Which Players Should the Penguins Protect when the Vegas Expansion Draft Comes Along?
By: Jeff Stewart
It was an excellent summer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fresh off their Stanley Cup championship, there was much to celebrate. However, just 10 days after the Penguins lifted the Stanley Cup the NHL announced their plans to create an expansion team in Las Vegas. This came along at the worst possible time for the newly crowned Penguins. Each team is able to choose to protect either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Or 8 skaters(forwards and defensemen) and 1 goalie. This may seem like it will come as a big blow to the young Penguins team which looked like it was built for success in the coming years. However, it will all be ok Penguins fans! Let's go through who the Penguins should keep.
I believe the first choice is the best for the Penguins, 7 forwards, three defensemen, and 1 goalie.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist
Those choices were pretty obvious. Now, we only have three openings left and things get a lot more interesting.
Carl Hagelin- We have yet to pick a left-winger and he was a part of the dominant HBK line this past postseason. Adding his young age into the mix, he can become a star for Pittsburgh in the coming years.
Nick Bonino- I'd really like to keep all three players from the HBK line. They are all very explosive and work well together. If you keep all three Coach Sullivan will have to make one less line.
Conor Sheary- We only have one left winger and I don't know how much longer the 37-year-old Chris Kunitz can go. Sheary played pretty solidly with Sid last year. He's 24 and has shown glimpses of greatness.
We will be able to keep only three defensemen, so we need to choose wisely!
Kris Letang, Oli Matta
There is only one slot left, with six players to choose from this position will leave Jim Rutherford in a pickle.
Ian Cole- I personally like Ian Cole more than Daley, Dumoulin, and Pouliot. He is 27 years of age so he still has lots of hockey left in him. He played really well last year and I expect him to get better. I also believe we can get 2 if not all 3 of the players I chose Cole over in the expansion draft.
This decision will be the biggest decision for the Penguins before this draft. Do we keep the 32-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury, who has had lots of experience and success, or do we take the 2nd year goaltender who lead the Penguins to the Stanley cup, Matt Murray? The Penguins may be able to keep both because if a player is in his first or second professional years the player can't be sent to the expansion draft no matter what. However, there is still confusion as to whether or not the rule refers to 2 NHL years or 2 years playing professional hockey. I see the rule as 2 professional years, in which case Murray would not be safe from the draft. This is a tough decision that even I am still flip-flopping from.
Matt Murray- If I made a decision right now, I would choose Murray. He is so young and has a lot of potential. I would hope that the Pens would somehow be able to get Fleury in the expansion draft. I am a little cautious with Murray with his little experience. Yet Fleury still has solid years left as well.
If the Penguins are able to keep Fleury and Murray together I think it will be a great team and the Penguins will be able to rest their goalies comfortably knowing they have another that can do just as well.
In conclusion, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in great shape to retain a championship contending team after the expansion draft. Hopefully we are able to get more than just the 10 I mentioned. Until then it will be interesting to keep an eye on. Go Pens!