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Sorry, Seattle: NHL GMs learned from Vegas expansion draft

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By STEPHEN WHYNO (AP Hockey Writer)

Hindsight is 43/35 for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That’s how many goals and assists William Karlsson put up for the Vegas Golden Knights after the Blue Jackets let him go in the most recent NHL expansion draft. They also sent first- and second-round draft picks to Vegas to unload David Clarkson‘s contract and hold on to forward Josh Anderson and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

”I think we’ve looked at probably 100 times already that, ‘Could we have done something different the last time around?”’ Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. ”Probably not. You’re going to make some mistakes and you might let the wrong guy go. You do your studying, you do your evaluation of your players and you do your projections and it’s not an exact science.”

Maybe the second time’s the charm.

NHL teams face another expansion draft in 2021, when Seattle enters the league. And the Seattle GM, whoever that turns out to be, probably won’t receive the same kind of windfall George McPhee picked up in 2017 to help the Golden Knights make a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final because some important lessons have been learned.

”We might get to a situation where we’re like, ‘Boy I don’t want to lose any of these guys,’ so a team may have to do it again,” Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said. ”But we’ve lived it now and I think we’ll have a better understanding of it. And if you’re going to (make a trade), you’re going to make sure it’s for the right person. You’re going to be like: ‘I’m giving up a lot of assets here. Is this the right thing to do?”’

McPhee held all the leverage that summer, and he stockpiled talent as a result. Because only seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender (or seven skaters at any position and a goaltender) could be protected, a lot of deep teams were stuck with core players unprotected and willing to do almost anything to keep them.

Just some of the ”fear factor” moves: The Wild traded prospect Alex Tuch and let center Erik Haula go to Vegas to keep Matt Dumba. The Panthers traded Reilly Smith and lost Jonathan Marchessault. The Islanders traded a first-round pick to get rid of Mikhail Grabovski’s contract. The Ducks traded Shea Theodore to clear Clayton Stoner’s salary and keep Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson. The Penguins even sent a future second-round pick to ensure Vegas would take goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Chuck Fletcher, who was Minnesota’s GM, figured out the hard way that expansion means every team loses something. Now with Philadelphia, his approach will likely be to lose as little as possible to Seattle.

”No matter what you do you’re going to lose a good player,” Fletcher said. ”You either let them make the choice for you or you try to help them out by making sure you’re keeping the things you want to keep. It was a great process to go through and I’m sure there were some lessons learned, but at the end of the day, if you have too many players than you can protect, you’ve got to pick your poison.”

A popular choice last time? Teams giving up players to clear salary-cap space. That was the impetus for the Fleury move and others, but so much time to prepare could reduce the need for those trades in the summer of 2021.

”That’s just one thing that I see could happen, that if the teams aren’t financially strapped against the cap then they don’t have to make those sacrifices of young players to get the cap relief,” Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning said.

With two full offseasons until Seattle can plunder 30 NHL teams (Vegas will not participate), a lot of GMs are already planning ahead. Offices in Columbus and Dallas have already been the scene of some long-range preparation while acknowledging a lot can change between now and then. Nill said teams will likely need to decide whether someone is a ”core player” or someone who isn’t going to be around in the future.

All GMs will need to grapple with the impact of no-movement clauses in player contracts that the NHL decreed must be protected in any expansion draft. Ottawa lost defenseman Marc Methot, in part, because Dion Phaneuf wouldn’t waive his no-movement clause. Now that GMs know the rules, deals through 2021 could be affected.

”You’re reluctant to give no-move clauses at any time, but certainly with knowing what your expansion protected list is going to be, I think that will make teams a little more cautious,” Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said.

According to PuckPedia , there are already 36 players with no-movement clauses for 2021-22. The Penguins, Stars and Blackhawks lead the league with four players each. Don’t be surprised if GMs attempt to change some of those situations to put themselves in a better spot.

”You don’t want to fill your protection list with guys that you have to protect because of the clauses in their contract,” Kekalainen said. ”You want to fill it with the guys you want to protect, so you want to leave that option to yourself.”

DE-IMPROVED PENGUINS

After sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference on Nov. 20, Pittsburgh is 6-2-2 in its past 10 games to surge up the standings. Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith, who has stepped up for injured starter Matt Murray, is a big part of that with his 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage over that time.

”I’m not surprised,” Rutherford said. ”Casey took the long road to the National Hockey League. He worked at it. He’s worked very close with Mike Buckley, our goalie coach, and he’s a goalie that really worked on his fundamentals.”

The Penguins activated Murray off injured reserve Wednesday. Even with Murray’s return, don’t expect Pittsburgh to keep DeSmith on the bench for long.

