George McPhee wants to take. The NHL's other 30 GMs want to keep.
The hockey world is preparing for a shell game from which McPhee wants to build the best possible roster for his Vegas Golden Knights while the rest of the league is hoping to keep what is currently theirs. Something has to give. Every team must lose a player and some departures will sting more than others.
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There will be strategic swaps, side deals and bargaining. McPhee will be at the epicenter for the better part of a month culminating with the unveiling of his roster on June 21st as part of the NHL Awards Night.
McPhee must select one player from every roster in the NHL including a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. He can select as many as six goalies.
Teams have two protection formulas they can follow: (1) eight skaters and one goalie or; (2) seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
Players with no move clauses must be protected which limits the options for GMs around the NHL.
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The different configurations will allow team to shelter areas where they have more depth and expose cupboards they believe to be closer to bare.
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McPhee's phone has already been ringing with teams hoping to talk strategy and to potentially use Vegas to get them something they need.
For example, a team may covet a goalie on another roster. They can ask McPhee to select that goalie and have a pre-arranged trade in place.
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Other clubs with protection issues may ask McPhee to stay away from certain players on its roster which it cannot protect and in exchange ship draft picks to the Golden Knights.
The market for such deals remains unknown and McPhee will be setting the prices.
Certain teams are viewed as having larger protection issues than others.
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The Anaheim Ducks have four players with no move clauses leaving them in a spot where they may have to expose a talented young forwards such as Jakob Silfverberg or a defenseman like Josh Manson. Rickard Rakell could also be in the mix.
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The Minnesota Wild have four players on their roster with no move clauses and will have to choose from a group of young D including Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Christian Folin, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba for exposure.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are another club with young depth and four players on contracts with no move clauses. Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could find himself having to expose forwards such as William Karlsson, Josh Anderson and Matt Calvert. On defense, Kekalainen could find himself in a position where he has to choose between keeping Jack Johnson or David Savard.
Expect GMs to ask expensive veterans like Anaheim's Kevin Bieksa to waive there no move clauses to give teams more flexability. Agents and tenured players, however, have negotiated those no move clauses so they can control their own destiny. Giving it up such power seems unlikely.
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McPhee has said he expects a redistribution of talent prior to the draft as teams with protections issues may turn to others with flexibility for shelter.
Vegas has put together protections lists for the entire league and conducted mock drafts. But until those lists are submitted on June 18th, McPhee and his staff are only making educated guesses.