Francis sweetens pot, Hurricanes only lose AHLer in expansion draft

Carolina GM sends a fifth-round pick to Vegas in exchange for them selecting Connor Brickley; Bryan Bickell honored

Bryan Bickell was honored at the NHL Awards show. (Stephen R. Sylvanie—/USA TODAY Sports)

RALEIGH — The Vegas Golden Knights had plenty of players to choose from in Wednesday’s expansion draft in preparation to join the NHL for the 2017-18 season. While many teams scrambled to protect coveted talent or tried to offload burdensome contracts, Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis had his team in position to absorb the loss without much handwringing.

Vegas GM George McPhee held much of the NHL hostage most of the week, and he managed to milk a fifth-round pick (originally Boston’s, the 142nd overall) out of Francis in exchange for selecting AHLer Connor Brickley during Wednesday’s combined expansion draft and 2017 NHL Awards event.

The Hurricanes acquired Brickley, the 50th overall pick by Florida in 2010, last Oct. 11 in exchange for former seventh-round pick Brody Sutter. Brickley spent the 2016-17 season with Carolina’s top affiliate, the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 69 games. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in five playoff games this postseason.

In the awards portion of the night, Hurricanes forward Derek Ryan was a Masterton Trophy finalist, but Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson took home the award. Bryan Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the season and made an emotional comeback to the Carolina lineup, was also honored during a segment at the event. Carolina rookie Sebastian Aho placed eighth in Calder Trophy voting (top rookie), and Bill Peters received one third-place vote for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s top coach, finishing 13th in voting. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid was named winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP in his second NHL season, while Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender.

By trading a pick to Vegas, Francis seemingly persuaded McPhee to not select one of the roster players —— likely Lee Stempniak or Joakim Nordstrom —— Carolina exposed when it named the seven forwards, three defensemen and goalie they elected to protect.

Vegas probably isn’t done, as they could flip some of the players selected starting Thursday morning. TSN insider Bob McKenzie speculated on Twitter that defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, selected from Chicago by the Golden Knights, could be traded to Carolina.

Also on tap Thursday is the release of the full 2017-18 NHL schedule, and then focus will shift to Chicago for Friday and Saturday’s NHL Draft. Carolina picks 12th overall and, with the trade with Vegas, has nine remaining selections. Francis & Co. will pick three times in the second round and twice in third.