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Trades galore? McPhee expecting ‘a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft’

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Now that they have a name, the Vegas Golden Knights have to put a team on the ice.

The newly named franchise will get its first 30 players through the expansion draft in June, and Vegas general manager George McPhee and colleagues around the NHL are already deep in preparations and mock-ups.

Even though McPhee ran the Washington Capitals for 17 seasons, GMs around the NHL don’t have any clue how he’ll piece together the Golden Knights.

“I don’t have any inside knowledge what kind of team they’re planning to have, if it’s going to be younger or older – no idea,” longtime rival GM Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils said by phone Wednesday. “He’s been a GM for a long time in Washington — I don’t think that comes into play at all in terms of where they’re going to be in Vegas and what kind of player they’re going to be looking for. … Maybe his opinion of some players has changed and the game where it is now, who knows.”

McPhee knows. And he knows that even as his front office does monthly mock drafts to prepare, things will change at the March 1 deadline and again before teams must submit their protected lists on June 17.

Read more: Golden Knights looking for an experienced head coach

Vegas won’t be able to pick from top stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, and first- and second-year pros like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are exempt. The NHL also sent out a preliminary list of 66 players who must be protected because of no-movement clauses in their contracts.

Knowing each team’s top six or seven players are off the board, McPhee said the Golden Knights’ scouting staff has certain “bubble players” to focus on. That could be a moving target as GMs make trades and signings to be expansion-draft compliant and not give up a top player.

“There’s going to be a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft in the weeks leading up to it,” McPhee said. “We understand teams are going to try to not give us anything, and that’s the way expansion goes. There are a few teams that have expansion stress and we might be able to get a good player from them, and there’ll be some teams that don’t have anything and rather than take a bad contract we’ll take a throwaway pick.”

That’s one hint from McPhee’s past: He won’t take on burdensome contracts. So don’t expect Vegas to rid the Los Angeles Kings of the final five years and $5.875 million salary-cap hit of former captain Dustin Brown‘s deal, the Devils the final four years and $5.75 million cap hit of center Travis Zajac‘s and the Philadelphia Flyers the final three years and $5 million cap hit of defenseman Andrew MacDonald‘s.

Each team can protect seven forwards and three defensemen, or eight skaters of any position, plus one goalie, and all 30 will lose exactly one player. Even though the best will be protected, it figures to reason that the deepest teams are in the most danger of losing a quality player to Vegas.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks, who have eight players with no-movement clauses they must protect and could lose someone like center Marcus Kruger or young defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. Or the Tampa Bay Lightning, who will protect goaltender of the future Andrei Vasilevskiy and won’t be able to keep 6-foot-7 pending free agent Ben Bishop, whether he’s traded, taken by Vegas or signed by someone else.

“It adds another team for you, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,” Bishop said of the expansion draft. “Even if I wasn’t a free agent, there’s just that many good goalies in the league now and there’s only so many spots.”

Chicago, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, which will have to do something with Marc-Andre Fleury to keep 2016 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray, and other contenders like Alex Ovechkin‘s Washington Capitals intend to worry about this season now and the expansion draft later.

“I think some of ours is contract related and will we be able to bring guys back or not bring guys back,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “We’re constantly looking at it, but we’re not making decisions yet because our immediate priority is having a winning season here.”

One advantage for Vegas is that it’ll be able to acquire draft picks or prospects in exchange for not selecting certain players. That’s right up McPhee’s alley, too, as he tries to make good on owner Bill Foley’s goal to win the Cup within six years.

“It all comes down to trying to build a good base but really doing well in the entry draft and getting our top players from the entry draft,” McPhee said.

Related: Vegas owner wants a ‘younger-oriented team’

 

The Playoff Buzzer: Wild Card teams are 4-for-4

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  • The Washington Capitals blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads to drop Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Capitals player and frequent Game 7 star Justin Williams played a big role in Carolina’s 2OT winning goal.
  • With Carolina’s victory, all four Wild Card teams have advanced to Round 2.

