Columbus is a stacked team. There is no getting around that. They have 9 forwards who would warrant being protected and a defense core that is young, fast and has the ability to put the puck in the net. Bobrovsky is the obvious choice for a starting goaltender leaving Joonas Korpisalo unprotected in this month’s expansion draft.
Scott Hartnell is a name that should be addressed as well. He is 35 currently, and possesses a no movement clause in his contract. If he decides to waive this in order to protect a depth forward on the team, I can almost guarantee he will not get picked up. Ideally you’d want him to step up and preserve the forward core. By doing so, this would limit Vegas’ reach to only delve into the D core and at Korpisalo. While GM Kekalainen might not ask Hartnell for his clause, it would almost certainly benefit the Blue Jackets.
My Predictions EVEN if Hartnell waives his no trade: Jack Johnson, or Joonas Korpisalo.
Johnson is the odd man out in the D core. He is 30, left handed, and makes 4.3 million per year. Werenski is clearly the future of the franchise, Seth Jones is 22 and is a big right handed defenseman, and David Savard receives less money, and is four years the junior to Jack Johnson. If I were drafting I would take Johnson. He brings experience and depth in the defensive position and can put the puck in the net. After an injury plagued season in the ’16 campaign he rebounded with a reduced role for Columbus with 23 points this year. While having minimal power play time, and sharing minutes with more offensive minded defenseman, he played his role extremely well. Depth defenseman are going to be available in the draft, and id argue the fourth D man is easier to pick out than the 8th man out on forward for most teams. Johnson will be drafted if Las Vegas does have two goaltenders already at this point. I believe Grubauer fits the mold well, as well as Raanta. Johnson’s contract is also fairly reasonable, but still carries the weight in order to bring the Golden Knights to the Cap Floor. As well all know by the end of the expansion draft Vegas needs to meet the minimum requirements for the salary cap. Johnson is also signed until 2018, limiting his tenure on the books in Vegas if they choose not to keep him. He could hold great trade value at the deadline for a second, or even a late first rounder from a contender this February. I don’t think he could warrant a first rounder, but stranger trades have happened.
Depending on how many goaltenders the Las Vegas Golden Knights have at this point, the next obvious choice would be Joonas Korpisalo. He is a reliable backup with some experience, which could warrant increased time in the crease. He is a young goaltender, which still is unproven in a starting role, which Vegas could gamble on. He is also an RFA come July first, and they will not only have the money to pay him, they could lock him down for several years with a contract.
Here are his stats below
Frankly all 3 of Vegas’s goalies could come from the Metropolitan division, with Phillip Grubauer, Anti Raanta and Joonas. Will this likely occur? Probably not due to the depth in all these teams and the varying options that are present. I have article linking all three goaltenders to the Las Vegas Golden Knights currently, and each is a reasonable choice for the budding franchise.