Report: Las Vegas to get head start on signing unprotected free agents

As we roll head-long towards the upcoming addition of the Las Vegas Desert Knights No Names to the National Hockey league for 2017-18, teams are frantically preparing for June’s expansion draft. A report from earlier this week from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that there’s an additional wrinkle to the expansion draft proceedings:

Sources told ESPN.com that as part of these fascinating expansion-draft
rules we keep learning about, the Vegas organization will have a 48-hour
window ahead of the expansion draft in June to speak with and sign any
pending unrestricted or restricted free agents whom the 30 teams left
unprotected for the expansion draft.

LeBrun noted that if a team loses an RFA or UFA to the No Names prior to the expansion draft, that counts as a player lost in the draft (and so they won’t have anybody else claimed).

This could have some interesting impacts on the Flames.

We’ve written a bit about the expansion draft eligibility requirements for the Flames. Let’s suppose that we’re on the right track and that Brad Treliving and Flames management won’t throw us too many curve balls.

Eligible to be claimed by Las Vegas are:

  • Goalies: Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, and Tom McCollum
  • Defensemen: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J.
    Brodie, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Kulak,
    Ryan Culkin, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Nicklas Grossmann
  • Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Michael
    Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Brandon Bollig, Kris
    Versteeg, Sam Bennett, Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier, Micheal Ferland,
    Alex Chiasson, Linden Vey, and Freddie Hamilton

Presuming the Flames utilize the 1/3/7 method of protection (one goalie, three defensemen, seven forwards), the thought is they’ll protect Elliott, Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolik, Backlund, Bennett and one of Shinkaruk or Ferland.

Now, that obviously would leave out some interesting names, many of which are pending free agents of various stripes.

  • Johnson (UFA) could be a nice, low-cost backup goalie option.
  • Jokipakka (RFA) is a good young blueliner who would also likely be inexpensive.
  • Wideman (UFA) is a power play specialist with a great shot from the point and/or high slot.
  • Engelland (UFA) is a physical veteran who has been lauded for his leadership and resides in Las Vegas in the offseason.
  • Ferland (RFA) is a physical energy winger that would be fairly affordable.

Heck, you could easily argue that the best expansion picks available to Vegas from the Flames are all guys without contracts and so the free agency window probably won’t impact the Flames too much. But if you’re a Flames club wondering about Vegas taking Jokipakka or Engelland, for example, the early signing window could be a time to entice Vegas to close a deal with a UFA via a trade for a pick rather than have to worry about having an unprotected RFA get snatched away in the draft itself. (As a Vegas resident, Engelland could be a nice veteran third-pairing player for Vegas to build around, and the price of a mid-to-late round pick could be enough to retain Jokipakka.)

In other words: if the Flames feel they have some draft picks to work with and would rather not have to deal with expansion draft uncertainty for longer than they absolutely have to, they could nudge Vegas in the direction of signing Johnson, Engelland or Wideman rather than claiming anybody else.

  • supra steve

    What stops Vegas from a handshake agreement with Engelland (and/or any other pending UFA) during this period that isn’t signed till he hits free agency, AND them taking Kevin in the expansion draft?

      • supra steve

        Correct, but what’s to stop them from doing it? The league is allowing the Vegas franchise to communicate with pending unprotected UFAs and express interest in their services and even talk dollars. Vegas will have money to spend, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

          • supra steve

            Only if they do it in a stupid way. If they are smart, and I’m sure they are, there will be no evidence of tampering. I’m expecting they will not be selecting a lot of unprotected UFAs in the expansion draft, and instead will sign several as UFAs come July 1st. Goes to the “if you’re not bending the rules, you’re not trying” mentality in professional sports. They will still start out as a weak team, just not as weak as some past expansion franchises.

  • KiLLKiND

    I still hope Brouwer gets taken in the expansion draft. His contract provides poor value and if he gets taken we can replace him with Oshie, and we will won’t have to pay a 3rd line player 4.5 million which is far too much. Also protecting Ferland, Shinkaruk, or Poirier makes more sense for the future of the team.

    • MontanaMan

      Actually, I have been more than satisfied with what Brouwer has brought to the team. And you overrate Poirier’s value, which seems to be dropping faster that Rachel Notley’s popularity these days. if Poirier doesn’t pick it up, the Flames will be hoping he gets claimed.

      • FL@med

        I’m not agreeing with KillKind by any means, but Oshie is most definitely NOT a third liner. He’s reliable and can slot in on the top line. Of course, thats only if BT is dumb enough to expose Brouwer….

    • Torchy

      Why would the Flames expose Brouwer – who is doing exactly what he was signed to do – just to free up enough cap space for a CHANCE to sign TJ Oshie?

      What have Shinkaruk, Ferland, or Poirier shown to suggest that it’s worth giving up Brouwer for this one in a million chance to sign Oshie?

      Say Brouwer is claimed and Ferland tops out as a 10 goal/yr guy. What should the Flames do? Is it really just as simple as “draft a new guy” or “sign someone better”? Who would line up to sign with the Flames as a free agent after that? If you don’t think that this stuff matters to players you are fooling yourself. There’s more to being an NHL GM than playing with numbers and filling in positional depth charts.

  • Newbietwo

    This is gonna get very interesting and some winners and losers of course.

    1. Your gonna see teams trade picks and players for cap relief like with Arizona this year
    2. You might find it surprising some marque players whom might be older on the block with 1 to 2 years remaining on term

  • cjc

    I can see Vegas doing several deals to avoid certain players in exchange for picks. They’ll need to build up a minor league system in a matter of months, as well as their NHL roster.

    What they certainly won’t be doing is taking a lot of players with salary. They need to hit the cap floor and take someone from each team – that means about 1.5 – 2.5 million to spend per player. I also doubt they’ll want to be a capped out team right away. Expect them to lean towards players on 2 way contracts, I’d guess about 10 players

    • T&A4Flames

      I imagine they will be enticed to take a couple high contracts in exchange for prospects and draft picks. They do need to build a pipeline of youth and depth pretty quick. It all depends on their plan. I’m very interested to see what direction they go.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Only commenting because Oshie came up

    I don’t care which glass you use to look at Oshie, in my opinion he’s one of the best right wingers who can play with Johnny and Sean. He is the real “driver” of play and I’ve wondered on many occasions as to what it would take to bring him to calgary

  • freethe flames

    Do we know where the Vegas AHL team will be? They ultimately will need somewhere @ 46 players signed to NHL contracts. If I was planning the draft I would take 3 goalies (1 NHL starter, 1 NHL back up, and 1 guy who can push these two), 8-10 defenders (2/3 under 25 and trying to do R/L @50%) and the rest forwards with as many centers as possible and over 50% under 25. The Flames are most likely to loss one of JJ/Kulak/Bouma, but I would suspect one of the defenders.

    • supra steve

      The Vegas franchise MUST select 14F, 9D, 3G (totals 26, so I’m assuming those are minimums). It’s all mapped out, they have several restrictions baked into the process, including cap considerations.