RALEIGH — Many expected drama and excitement from the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of the NHL trade freeze. Instead, Carolina stood pat and on Sunday morning released their list of exposed and protected players for this week’s expansion draft with no surprises.The Hurricanes opted to protect seven forwards, three defenseman and a goalie, and the list was as many expected. At forward, Phil Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen were protected. The team also listed Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy as their defensemen, and new goalie Scott Darling in net.
That left the required two forwards (Joakim Nordstrom and Lee Stempniak) and one defenseman (Klas Dahlbeck) with the required experience mandated by the league, along with goaltenders Cam Ward and Eddie Lack.
Chances are, the Vegas Golden Knights — who will pick one player from each team’s unprotected list — will select one of those five, perhaps with some enticement from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in the way of a draft pick.
The best-case scenario for the Hurricanes is to get their number of NHL goalies down to two by encouraging Vegas or another team to take on Ward or Lack. But the Golden Knights and their general manager, George McPhee, have a number of good options in goal based on the lists released at 10:30 a.m.
The odds-on favorite to be the starter in Vegas’ first game is Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been supplanted by Matt Murray in the Penguins net and would give the Golden Knights a legitimate No. 1. Vegas will need to select three goalies, and the other options are intriguing.
Detroit opted to protect Jimmy Howard over Petr Mrazek, and Colorado’s Calvin Pickard could be a solid backup option behind Fleury. Al Montoya, Montreal’s backup behind Carey Price, is a potential choice as well. The Rangers’ Antii Raanta, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, Washington’s Phillipp Grubauer and Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth are all established NHLers.
Vegas has reportedly already struck several deals with teams to dictate who they will take, including rumored deals with the Islanders, Columbus, Chicago and Anaheim.
Some of the bigger names that could head to Nevada: former Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who was left unprotected by the Wild, well-traveled sniper James Neal from Nashville, Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian, and one of Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan or Marc Methot.
In just three days, Vegas will announce their picks, and then focus will shift to the NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday. Francis may not have made any noise yet, but with 10 draft picks and a stated goal of improving the roster, the fireworks are perhaps on the horizon.