James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Two big expansion draft deadlines today: Trade freeze, protected lists due

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There are plenty of big days coming up as the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft rapidly approaches, but Saturday is one of the biggest so far.

The NHL is instituting two big deadlines regarding the expansion draft today:

Trade freeze: At 3 p.m. ET, the NHL’s other 30 teams are limited to trades solely with the Golden Knights. There’s also an “expansion draft signing moratorium” for everyone except Vegas, but the trade freeze is most likely to generate some interesting moments today.

It’s believed that Golden Knights GM George McPhee already has some deals brewing that will give him picks (and more?) to guide his hand away from teams’ unprotected players.

Speaking of trades, it might take some time for rumors to turn into confirmations, at least when it comes to teams paying a ransom for the Golden Knights to take specific players.

Of course, today’s deadline is more about teams making deals between each other to avoid losing players, at least on its face.

Protected lists due: At 5 p.m. ET, every team except the Golden Knights must submit their list of protected players.

Fans will get a treat on Sunday, as 10 a.m. ET stands as the deadline for the league to “approve and simultaneously distribute” said protected lists.

As a reminder, here are the rules regarding who teams can protect:

Protected Lists
* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

* All players who have currently effective and continuing “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

* All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

Also, take an updated look at the remaining deadlines/key dates/etc. for the expansion draft (this might be friendlier to the eye).

Saturday, June 17 Commencement of the Expansion Draft Trade/Waiver Freeze for all NHL Clubs with exception of the Expansion Club (3 p.m. ET).

Commencement of Expansion Draft Signing Moratorium on NHL SPCs for all NHL Clubs with exception of the Expansion Club (3 p.m. ET).

Deadline for each Club to simultaneously submit its Protection List to Central Registry and the NHLPA (5 p.m. ET).

Sunday, June 18 Deadline for Central Registry to approve and simultaneously distribute the Protection Lists to all NHL Clubs (including the Expansion Club) and the NHLPA (10 a.m. ET).
 
Opening of the UFA/RFA Interview Period (only applies to Players who are available for selection in the Expansion Draft) for the Expansion Club only (10 a.m. ET).

Wednesday, June 21 Deadline for the Expansion Club to simultaneously submit its Expansion Draft Selections to Central Registry and the NHLPA (10 a.m. ET).

Deadline for the Expansion Club to submit SPCs for any pending UFA/RFAs who are selected by the Expansion Club and signed to a new contract (10 a.m. ET). The Expansion Club is permitted to sign a current or pending Free Agent on a Current Club’s list of Available Players during the period between 10:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 18, and 9:59 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 21, and in so doing will be deemed to have made its Expansion Draft selection from such Current Club. If the Expansion Club signs a Restricted Free Agent from the Available List of a Current Club during said period, the Current Club will not be entitled to any compensation from the Expansion Club.

Official distribution and announcement of the Expansion Club’s Selections in conjunction with the 2017 NHL Awards presented by T-Mobile (8 p.m. ET).

Thursday June, 22 Expansion Draft Signing Moratorium and Trade/Waiver Freeze are lifted (8 a.m. ET).

PHT will be here to guide you through what could be a wild ride.

Blue Jackets expected to pay big price to limit expansion draft damage

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The trade freeze for teams adjusting to the upcoming Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft is coming at 3 p.m. ET today, prompting some fans to wake up early. Some might be feeling anxious by a “lack of” deals … but the smoke might not really clear even on Saturday.

Potential Golden Knights fans would be wise to wait and see what GM George McPhee is cooking, as it sounds like he could command quite the ransom from teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets could pay a serious price to keep Vegas from taking a key player who they won’t be able to protect:

The Jackets are believed to be trading this year’s first-round draft pick (No. 24 overall) and a prospect (not Pierre-Luc Dubois or Sonny Milano) to Vegas for assurances that the Golden Knights will select either left wing Matt Calvert, center William Karlsson or defenseman Ryan Murray.

Vegas’ acquisition of the contract of injured veteran forward David Clarkson ($5.25 million salary cap hit) may also be part of the deal.

Ouch.

Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets would pay such a premium to make sure that the Golden Knights look past either a young player (Josh Anderson or Joonas Korpisalo) or an experienced blueliner such as Jack Johnson or David Savard.

Too much or a justified expense?

Let’s take a step back for a second and ponder some of the names involved.

There’s no denying that Ryan Murray has experienced a bumpy climb to the NHL, one made exponentially tougher by a staggering array of early injuries. Still, if you’re the type of person who has even a passing interest in possession stats, it’s tough to digest the idea that Jack Johnson would cost the Blue Jackets Murray.

Granted, there are key notes. Getting rid of David Clarkson’s albatross contract in a potential trade certainly sounds refreshing. And, while there’s sticker shock involved with a first-rounder being thrown in a potential trade, at least it’s the 24th pick in a widely panned draft.

Ultimately, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen must ask himself an obvious-yet-difficult question: is it all really worth it?

We won’t need to wait long to learn his response.

Fleury on likely Pittsburgh exit: ‘Matt’s the guy here’

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury knew this day was coming, though the winningest goaltender in Pittsburgh Penguins history did his best to push the idea of his inevitable departure to the back of his mind. No need to become a distraction with a shot at history on the line.

It was only in the aftermath of Pittsburgh’s second straight Stanley Cup championship that he helped author by playing brilliantly at times during playoff series wins over Columbus and Washington that Fleury let the finality set in.

