Vegas Expansion Team Predictions 

We are coming down to the wire when it comes to the Vegas Golden Knights selecting their team. All of the protection lists have been submitted. Now with these submissions I selected the team I would make if I was Vegas. 

Forwards

Bobby Ryan, OTT 

James Neal, NASH 

Dale Weise, PHI 

Brad Richardson, ARI 

Riley Sheahan, DET 

Trevor Lewis, LA 

Devante Smith-Pelly, NJ 

William Karlson, CBJ 

Dimitrij Jaskin, STL

Kerby Rychel, TOR 

Jonathan Marchessault, FLA

William Carrier, BUF 

Jacob De La Rose, MTL 

Reid Boucher, VAN 

Mikail Grigorenko, COL 

Defense

Toby Enstrom, WIN

Sami Vatanen, ANA

Brendan Dillon, SJS 

Matt Dumba, MIN

Klas Dahlbeck, CAR

Trevor Van Reimsdyk, CHI

Calvin De Haan, NOT

Jamie Oleksiak, DAL 

Griffin Reinhart, EDM 

Joe Morrow, BOS 

Jake Dotchkin, TB

Bret Kulak, CAL 

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT

Antti Raanta, NYR 

Philipp Grubauer, WAS

Review

I assembled this team with some big names but prospects that can become something great.

Every team is built through the draft and I expect Vegas to be no different. The big names I picked up will fill the seats up during their inaugural season and get attendance and allow Vegas to compete.

Most of these expensive contracts will expire in a year or two so the Golden Knights won’t have cap issues in the near future. And they’ll have about $20 million in cap space post expansion draft. Adding stars like Bobby Ryan, James Neal, and Marc-Andre Fleury brings great advertisments around the city and a great product on the ice.

Even though this is what I would pick to allow for a competitive team. I would think Vegas is gonna make a lot of trades with teams to either keep a player or trade away one. I don’t expect my team to come close to the real team. But I do expect Vegas to have a handful of good talent on their roster next year. It’ll be a crazy next few weeks with lots of movement around the league. So everyone enjoy the fun off-season that will be commencing. 

Offseason Player Grades: Sidney Crosby

Statistics (Regular Season)

75 GP, 44 G, 45 A, 89 PTS, +17 +/-, 24 PIM

Statistics (Postseason)

24 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 PTS, +4 +/-, 10 PIM

Player Grade (A+)

He proved again why he’s the MVP of the NHL. He had torrid paces throughout the season that left people shaking their heads wondering how he does what he does. He got his 1,000th career NHL point. He helped power a second consecutive Stanley Cup to the city of Pittsburgh. He won his second straight Conn Smythe. Crosby, yet again, exceeded expectations in captaining his team to victory.

Review

Sidney Crosby was right back at it again in 2016-17′. After a slow start the previous season, Crosby was able to turn on the jets and finish the season in an outstanding matter. This season was a little different.

From the outset, you could tell Crosby was going to dominate. Starting with his brilliance in the World Cup of Hockey where him and Brad Marchand teamed up to help lift Canada to the gold medal. He didn’t stop there. He finished second in scoring and won the Conn Smythe as the playoff’s MVP. Most importantly, he won his third career Stanley Cup.

Despite missing the first six games of the season, he continued the dominance by going on a torrid scoring pace to begin the year. He had 26 goals in 31 games at the onset. He did go on a spell where he was struggling to find the back of the net. He finished with 44 goals, which led the league.

He notched his 1,000th career point on a goal assisted by longtime linemate Chris Kunitz in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He went a long stretch of the playoffs without a goal but won the MVP and the Cup. It’s safe to say that Crosby’s season was pretty successful.

Preview

As Crosby heads into next season, the Penguins should be very encouraged with where he and they are headed.

The leader of this team practically dictates how the collective unit will do. Crosby exemplifies that. His captain qualities as well as being the league’s best player really make the Penguins a top team in the league.

He’ll likely be right back where he was this year: He’ll, of course, be centering the top line but whether he will be back with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary remains to be seen. While they played together over the final two games of the season, the Sid and the Kids line was split for some time in the playoffs, too. It seems Guentzel will definitely be on the line as he fell one goal short of tying Dino Ciccarelli‘s record for goal’s scored by a rookie in the playoffs.

Conclusion

Crosby put to rest any doubt that whether Connor McDavid had passed him as the league’s best player. He had one of the more dominant season’s he’s ever had. He dealt with a concussion, missing the first six games of the season. That didn’t stop him from scoring 44 goals and trailing McDavid pretty closely for the majority of the season.

