The Atlantic Division was arguably the weakest in the league, but Vegas should be happy to know that they can claim two previous 30-goal scorers from the group. Some teams offer very little, such as Buffalo, because of their lack of depth, and Toronto, because of good planning. But others, such as Montreal and Detroit, will provide interesting options at multiple positions.
The Boston Bruins have one of the weakest lists of the lot, but there are still a few names which could help the Golden Knights organization. Vegas could opt for the overpaid but serviceable Matt Beleskey in hopes of his return to form as a solid 3rd-line piece. They might instead select a defenseman, either the puck possession defender in Colin Miller or physical presence in Adam McQuaid – but there may be better defenseman available elsewhere. A very probable scenario is that they opt for a project player in defenseman Joe Morrow or goalie Malcolm Subban. The Toronto Maple Leafs probably released one of the best lists today. Veteran Brooks Laich is an option, but McPhee may opt for 25 year-old Martin Marincin in hopes that he can build upon his last two seasons. Neither loss would impact the team’s ascendance in the slightest. Something to keep an eye out for is the perennially injured Joffrey Lupul – it’s certainly possible GM Lou Lamoriello will use Vegas to take his contract off the books. It wouldn’t take much of a sweetener.
The Montreal Canadiens left veteran defenseman Alexei Emelin exposed, which some predicted – but it could still set their defense back in the short-term. GM Marc Bergevin did well to utilize that final forward protection spot, trading for Jonathan Drouin and locking him up long-term. A potential player to watch is Alexander Radulov and whether Vegas will pursue the unrestricted free agent in the next few days. They do have a head-start, and he would be a potent addition. The Detroit Red Wings made what I consider to be a very surprising move in exposing goalie Petr Mrazek over Jimmy Howard. It could pay dividends if Vegas opts to go in a different goaltending direction, but it seems quite likely they will go the best player available route. Xavier Ouellet is also left exposed, which could decimate their defensive hopes. Unfortunately for Wings fans, Ken Holland very well will pay extortion-level prices for not being more aggressive in the trade market when he had the opportunity.
The Ottawa Senators will contribute one of the top three players to Vegas, regardless of his very hefty $7 MM contract. Bobby Ryan is bound for Nevada unless something unforeseen happens – he’s a former 30 goal scorer, is coming off a hot playoff, and an overpaid contract won’t break this team off the start. They could opt to speak with Mike Condon or go the less expensive route and take the veteran Marc Methot, but neither seems likely. Losing Ryan might hurt the Senators’ depth in the short term but is a solid cap-centric decision. The Buffalo Sabres will not lose much at all. Vegas could take a chance on the surprisingly available young forward William Carrier, or claim an average defenseman in Josh Gorges or Zach Bogosian. Vegas fans who were banking on a Tyler Ennis jersey will have to re-think their potential first purchase.
The Florida teams took completely different approaches to their expansion lists, and its clear that Tampa took the wiser route. Although they lost Jonathan Drouin, they re-couped a solid defenseman and made certain they didn’t lose an asset for nothing. Instead of losing Vladislav Namestnikov, they will instead look to probably surrender one of Cedric Paquette or J.T. Brown. There are a lot of mid-tier options available for Vegas, and I wouldn’t count out Cory Conacher as a darkhorse UFA signing considering his dominant performance in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Florida Panthers produced an inexcusably bad list. They will almost certainly lose their top scorer by not protecting the undersized Jonathan Marchessault. He had a breakout season with 30 goals in 75 games and his loss up front could really sting next season. Also of note is the decision to leave Roberto Luongo unprotected, although nothing likely will come of it.
Ultimately, the Atlantic division has a few players that will provide offensive punch to the Golden Knights, and a couple interesting decisions. McPhee could opt for safer veteran options, or take some gambles – only time will tell.
The original article had mistakenly replaced Collin Miller’s name on the protection list with Kevan Miller.