His eyes moistened as he spoke on Thursday while he and the rest of his teammates packed up for the summer following a giddy downtown parade a day earlier. When the Penguins return to work in September, they’ll try to become the first team in more than 30 years to “threepeat.” Fleury will almost certainly have to watch from afar, probably in Las Vegas as a member of the expansion Golden Knights, as heir apparent Matt Murray minds the net.

“Obviously Matt’s the guy here and he’ll be for many years,” Fleury said.

Just as Fleury was for well over a decade, helping the Penguins to three of their five Cups while collecting more wins (375), saves (17.744) and shutouts (44) than any other goaltender in the franchise’s five decades of existence. Fleury understands he makes too much money ($5.75 million) to be a backup. Besides, he wants to be on the ice every night. That’s not possible in Pittsburgh, where the 23-year-old Murray has the No. 1 job.

“I love to play,” Fleury said. “I love to be in there and compete, the challenge of it. I love everything about it.”

Fleury will just have to love it somewhere else and others are also likely to be here when the Penguins raise another banner to the rafters at PPG Paints Arena in October.

“It’s something I don’t even like having to talk about it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Playing with someone that long, going through what we did, it’s pretty special.”

So too is the chance at becoming a true dynasty. No team has raised the Cup three straight years since the New York Islanders did it four years running from 1980-83, long before the salary cap came around to make any sort of sustained excellence difficult and fleeting.

That doesn’t mean the Penguins aren’t embracing the challenge. Coach Mike Sullivan issued a challenge during the team’s raucous victory parade. Sullivan wasn’t getting caught up in the euphoria of the moment so much as sending a message to Crosby, Murray, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel that there’s no reason the party can’t continue.

“It was an opportunity to throw out a challenge to our core players right away,” Sullivan said with a grin. “That will be our goal, be our expectation.”

A quick look at what should be a short summer in Pittsburgh.

DECISION TIME

The list of Pittsburgh unrestricted free agents include forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen and defenseman Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit. The 40-year-old Cullen is considering retirement. Both Kunitz and Daley could be faced with a choice: make more money elsewhere or make another Cup run in Pittsburgh. General manager Jim Rutherford has encouraged all the pending free agents to check the market then get back to him to see if something can be worked out.

PAY THE MAN

Justin Schultz arrived in Pittsburgh 16 months ago as a reclamation project of sorts. Now the defenseman is primed for a significant raise after putting together the finest season of his career. He will become a restricted free agent and is confident the math will work out that will keep him in Pittsburgh next season.

OFFICE SHUFFLE: The raid on Pittsburgh’s brain trust that helped put together two Cup winners has already started. The Buffalo Sabres lured away Jason Botterill to be their general manager. The trickle-down effect led to the team naming assistant GM Bill Guerin will take over as general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

A SECOND ACT

A year ago, Jake Guentzel watched the Penguins win the Cup on TV after finishing his first few months as pro. Now he’ll have to find a way to top a remarkable rookie season that included 21 playoff points, tied for the most-ever in a single postseason by a rookie. The 22-year-old plans on getting stronger during the brief offseason, at least when he’s not taking the Cup back to his native Minnesota.

HARDLY DONE

Crosby will turn 30 in August but he’s hardly feeling “old.” If anything, the chance to make history next year has invigorated him.

“It’s been so long since teams were able to go back to back, to be able to (three-peat) in this era would be pretty tough to beat,” he said. “It’d be cool to shoot for that.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Wild GM ‘listening’ to trade offers for Dumba, Brodin before expansion draft

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With Saturday’s trade freeze looming ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is one of the executives in the biggest binds.

His reward for building a deep roster is that he’s likely to lose a pretty nice asset, which is why he’s “definitely actively listening” to calls regarding trading one of his surplus defensemen, as he told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

To be more specific, if one blueliner would go, Russo reports that Fletcher has received “quality offers” for Mathew Dumba and Jonas Brodin (especially Brodin).

The Wild general manager has gotten “quality trade offers” for both Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, sources say. With Ryan Suter and likely Jared Spurgeon being two of the maximum three Wild defensemen that can be protected, the Wild may have determined that it would be more prudent to trade Brodin or Dumba rather than risk losing one for nothing during Wednesday’s expansion draft.

Interesting.

One tantalizing hypothetical trade possibility would involve the Wild sending Brodin to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Alex Galchenyuk, who management (rightly or wrongly) may deem expendable after acquiring Jonathan Drouin.

Bob McKenzie notes that there could be other offers for Brodin, as well.

Fletcher’s trying to project an air of calm over the situation, yet then again, he’s also talking about waking up in the early hours of the morning thinking about all of this.

Sabres expect Kyle Okposo to be ready by training camp

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Some people might not love Phil Housley being named Buffalo Sabres head coach. The Jonathan Drouin trade (and extension) will inspire plenty of debate. With that in mind, a positive update regarding Kyle Okposo might be the most unanimously positive bit of news to come on Thursday.

While discussing the addition of Housley (more on that here), Sabres GM Jason Botterill said that Okposo is expected to be ready for the team’s training camp before the 2017-18 season.

“We’ve had conversation with him. Everything’s looking great from Kyle,” Botterill said, via the Buffalo News. “He physically looks great and mentally looks great.”

As you may remember, Okposo experienced a serious health scare in April, being hospitalized and entering an intensive care unit. Okposo was eventually discharged from hospital care; it was later reported that he experienced adverse reactions to medication related to a concussion.