Crosby wasn’t going to be denied in his quest to be the first team to repeat in the salary cap era. People want to play with Crosby because he wins. That was proven this season when the whole team reassembled to go on a quest that they won’t soon forget.

Derrick Pouliot Should Get A Chance

Reading this title may have given many of you a few aneurisms. By now, the Penguins have given defenseman Derrick Pouliot ample chance to prove himself at the NHL level, right? To be quite honest, I don’t think he’s been given ample chances.

Sure, he’s been up and down from the AHL to the NHL and back again multiple times. It seems that anytime Pouliot makes one mistake, it’s magnified and he’s immeadiately benched or sent down. With a young, steadily developing “prospect”, if you will, the worst thing to do is mess with any potential confidence he has.

The Pittsburgh Pirates faced a similar situation early in their season.

Top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, was given the opportunity to be in the Opening Day rotation. His struggles with his control issues were a well-known fact going into the year. Despite a few rough starts, Glasnow began to find himself a bit. He then tailed off and was sent back to the minor leagues. The Penguins need to attempt a similar approach.

Pouliot has served his time in the AHL and has looked good doing it. Although his NHL transition seems to be rough at times, how is he going to get any better continuously being sent up and down?

Thus brings me to my argument: Derrick Pouliot should be in the lineup on Opening Night next year.

Pouliot isn’t going to get better at the NHL level without playing there. Mike Sullivan needs to guarantee Pouliot a spot in the top six to open the year so Pouliot can readily focus on what he needs to do to be a quality and serviceable player. Sullivan has yet to make any player around him worse so Sullivan’s guidance can only help Pouliot.

His struggles to play defense at times can be overcome by the offensive capabilities that Pouliot brings to the table. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.

He scored on his first NHL shot against the Florida Panthers in 2014. He can really skate with the puck and has puck moving abilities that the Penguins sorely could use.

The Penguins used the eighth overall pick on him in 2012. They expect a lot out of him and they can get it if they actually decide to play him.

The Penguins are likely going to need one defenseman when the season begins. It’s safe to assume that Trevor Daley‘s best days might be behind him and that the Penguins will allow him to walk on July 1st. With guys like Nick Bonino, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz needing contracts, the Penguins will have an in-house defensive option or two if they’d like to let Daley go elsewhere.

That would leave the likely pairings to be as follows heading into the season:

Dumoulin-Letang

Cole-Schultz

Maatta-Pouliot

The obvious chemistry of the top four defensemen can’t be understated. The Maatta-Pouliot pairing may look scary, but it’s got the potential to be very effective.

The only way to really grow Pouliot’s game is to let him work out his kinks at the NHL level under Sullivan and defensive coach Sergei Gonchar‘s guidance. He’s shown flashes of being an offensive juggernaut and could really be a great boost to the second power play if in fact Daley signs with another team.

Unless the Penguins go out and sign somebody, your other in-house options include Chad Ruhwedel, Cameron Gaunce, or Frankie Corrado. They’re all perennial seventh defenseman that you can find on the free agency wire. Pouliot is a former first round draft choice with the potential to be just that. He should be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Night roster next year. I don’t think there is much of a question about that.

The question is, how much of a chance will Sullivan give him and how does he respond?

Losing Fleury Is What’s Best For Pittsburgh

Not too often do you hear that a team would do itself a favor by letting go of a quality player for absolutely nothing. The Penguins case is actually a little different heading into the Vegas expansion draft next week.

By now, its widely known that Marc-Andre Fleury waived his no-movement clause that is in his contract for the purpose of the draft. Vegas is very likely to take Fleury and his wife has reportedly been looking at some homes in Vegas as well as school districts for their kids.

A few weeks ago, it seemed as Fleury had boosted his trade value by his carrying of the team through the playoffs’ first two rounds. Calgary and Buffalo had been reported suitors but those rumors have since died down and it seems Vegas will not flip Fleury after taking him in the draft.Fleury has been an integral part of this team’s success since he was drafted in 2003. It’s never an ideal situation when an expansion draft like this arises. While it looks as though the Penguins will lose Fleury for nothing, not all is bad.

Had the Penguins agreed on a trade partner for The Flower, even though it could still happen, they would have likely lost a key top four defenseman from the previous season.

Due to expansion draft rules, you can only protect seven forwards, three defenseman, and a goalie. Fleury’s no-movement clause had to be waived or the Penguins would’ve taken the chance of losing Matt Murray, something they don’t want to happen.

