After Sunday’s reveal of each team’s list of players protected from the upcoming expansion draft, we have a better idea of what the Las Vegas Golden Knights might look like. If they choose to go down the path of picking the best team possible, Vegas could be decent in year one. If they decide to take the most valuable players possible to flip in trades, they could get quite a haul in picks and prospects. Or, they could just take longterm fits and see what happens. Whichever path they choose will have an impact on the Dallas Stars.
The Stars’ protection list is about what you would expect it to be. Of the exposed players, the ones to keep an eye on are Dan Hamhuis and Cody Eakin. They are easily the two guys most in danger of being taken.
Eakin is a slight surprise, but his down season made exposing him to the draft a bigger reality as time moved forward. In the past, he has proven to be a quality two-way player. He’s young. His contract is affordable and long-term. If you look at the list of available players, you won’t find many quality centers. Eric Staal is the top name, but he’s 32 and the Minnesota Wild are more likely to lose a defenseman than him. Eakin almost seems like someone the Golden Knights will need if they are going to be competitive.
If you’re the Stars and you plan on being competitive in the 2018 season, you can’t lose Dan Hamhuis. The 34-year-old doesn’t have a ton of value to a team in the building process, but with how many teams are looking for quality, veteran defenders on reasonable contracts, you have to think he’d have value league-wide. One of those teams is the Stars. Losing Hamhuis just makes this offseason that much harder.
This is where the gamesmanship of the expansion draft comes in. The Stars are now allowed to negotiate with Vegas to steer them towards a particular player or to steer them away from certain players. Jim Nill could reach out to Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee to arrange a way to keep Hamhuis and/or Eakin by sending picks or prospects his way. The Stars then lose someone like Curtis McKenzie or maybe Jamie Oleksiak. Would it make sense to offer Vegas a mid-round pick to take Oleksiak instead of Eakin or Hamhuis?
On the other hand, they could sit tight. Chances seem pretty good that Vegas will end up taking Eakin. Vegas can take up to 15 defensemen. If you’re taking 15, Hamhuis would almost certainly be one, but they’re going to be hard pressed to come away from the expansion draft with many players having 50-point upside in their forward group. How much do you pay to eliminate any chance of Vegas taking Hamhuis, when the chance seems so small in the first place?
The full roster and all trades will be revealed during the NHL Awards ceremony, so we’ll know officially on June 21. Eakin or Hamhuis are the most likely to be taken, but it remains to be seen if Jim Nill can or wants to send an asset to Vegas to protect one or both players.