Mike Smith went from Arizona to Calgary and a couple of defensemen traded places as NHL teams made last-minute moves before the Vegas expansion draft roster freeze.
None of those defensemen came from the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators or Anaheim Ducks, leaving big questions with the Vegas Golden Knights poised to acquire some serious talent in their expansion draft window from Sunday through Wednesday. General manager George McPhee’s phone was already ringing Saturday afternoon as his 30 colleagues did their best to shuffle the deck and protect themselves.
“With the expansion process upcoming, it forces you to make some decisions,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said.
From Saturday afternoon through Thursday morning, after Vegas makes its picks, the rest of the teams can’t make trades with each other. The freeze and submission of protected lists, which are released Sunday morning at 10 a.m. EDT, created something of a trade-deadline feel as GMs had a lot of discussions and looked to make the pieces work.
“It had all the feelings of a trade deadline, but there was conditions,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said by phone. “There’s lots of chatter, but there’s lots of teams in the bucket of not being able to do anything without impacting what their list is.”
The Flames solidified their goaltending situation by getting the 35-year-old Smith from the Coyotes for a conditional pick and a prospect, taking advantage of their ability to protect a goalie that most other teams in the market didn’t have the luxury of doing.
“That’s really one of the things we wanted to leverage,” Treliving said. “Having the ability to have a spot to protect someone, if all the other boxes were checked, there certainly was an advantage.”
The Montreal Canadiens recouped a third-round pick from the Buffalo Sabres for 24-year-old defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who has a connection to Vegas coach Gerard Gallant and would’ve been left exposed in the expansion draft. The San Jose Sharks got second- and fourth-round picks for Mirco Mueller and a fifth-rounder, a safeguard against losing a 22-year-old defenseman for nothing.
But trades that didn’t happen before the freeze stood out even more, most notably the Wild not dealing Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella or Jonas Brodin, and the Senators not moving Marc Methot or Dion Phaneuf. That puts those teams and the Anaheim Ducks in position to work out a deal with Vegas, which could prove costly.
“It was a rigid market,” Treliving said. “You had a number of teams that had expansion issues that they were trying to deal with.”
The Winnipeg Jets solved an expansion issue even as they didn’t make a trade as Enstrom agreed to waive his no-movement clause before the deadline Friday, allowing them to protect their other three top defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. Enstrom’s Sweden-based agent, Kalle Boden, said in an email that his client waived his no-move as a favor to the Jets and “wants to stay” in Winnipeg.
The Golden Knights said Saturday night they were very pleased with the expansion draft process so far and have “indicated that they will give all 30 clubs every opportunity to keep their rosters intact if they’d like.” McPhee is willing to negotiate with any and all teams willing to give up something to keep a certain player.
That means even though the rest of the league is on a freeze, the trade talk is just heating up.