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 [2OT] (CAR wins 4-3)
The Capitals got off to a terrific start. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson scored in the first 6:23 minutes of the contest, but rather than fall apart, the Hurricanes dug in. It wasn’t until 2:56 of the third period when the Hurricanes caught up thanks to a Jordan Staal goal. Washington battled hard for the rest of the third period, but once overtime started the game was all Carolina until finally they broke through when Brock McGinn tipped in a Jason Williams shot. With that, the defending Stanley Cup champions are done and a franchise that last made the playoffs in 2009 is going to Round 2.

Three Stars

1. Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes.
He got the series-winning goal and registered an assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s marker. This was the 25-year-old’s first playoff series and prior to it he had 36 goals in 240 career regular season games. Of those 36 goals, only two were game-winners.

2. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes.

Assisted on three of the Hurricanes’ four goals. He also led both teams with 38:27 minutes of ice time in the 2OT contest. He finished the series with nine assists in seven games.

3. Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals.

Got the scoring started just 2:13 minutes into the contest off a superb steal. It was his first goal of the series.

One goal Dougie Hamilton will be happy is forgotten

It didn’t end up defining the game, but Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hamilton on this goal. If Washington won this game, this goal might have been a big part of the story.

Factoids of the night

Thursday’s Games

Game 1: Blue Jackets at Bruins, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 1: Stars at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

No More Champs: Hurricanes oust Capitals in 2OT

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Not even the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals were immune in one of the craziest opening rounds ever seen. Brock McGinn tipped a shot by Justin Williams in double overtime in a series-clinching 4-3 victory for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7.

Early on, it didn’t look like this would be a dramatic contest. Andre Burakovsky stripped the puck away in the Hurricanes’ zone and then beat goalie Petr Mrazek to put Washington on the board just 2:13 minutes into the game. Just four minutes later, Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton before feeding the puck to Tom Wilson, who made the game 2-0.

Carolina hung in there though. Sebastian Aho scored a shorthanded goal at 9:51 of the second period to cut the lead in half. Evgeny Kuznetsov regained the two-goal lead at 13:22 of the second period, but Teuvo Teravainen answered right back at 16:37.

Early in the third period, Jordan Staal got a clean shot on Braden Holtby that he managed to get by him. It’s one that Holtby arguably should have gotten, but he didn’t have help on that play either and the end result was the game was tied.

From there, Carolina was a dominant force in overtime and it looked more and more like it was just a matter of time before the Hurricanes beat Holtby one more time. It took a while, but it happened.

Just like that, all four wild-card teams have advanced. Washington is out. Pittsburgh, which won the Cup in 2016 and 2017, is out. Vegas, which got to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, is out. Tampa Bay, which tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, is out.

This year has reinforced the notion that anything can happen in the playoffs. Carolina will face the New York Islanders in Round 2 and while the Hurricanes might be the underdogs, that hasn’t been a bad spot to be in.

MORE: Round 2 schedule, TV info

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: Round 2 schedule, TV info

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We’re down to eight.

With the last Game 7 out of the way in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can now look ahead to all that Round 2 will bring.

The battle for the 2019 Stanley Cup continues as eight teams vie to become this year’s champion, and there won’t be a repeat after the Washington Capitals got bounced in Game 7 on Wednesday. All four wildcard teams are in. All four divisional winners are out. It’s been a wild ride and there are still three rounds to go.

Here is the full Round 2 schedule with the all-important TV information: 

MORE: 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

For the third consecutive postseason, NBC Sports’ coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC), as well as NHL Network, will air side-by-side and will be available for streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app in local markets alongside regional sports network game telecasts. (Local blackouts apply in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh in the first round).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Capitals, Hurricanes meet in Game 7

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Game 7: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 3-3)
NBCSN
Call: Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire
Series preview

Stream here

Tonight’s pre-game coverage on NBCSN begins at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

NBC Sports begins its exclusive coverage of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow with a Game 1 doubleheader on NBCSN. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins, followed by the Dallas Stars-St. Louis Blues series at 9:30 p.m. ET. Thursday’s doubleheader pre-game coverage begins on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.