The 2017 NHL expansion draft to stock the Vegas Golden Knights was a stark departure from previous expansions, including Columbus, Nashville, Ottawa, and San Jose. In those earlier drats, teams were allowed to keep their good players and heave castoffs towards the newbies, but that changed in 2017, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the prime suckers.
Teams were allowed to make side deals. Because teams could protect so few of their players (typically seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie), many GMs opted to pay a premium such as a second-round pick.
For a tribute, Vegas GM George McPhee, formerly the Washington Capitals GM, would select the player the opposing GM wanted to lose. McPhee absolutely fleeced the NHL.
It was wonderfully fitting that a city built by mobsters later built an NHL team through extortion.
Some genuinely awful trades look even worse in hindsight. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford buckled when he got his call, too.
The league vowed to learn their lesson, which has hampered the current NHL trade market and Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis. He will not be able to fleece the NHL general managers as McPhee did.
But look at some of these deals, which have GMs still kicking themselves.
Worst NHL Trades of 2017 Expansion Draft
5. Marc-Andre Fleury for a 2nd rounder.
The Pittsburgh Penguins knew they had to shed one of their two goalies. The crease and salary cap weren’t big enough for Matt Murray and Fleury. Somehow, someway, McPhee convinced former Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford to cough up a valuable second-rounder to ensure Vegas selected the player who would become the face of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise.
Was there anyone else close to Fleury’s value available? No. And the Penguins paid the tribute with a 2020 second-round pick. In case you’re wondering, Vegas selected goalie Drew Commesso, who just finished his sophomore season at Boston U.
4. Shea Theodore in exchange for selecting Clayton Stoner
“Wait, you’ll give us a top-four defenseman, so we don’t select, who?”
McPhee probably had to hide a smile. Only two of the unprotected players on Anaheim’s list ever significantly impacted the Ducks or the NHL. Josh Manson and Jonathan Bernier. And that’s stretching it.
Here’s the Anaheim list–who would you have picked?
Spencer Abbott, Jared Boll, Sam Carrick, Patrick Eaves, Emerson Etem, Ryan Garbutt, Max Gortz, Nicolas Kerdiles, Andre Petersson, Logan Shaw, Nick Sorensen, Nate Thompson, Corey Tropp, Chris Wagner.
Nate Guenin, Korbinian Holzer, Josh Manson, Jaycob Megna, Jeff Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Sami Vatanen.
Jonathan Bernier, Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Faragher, Matt Hackett, Dustin Tokarski.
So, Anaheim unloaded Shea Theodore instead. Oops.
3. Jets traded down 11 spots in the first round and gave up a third-rounder for Vegas to select Chris Thorburn.
“Please take Thorburn and leave Marko Dano alone!”
Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pawned a first (13th overall) and third-round pick, and Vegas returned a much worse first-round selection (24th overall) in return.
Saving one of these players in the expansion draft cost Winnipeg the 13th overall pick:
Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Scott Kosmachuk, Tomas Kubalik, J.C. Lipon, Shawn Matthias, Ryan Olsen, Anthony Peluso, Ben Chiarot, Toby Enstrom, Brenden Kichton, Julian Melchiori, Paul Postma, Brian Strait, Mark Stuart, Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec.
Vegas selected Nick Suzuki, now with the Montreal Canadiens, with the 13th overall pick. Winnipeg selected a Finnish prospect, Kristian Vesalainen, who has yet to play more than 12 NHL games in one season. That’s a pretty big difference.
2. Reilly Smith to Vegas, so the Golden Knights would select Jonathan Marchessault.
It’s a tough call between the last two. Which was worse? The Florida Panthers gave away their two best unprotected players. It was like a buy one, get one free sale at the NHL trade store.
Marchessault has played 280 games for the Vegas Golden Knights and scored 225 points (92-133-225). He scored more than 20 goals in three of his four seasons with Vegas (27, 25, 22, respectively). This season, Marchessault scored 18 goals in the COVID shortened year.
Smith scored 192 points, including 82 goals in four seasons at T-Mobile Arena.
It’s a good thing Florida protected everyone else.
1. Columbus gave up a first, a second, and David Clarkson’s LTIR salary so Vegas would take William Karlsson.
Think of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ struggle to find offensive talent on the NHL trade market over the past few years. Think of William Karlsson. And roll your eyes.
“Wild Bill” was one of the original Vegas Golden Misfits who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final. Karlsson exploded for 43 goals in his first Vegas season. Since, he’s been a consistent goal scorer and point producer on the Golden Knights, which have become a perennial Stanley Cup favorite.
And Columbus gave up two high picks to get it done. Vegas spun the 24th overall pick to Winnipeg in the Thorburn deal and later traded away the second pick, too.
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded away a first-rounder in the 2017 expansion draft to dump a 40-goal scorer. Yep.