With Kris Letang also having a no-movement clause in his contract, the Penguins would be forced to protect two of Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole. The four of those players are a bit more valuable than losing Fleury for some draft pick off of another squad.

The rules of the expansion draft state that if there is a trade by Vegas with another team, that player the Golden Knights acquired would be the “draft” choice for Vegas. Thus, that team wouldn’t lose anyone else.

It looks like Flower will just be drafted by Vegas so it won’t matter. But if the Golden Knights do send a draft pick to Pittsburgh, that would be considered Vegas’ draft choice.

Fleury heading to Vegas would also take $5.75 million off the books, something the Penguins will need greatly if they want to have a shot at a championship again next year. They can use that money towards the resigning of key players

So while the emotional connection to Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be moved to a new team, the Penguins will be better off assuming Fleury is traded for or selected for nothing by Vegas.

COLUMN: The Non-Move That Won The Pens A Cup

Let me start by saying that Sidney Crosby is deserving of the Conn Smythe. I do believe it should’ve gone to Evgeni Malkin but Crosby was just about as equally deserving.

But let’s make no mistake about it, had it been possible to give the Conn Smythe to a split tandem of Pittsburgh goaltenders, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the club’s most valuable players.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins don’t beat Washington. They probably squeak by Columbus with an average backup goalie because they were simply the better team. The game seven shutout of Washington in the second round was about as disheartening to a fan base as the inevitable Fleury trade will be for this one. He carried that momentum two games into the Ottawa series, then things went south.

A bad nine minutes in game three, where he allowed four goals on nine shots, will soon turn into the final outing that Fleury had as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Let me remind you, Fleury is considered the back up.

So, when the starter got his chance, he wasn’t going to look back.

Matt Murray was very good over the final four and a half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. He faced barrages from the Senators and battled tooth and nail with embattled Senators goalie Craig Anderson for a victory in seven games.

Murray took on the Cinderella story from Nashville. He opposed Pekka Rinne, a leader for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, and thoroughly played better. The Penguins made Rinne look silly on several occasions. Although it seemed that mid-series that the Predators had figured Murray out, Mike Sullivan‘s confidence didn’t waiver. He stuck it out with Murray who repaid the coach with, not one, but TWO shutouts in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Murray is still considered a rookie. He is the only player in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie. While this comes on sort of a technicality, it doesn’t downplay the magnitude of him spearheading two Stanley Cup championships. Who’s to say the Penguins would or wouldn’t be in this situation today had Murray not hurt his groin in the pregame of the game one of the Blue Jackets series?

But that wasn’t the case. Fleury stepped in and did an admirable job. One that Tristan Jarry simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

Credit Jim Rutherford for that one.

As trade deadline day approached, an unsettling feeling grew within the stomach of Marc-Andre Fleury. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2003 and has played his entire career to this point with Pittsburgh. The rumors ran rampant that he’d be moved to another team as his trade value seemed to be plummeting ever so quickly after his truthfully horrible regular season.

Rutherford surprised everyone and stuck to his guns saying that it’s never a bad thing to have two goalies of the caliber that Murray and Fleury are. Rutherford wants to keep both goalies. It’s practically impossible at this point.

The impending Vegas Golden Knights franchise will be drafting in a few weeks to assemble their team for the upcoming year and Fleury is undoubtedly on their radar. After his playoff performance, he’ll be on a few other teams’ radar.

As I mentioned before, the Penguins don’t beat Washington without Fleury. It doesn’t happen. He was spot on against Alex Ovechkin and outdueled Braden Holtby with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Rutherford not moving Fleury is a credit to Rutherford’s intelligence as a general manager. It’s a huge reason why the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions and why they have a legitmate shot to win yet again in 2018.

Malkin the Sure Fire Conn Smythe Winner

In Wednesday night’s home game Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin rocketed a wrister over Pekka Rinne’s glove hand and ultimately chased the netminder. That goal was Malkin’s ninth of these playoffs and honestly his flashiest.

No doubt we have all seen Malkin score some incredible highlight reel goals. For example a no-look-top shelf-spin-o-rama-backhand or razzle dazzled forehand-backhand while falling down. But that’s not something we’ve seen from the Penguins assistant captain this post season. What we have seen is Malkin quietly rack up 26 points in 23 games as the playoffs scoring leader. Quietly the Penguins’ center has made his case for the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, should the Penguins closeout the Predators with two more wins.

