The Vegas Golden Knights are in an odd position, where they control a strong negotiating position over teams who don’t want to lose valuable roster players. Vegas is under no obligation to comply with any requests, and can essentially extort other teams for maximum return. If Anaheim wants to protect Josh Manson, for example, Vegas will play hardball. They will do so for two reasons: first, the better the player, the more important he will be to a future Knights team, and two, they have no incentive not to take that player for anything less than an optimal return. GM George McPhee is already looking to have a better competitive jump-start than any previous NHL expansion team by a significant margin. And it doesn’t look as though he will opt out of choosing the best available players for anything short of a ransom. Some teams might be desperate enough to do so.
Vegas is already assumed to have three picks, and could easily snag more. They have their own pick at #6, and are believed to have side-deals with Columbus and the New York Islanders in order to acquire the #24 and #15 picks, respectively. Anaheim is definitely in discussions to keep Manson and possibly even Sami Vatanen, who they desperately tried to trade for value before Saturday’s roster freeze. It’s quite conceivable that picks are in play there, but Anaheim no longer has its 2017 first after trading it to Dallas for Patrick Eaves.
Other teams who will be desperate to keep players include Nashville, who would lose James Neal, Chicago, who have exposed Trevor van Riemsdyk, and San Jose, who could lose one of Paul Martin or David Schlemko. If those teams, or any other organization, really want to hang onto particular players, there’s a very real possibility they will need to surrender a top pick.
For historical reference, only one team has ever drafted with 5 first-round picks – the 1974 Montreal Canadiens. The last team who had 4 first-round picks was the 1999 New York Islanders, when they selected Tim Connolly at #5. If Vegas could amass yet another first round pick, or even two, it would put them in an incredibly enviable position headed into the Entry Draft. The importance of flash and showmanship is rarely overlooked in the City of Lights, and the team looks to continue that philosophy by embracing the saga that the expansion draft has become.