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Expansion Draft

Golden Knights choose 30 players, announce 10 trades at Expansion Draft

Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal among those selected by Vegas

by Mike Cranston / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- Three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, former 40-goal scorer James Neal and center Jonathan Marchessault were among the 30 players selected by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile on Wednesday.

Vegas also acquired 10 draft picks, three in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas, over the next four years to help it build for the future.

General manager George McPhee is pleased with the haul. 

"There were two objectives," McPhee said at T-Mobile Arena. "The first was to put an entertaining and competitive team on the ice. … The second objective was to acquire prospects and surplus draft picks that can help us draft our way to success."

 

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Counting players acquired in the 10 trades announced at the expansion draft, the Golden Knights ended up with 19 forwards, 15 defensemen and three goaltenders, although the list likely will change with more trades expected before next season begins.

The Golden Knights weren't afraid to take on big contracts, leaving the expansion draft with a payroll of $74.1 million, according to CapFriendly.com. 

Two free agents were among their 30 selections. Forward Erik Haula, who could have been a restricted free agent July 1, got a three-year contract with an average annual value of $2.75 million to leave the Minnesota Wild, and defenseman Deryk Engelland, who lives in Las Vegas and played for the Calgary Flames last season, got a one-year contract worth $1 million. 

"There is a buzz in the valley," Engelland, 35, said. "There is Knights stuff everywhere you look."

Video: Breaking down the Vegas Golden Knights' picks

The face of the franchise figures to be Fleury, who won the Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017). He is 375-216-66 with two ties and has a 2.58 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 691 NHL games, all with Pittsburgh, which selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft.

Fleury lost his starting job to Matt Murray after sustaining a concussion late in the 2015-16 season. Murray was in goal when the Penguins won back-to-back championships, but Fleury earned nine of 16 wins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs after Murray was injured in warmups for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

"I just want to come and play hockey," Fleury said. "Obviously, we've got great fans already having sold out the season tickets and with the reception here tonight."

Fleury agreed in February to waive his no-movement clause, which opened the door to him being left exposed in the expansion draft. He reportedly has two years remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $5.75 million.

Fleury said it is "surreal" to be moving to Las Vegas. 

"I'll give everything I've got to win some games and give back to the community and the people," he said. 

The Golden Knights hope to get offense from Neal and Marchessault.

Video: Kevin and Jamie react to Expansion Draft picks

Neal, 29, had 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists) in 70 games for the Nashville Predators, and then had nine points (six goals, three assists) in 22 playoff games before Nashville lost to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Neal, who carries a $5 million charge against the NHL salary cap entering the final season of his contract, according to CapFriendly.com, scored an NHL career-high 40 goals with the Penguins in 2011-12 and had 31 goals for the Predators in 2015-16. 

Marchessault, 26, reportedly will make $750,000 next season in the final year of his contract. He had 51 points (30 goals, 21 assists) in 75 games with the Florida Panthers this season.

The Golden Knights sent a fourth-round pick to the Panthers in a trade for forward Reilly Smith, who reportedly is owed $25 million over the next five seasons. 

The rest of the selections were a mix of young players and veterans, including defenseman Jason Garrison from the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

"It can be a little difficult at the start when you're changing teams, but there's so much anticipation and excitement coming into this expansion draft, I'm excited," Garrison, 32, said.

Video: Kevin Weekes speaks with Marc-André Fleury

The other 30 NHL teams each could protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender from Vegas, or eight skaters and one goalie. The Golden Knights received the lists at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

"This is the deepest expansion draft that we've ever had, and this team should be competitive next year," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Are they going to win the Stanley Cup in the first year? I'm not so sure anybody should be predicting that. But this team should be playing meaningful games throughout most of the season. And that's what we hoped for and that's what the fans deserve."

McPhee has little time to rest after a frantic 82 hours. He was to fly to Chicago later Wednesday to prepare for the 2017 draft. 

The Golden Knights have the sixth pick (their own), the 15th pick (from the New York Islanders) and the 24th pick (from the Columbus Blue Jackets) in the first round at the United Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). 

Then it will be up to coach Gerard Gallant to get Vegas ready for its first game Oct. 6 at the Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights will play their home opener Oct. 10 at T-Mobile Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.

"I think we're going to be competitive," said defenseman Brayden McNabb, who leaves the Los Angeles Kings for another Pacific Division team. "There are a lot of good players that we selected and some young guys too. And we've got great goaltending, and it starts there."

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