”You have to have two goalies because if you want to have a long run in the spring, you can’t wear your No. 1 goalie out,” Rutherford said.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The top two teams in the Atlantic Division face off Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.

LEADERS

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 25; Assists: Mikko Rantanen (Colorado), 39; Points: Rantanen, 52; Ice time: Seth Jones (Columbus), 26:29; Goals-against average: Pekka Rinne (Nashville), 1.91; Save percentage: Rinne, 9.32.

AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed from Vancouver.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

The Buzzer: McElhinney steals another; MacKinnon scores two more

AP
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Three Stars

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon is on some kind of a roll for the Colorado Avalanche. His two goals on Tuesday night were the difference in a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators and gave him his fifth consecutive multi-point game. He now has at least two points in six of his past seven games, a stretch that includes six goals to give him 17 on the season. His 37 points on the season are second in the league, trailing only his linemate Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen set up both of MacKinnon’s goals on Tuesday.

2. Curtis McElhinney, Carolina Hurricanes. Did you expect Curtis McElhinney to be the savior for the Carolina Hurricanes this season? Of course you didn’t, but he has been a rock for them in net lately and continued his strong play on Tuesday night by making a career-high 48 saves in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. With that performance he has now won each of his past four decisions and allowed just five goals on the past 150 shots he has faced. That is a .966 save percentage during that stretch.

3. Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights. Pretty much everybody had a hand in the Golden Knights’ big win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but Shea Theodore had perhaps the biggest night of them all by logging more than 23 minutes, scoring a pair of goals, adding an assist, and finishing as a plus-four. The Golden Knights are starting to get on a roll to climb back up the Pacific Division standings.

More big performances from Tuesday

Oscar Klefbom scored in overtime to give the Oilers a win in Ken Hitchcock’s home debut. That goal came just after Connor McDavid appeared to score the winning goal, only to have a replay review determine the puck never fully crossed the goal line.

Shea Weber made his 2018-19 debut for the Montreal Canadiens and was not exactly eased back in. He played a team-high 25 minutes, attempted 13 shots, got three on net, and assisted on their only goal in their 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.

Brady Tkachuk scored a pair of goals — just three minutes apart — for the Ottawa Senators to help them erase a 3-1 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period.

— The Pittsburgh Penguins received two goals from their fourth line (and one from their third line) to defeat the Winnipeg Jets. They have now collected eight out of a possible 10 points in their past five games. Sidney Crosby scored his 10th goal of the season on yet another ridiculous backhand shot.

Dustin Brown had another big game for the Los Angeles Kings, recording two more points and scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lift them over the Vancouver Canucks.

— The Arizona Coyotes rallied from a 3-1 third period deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild thanks in large part to a pair of goals from Josh Archibald.

Highlights of the Night

Rasmus Ristolainen helped the Buffalo Sabres push their winning streak to 10 games with this incredible individual effort against the San Jose Sharks.

Even with Weber back in the lineup it was starting goalie Carey Price taking care of the physical play for the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Matt Duchene scored the goal of the night to help lift the Ottawa Senators to a come-from-behind win against the Philadelphia Flyers. This came just a few minutes after Tkachuk scored his two goals to tie the game.

Factoids

The Philadelphia Flyers have used a lot of goalies this season. They added another starter to the list on Tuesday night. The result was more of the same.

The Vegas Golden Knights crushed the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night by scoring eight goals. That is a franchise record.

Ryan Miller backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in the process moved one step closer to the top of the all-time wins list for American-born goalies.

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

Anaheim Ducks 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Colorado Avalanche 3, Nashville Predators 2

Arizona Coyotes 4, Minnesota Wild 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Winnipeg Jets 3

Vegas Golden Knights 8, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Edmonton Oilers 1, Dallas Stars 0 (OT)

Los Angeles Kings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (OT)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Golden Knights keep rolling, embarrass Blackhawks

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If it wasn’t already obvious before we can probably now definitively say the problem with the Chicago Blackhawks was not the head coach.

Their 8-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night dropped them to 3-5-2 under new coach Jeremy Colliton, and this game was a complete disaster from the start as they gave up three goals in the first 16 minutes.

It was the fourth game in a row they gave up the first two goals of the game, and the third time over that stretch they surrendered the first three. That is obviously a pretty poor recipe for success, and unlike their come-from-behind win against Florida on Saturday night they were never able to get close in this one.

Shea Theodore and Cody Eakin each scored a pair of goals for the Golden Knights, while Daniel Carr, William Karlsson, Ryan Reaves, and Alex Tuch also found the back of the net in the rout.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this game for Chicago is there was almost no push-back at any point, and you don’t need to look any further than the fact they were outshot by a 34-11 over the second and third periods, including a 13-4 margin in the third period alone.

