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After developing players, ‘it’s a bit frustrating’ to possibly lose one in expansion draft

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) There were many years in Minnesota Wild history when assembling a list of their top 10 players would have been a breeze.

That was the biggest challenge this offseason.

The downside to the roster depth the Wild have built has arrived this week in the form of the NHL expansion draft, which will rob them of a valuable player on Wednesday night when the Vegas Golden Knights construct their inaugural team with one player from each of the other 30 clubs.

With defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella at the front of the queue, the Wild stand to lose as much as any team.

“They paid a large expansion fee, and the rules are set up that they’re going to get some tremendous assets out of this process, as they should,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said. He added: “It’s actually, I think, a compliment to our organization that we have so many tough decisions.”

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Wild could lose Dumba, Scandella or Staal in expansion draft

Wild didn’t make a move prior to trade freeze deadline

Fletcher and his top lieutenant, Brent Flahr, quickly realized last summer their vulnerability once the NHL revealed the expansion draft guidelines.

“We did the math very quickly, and we were like, `We’re going to lose a good player,”‘ Fletcher said last week, before the lists were submitted to the league .

The Wild chose the seven forwards (Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker), three defensemen (Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter) and one goalie (Devan Dubnyk) option, rather than the eight skaters (any combination of forwards and defensemen) and one goalie alternative.

That left Martin Hanzal, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart and Ryan White among the unprotected forwards who factored into the postseason lineups and Dumba, Christian Folin and Scandella among the unprotected defensemen. With no-trade clauses in their contracts, veterans Koivu, Parise, Pominville and Suter were mandatory inclusions on the protected list.

“The good news is we can only lose one player. Sometimes at 3 in the morning when I wake up, I remind myself of that: `You can lose only one player. Go back to sleep,”‘ Fletcher said. “But when you’ve drafted and developed a lot of these players, it is a bit frustrating, I’ll admit that.”

The Wild could work out a trade with the Golden Knights to get them to agree not to pick a particular unprotected player, but Vegas general manager George McPhee has made clear he’s in it to win it . Without a first or second-round draft pick this year, the Wild would likely have to part with a player in that scenario, which would mean losing two of them instead of one.

Staal is a first-line center who had 28 goals and 65 points, his highest totals in five years, but at age 32 he’s less attractive. The Wild protected 25-year-old right wing Jason Zucker, a native of Las Vegas, instead.

Dumba, despite a penchant for sloppy and inconsistent play, is just 22 and coming off a career season with 11 goals and 23 assists. He has one of the hardest shots on the team. The 27-year-old Scandella was one of the few bright spots during the first-round loss in the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues.

“I’m pretty confident I know how we’ll look coming out of it,” Fletcher said, “and that’s still a heck of a hockey team.”

 

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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