Keep or flip? Dion Phaneuf, Keith Yandle may be exposed in expansion draft

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It’s staggering how close the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft is to really kicking into gear, and the pool of quality available players remains a pretty big mystery.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman provided some really fascinating possibilities in the latest edition of the always-essential “30 Thoughts,” with two big names possibly being left exposed: Dion Phaneuf of the Ottawa Senators and Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers.

Friedman reports that both Phaneuf and Yandle have been asked to waive their no-movement clauses (Phaneuf’s contract also includes a modified no-trade clause).

Yandle’s situation might be especially intriguing if the Golden Knights essentially become the middle man in the equivalent to a three-team trade:

10. Another interesting one I heard was Florida asking Keith Yandle to waive. That one raised eyebrows at the combine, because if Vegas wanted to take him and flip him, I think there would be a ton of interest, especially if the Golden Knights were willing to keep a little bit of his salary. But would he be willing to waive a year after signing? His call.

That wouldn’t be the only player the Golden Knights could flip, as Friedman reports that Marc-Andre Fleury could also be a candidate to go from the Penguins to Vegas to some other team.

Let’s dive into these scenarios in brief, with some big help from Cap Friendly’s listings.

Aging players, mostly with long contracts

  • Yandle is 30. His salary is especially high early on in his deal, as it goes from $7.5 million in 2017-18 and 2018-19 down to $5.75 million for two years and then $5.25 million for the final two. His $6.35M cap hit runs through 2022-23; he has a modified no-trade clause in that final year (a 12-team list he can refuse to be traded to).
  • Phaneuf is 32. His salary is $7M next season, $6.5M for each of 2018-19 and 2019-20 and then closes out with $5.5M in 2020-21. He carries a $7M cap hit through 2020-21.
  • “MAF” is 32. His cap hit and salary both weigh in at $5.75M through 2018-19.

To keep or to flip?

OK, so all three of those players are at least 30, with two already 32. Most sober forecasts indicate that the Golden Knights won’t be very good for at least a few years, even if they end up being better than your average expansion team.

So you could claim that some, if not all, of those three players will be past their primes once Vegas can actually compete. With that in mind, flipping them for assets could conceivably be the smartest moves.

Then again, there are some compelling reasons to keep one or more of them.

  1. Name recognition – Fleury and Phaneuf bring star power in particular. The Golden Knights might experience a bumpy ride early on, so these guys could help sell tickets.
  2. Defense is tough to come by – Yes, you can point out warts in Yandle’s and especially Phaneuf’s game, but teams are paying big premiums for defense in the modern NHL. Who says the Golden Knights couldn’t keep one or both of those defensemen around to keep this team respectable, then flip them at the trade deadline instead?
  3. Get to the floor – Sure, the Golden Knights might take on a few bloated contracts here and there, yet even then they might struggle to get to the cap floor. The trio of Fleury, Phaneuf, and Yandle would account for $19.1 million in cap space that could actually help the Golden Knights win games.

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You can kill time dreaming up a number of hypothetical situations here, so check out Friedman’s full article for even more rumblings.

Also, consider how soon some of these situations will either fall through or come to fruition considering key dates for the expansion draft. Here are the most immediately relevant dates regarding teams asking players to waive clauses:

Monday, June 12 Deadline for Clubs to request that a Player “waive” his “No Move” clause for purposes of Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET) (with the exception of Nashville and Pittsburgh, whose Deadline will be the later of: (i) 5 p.m. ET on June 12; or (ii) 5 p.m. ET on the day following the last day of the Stanley Cup Final).

Wednesday, June 14 Last possible day of 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Thursday, June 15 First Buy-Out Period begins.

Deadline for Clubs to ask Players with “No Move” clauses whether they want to be placed on Waivers for purposes of Buy-Outs prior to Expansion Draft (11:59 am ET).

Friday, June 16 Last day to place Player on Waivers prior to Expansion Draft Trade/Waiver Freeze (12 p.m. ET).

Deadline for Players to agree to “waive” their “No Move” clauses for purposes of Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET).