back pain. Grabovski, also 33, has one year and $5 million remaining on his contract and has not played since 2015-16 because of a concussion. In return, the Knights picked up a first-round pick (15th overall) from the Islanders, along with a second-round pick in 2019 and a prospect, Jake Bischoff. From the Blue Jackets, the Knights received the 24th pick in 2017 and a second-rounder in 2019.
As evidenced by the work he did against Sidney Crosby in the Eastern Conference finals, Methot is as tough as they come and would make an excellent captain if McPhee and the Knights don’t trade him.
Potential forward lines
Potential defensive pairs
Marc-Andre Fleury (Penguins)
Calvin Pickard (Avalanche)
Jean-Francois Berube (Islanders)