Malkin has mostly been playing with Phil Kessel on his wing. While the other side, has been a revolving door of wingers (Kunitz, Wilson, Guentzel, Hornqvist, Rust). Phil Kessel has only seven goals while Kunitz, Wilson, Hornqvist, and Rust have only combined for 12 goals. Guentzel only being on his wing briefly also has very few points while playing alongside Malkin. This poses the question, where is Evgeni Malkin getting all of these points? Fact is Malkin’s dominance in all three zones has made whoever is on the ice with him better.

Is Malkin the top choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy, should the Penguins win? The answer is absolutely! When Crosby was dealing with concussion symptoms during the Washington series, Malkin stepped up as he always does. While only producing one assist on the game winning goal, Malkin played 20+ hard minutes and winning 76% of his faceoffs. On top of that he dominated in the puck possession game. Malkin put the team on his back as did the other locker room leader, and if he was still playing, a close second Conn Smythe Trophy candidate, Marc-Andre Fluery.

But again, this scenario only works if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. For that to happen, Malkin will have to elevate his game once again, unlike games three and four.

(Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports)

Malkin Completely Contained in Nashville

The Pittsburgh Penguins only scored two goals in their two previous games in Nashville. while Malkin did not factor in on any of those goals. Even worse, Malkin was a -3 with three shots on goal in two games, while winning an average of just over 39% of the faceoffs. When compared to the rest of his playoff stats, it is clear that Evgeni Malkin is an important factor in this series, for the Penguins to repeat as champions. The Penguins have had a few days rest and Malkin did not partake in Thursday’s optional morning skate. This will hopefully give Malkin the energy he needs to help give the Penguins a 3-2 series lead.

Malkin Makes Promise and Delivers

Evgeni Malkin told the media days before game five that Phil Kessel would score. He also exclaimed the he and his teammates would play better than their performance in Nashville. Malkin either has a crystal ball or can predict the future because the Penguins leader was right on all accounts. Malkin lead the team in hits with five, scored a goal, added an assist, and mixed it up with numerous Predators in defense of his teammates. His teammates played exceptional from top to bottom which included Phil Kessel scoring and adding two assists. When Malkin says it’s so, everyone should believe. Leadership, playoffs leading scorer, predictor of the future, if that’s not Conn Smythe worthy then I don’t know what is.

Should Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins win one more game and repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, the likely-hood of the Conn Smythe Trophy being awarded to Malkin, should be eminent. It takes 16 wins to become Stanley Cup Champions and Penguins need one more. No doubt it will take another All-Star effort by Malkin and his teammates to make it happen.

 

Killer Instinct Key To Penguins Playoff Run

Heading in to a potential Stanley Cup clinching game, the Pittsburgh Penguins have proven an old cliche completely wrong. 

The saying “we need to play 60 minutes” is, and always has been, utter nonsense.The 2016-2017 playoff Penguins have been remarkably inconsistent for a team making it all the way to the Final. Even taking out the surprise Columbus Blue Jackets in 5 games in Round 1, Pittsburgh wasn’t the better team over 60 minutes for more than 2 of them.

They are also, however, remarkably resilient. They have that killer instinct where they know when to turn it on. Every team has had their moments where they’ve made the Penguins look mediocre. Really bad even.

They’ve had more than their share of frustrations. They’ve had a struggling power play. They’ve had lacklustre goaltending. They have had slumping stars. They’ve had them sometimes all at the same time. Opposing team supporters are almost right when they say the Penguins have no business being in the Final.

Yet here they are, one win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions. 

No matter what happens over the next game or maybe two, you can’t possibly believe it’s dumb luck anymore.

You can’t possibly deny the leadership abilities of Sidney Crosby, or the complete game he plays. You can’t possibly still believe Evgeni Malkin is only a good player being carried. You can no longer believe they just happened to luck into solid rookie depth players who have miraculously all decided to play above their potential consistently for two seasons and two playoffs. 

What you have to accept is this team is everything the “blind supporters” believe it is. 

The last team to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions are the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings and that’s very important. When you look at another very complete player in captain Steve Yzerman, you see another leader who sacrificed offensive dominance for team success. You see another group of overachieving third and fourth liners who played out of their minds.

You can look at that and say Yzerman was just fortunate to have played with a bunch of future hall of Famers. Or you could understand following a leader like that showed them what it took to be Hall of Famers.

In a decade or so, time will tell how many Hall of Famers or long term career contributors there are on these 2016 and 2017 Penguins teams, but at that time I also hope we don’t forget they started as just bunch of nobody rookies playing follow the leader.

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