Given the score you might expect the team that is ahead to maybe sit back a little bit, while the team that is losing, and in this case probably already fighting for its playoff lives, to maybe pick up the pace.

But if there is one thing that stood about the Golden Knights a year ago it is that they kept pushing the pace no matter what the score was. They did that on Tuesday.

As for the Blackhawks? There was just … nothing. The result was the lopsided score we ended up getting on the scoreboard.

But let’s focus on Vegas for a bit because it is a machine that is now starting to click on all cylinders.

After a disappointing start to the season the Golden Knights have now won four games in a row and are 6-2-0 in their past eight games.

Even when they were struggling early in the year there were signs the team was playing better than its record might have indicated. Injuries — as well as a suspension to defenseman Nate Schmidt — robbed them of a lot of their depth, they weren’t getting any luck offensively and were getting crushed by a terribly low shooting percentage, and Marc-Andre Fleury was really struggling.

Pretty much all of that has changed over the past couple of weeks.

Fleury is back to playing like he did for much of last season, Schmidt is back in the lineup and giving them more than 23 minutes per night, and they have scored 33 goals over the past eight games. Put it all together and they are now just two points back of the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Given the way the Golden Knights are playing right now — with some of those percentages starting to swing back in their favor — combined with the fact the rest of the division around them has been kind of lousy this season they still might be the favorites to win it. It should not be a surprise if they do.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Golden Knights go for fourth straight win vs. Blackhawks

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Chicago Blackhawks with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Western Conference champion Golden Knights seem to have righted the ship with three straight wins, while the Blackhawks have dropped 11 of their last 14 games (3-8-3) over the past month and find themselves sixth in the Central Division.

Vegas is 4-1-0 since defenseman Nate Schmidt returned from a 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. During that stretch, Schmidt has no points, but leads the team in ice time (21:36 per game). After a dreadful start in which Max Pacioretty tallied just four points in his first 16 games, the former Canadiens captain has started to take off with six goals and an assist in the past five games.

In the the nine games since Jeremy Colliton replaced Joel Quenneville, offense has been hard to come by. The Blackhawks are scoring 2.11 goals per game during that span and their power play is just 2-for-21.

“We wanted to buy into the system,” said forward Alex DeBrincat. “We want to have a good team. The core group, they got our attention and told us to really buy in. They were preaching: ‘Forget about the past and move on.’… it was probably a lot tougher for them to move on from that after 10, 11 years, but we’re playing a team sport and they obviously want to win, too. The past is the past.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Vegas Golden Knights at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Golden Knights-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsJohn Hayden
Alex DeBrincat – Artem AnisimovPatrick Kane
Alexandre FortinDavid KampfDominik Kahun
Brendan PerliniDylan StromeMarcus Kruger

Duncan KeithGustav Forsling
Erik GustafssonHenri Jokiharju
Brandon ManningBrent Seabrook

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Max Pacioretty – Cody EakinAlex Tuch
Daniel Carr – Tomas NosekRyan Carpenter
William CarrierPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabb – Nate Schmidt
Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland
Nick HoldenColin Miller

Starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury

MORE: Fleury’s shutouts earning donuts for Golden Knights fans

WATCH LIVE: Golden Knights host Ducks on NBCSN

The NBCSN Wednesday night doubleheader continues with the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Anaheim Ducks at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here

Heading into 2018-19, both the Ducks (8-8-3) and Golden Knights (7-10-1) were hoping to begin the season with better records.

While their predicaments seem similar, they’ve gotten to this point thanks to playing very different hockey. The Ducks are being massively out-shot, yet John Gibson is often putting an “S” on his chest and saving the day. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are often dominating the shot clock, yet Marc-Andre Fleury and others have gone from leaping tall buildings in a single bound to more Clark Kent-level work.

Expect a fun atmosphere in Vegas, especially since the Golden Knights often compete with the lavish pre-game entertainment by playing high-octane hockey.

[WATCH LIVE – 10:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Anaheim Ducks at Vegas Golden Knights
Where: T-Mobile Arena
When: Wednesday, November 14th, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Ducks-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

DUCKS

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafPontus Aberg

Nick RitchieRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Andrew CoglianoAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Brian GibbonsKalle KossilaBen Street

Hampus Lindholm — Jacob Larsson

Andy Welinski — Josh Manson

Marcus PetterssonBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson

GOLDEN KNIGHTS

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

Max PaciorettyCody EakinAlex Tuch

Tomas NosekRyan CarpenterTomas Hyka

William CarrierPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbColin Miller

Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland

Nick HoldenJon Merrill

Starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.