By Wes Herrmann (@Wes_Herrm)
Tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights roster will be created when the organization chooses one player from every other NHL team. If the Philadelphia Flyers try to find their best answer in net, they may be taking a goalie from the Golden Knights.
Since teams can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft, Vegas has a slew of goaltenders it can start its team with. Some have suggested the idea that the Golden Knights can have a monopoly of the goalie market by taking the best ones that were left unprotected.
That means teams like the Flyers, Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes, among others, could send the Knights future assets for a goalie the team doesn’t need. Golden Knights general manager George McPhee can also cut deals with teams trading for unprotected players during this window.
If Vegas goes this rout, which it will, Philly will have several options available in Nevada.
The big points is that the current Penguin is on a favorable two-year deal, but unfavorable cap hit and may not want to come to Philadelphia.
A common strategy in the NHL lately has been to trade for a long-time backup and make him your starter. It worked with the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks with Cam Talbot and Martin Jones, respectively, and the Carolina Hurricanes are attempting that with Scott Darling this year.
Raanta fits that mold perfectly. The 28 year old has been Henrik Lundqvist’s backup in New York for the past two years and sported a .926 save percentage this past season in 30 games. Before that, he was behind Corey Crawford with the Chicago Blackhawks.
If Raanta is chosen and made available in a trade, he’ll likely be pursued strongly. He’s near the top of the list for goalies ready for a starter role.
Besides a high price, if the Flyers lose Michal Neuvirth in this draft, Raanta may be a little unseasoned to split time with Anthony Stolarz.
The Detroit Red Wing netminder is more under the ilk of Fleury than Raanta. He’s more proven and can handle 50 or more games per year.
Surprisingly, Detroit chose to leave him unprotected instead of veteran Jimmy Howard and GM Ken Holland said they won’t make deals with Vegas to persuade them against selecting Mrazek or someone else. If Vegas takes both Fleury and Mrazek, it makes sense that one would be moved.
Mrazek doesn’t have a no-movement clause and a smaller cap hit, which makes moving him easier.
Having said that, the Czech netminder struggled last year behind a porous Red Wings team. He had a .901 save percentage and a 3.04 goals-against-average. That isn’t starter numbers in any way.
In 2015-16, with a playoff-caliber Detroit club, Mrazek had a .921 Sv% and a 2.33 GAA. That seems to suggest he can get the job done on a decent team. It’s not out of the question the Flyers are a playoff team next year.
Mrazek isn’t a sure bet like Fleury, but can be relied on more than Raanta.
Grubauer is probably the least likely of the Vegas goalies to be traded. McPhee drafted him when he was still with the Washington Capitals and has probably the most potential of any goalie in this list.
Last season, Grubauer had his best save percentage at .926 and he posted godly numbers last summer helping Germany qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In three games, Grubauer had just a 0.67 GAA and a .970 save percentage.
Grubauer is still a little bit of a project, but either way, McPhee isn’t likely to let go of his hold on him when he makes his selection tonight.
Pickard is maybe the least appealing name on this list, but he’s important to include. Flyers GM Ron Hextall selected the Colorado Avalanche goalie for this year’s Team Canada at the World Championship where he helped the team to a silver-medal finish.
Pickard also had the second-best GAA and save percentage at the tournament. Unsurprisingly, his numbers aren’t as stellar with the Avs. He posted just a 2.98 GAA and a .904 Sv% last year, but did have a .923 Sv% the previous season.
Hextall clearly likes the 25 year old and would be inexpensive. He’s the dark horse of this group. But again, a tandem of Pickard-Neuvirth would maybe work. Pickard and Stolarz would be a heavy roll of the dice.
Image Credit: Bridget Samuels/Flickr