The Vegas Golden Knights has some work to do over the next few days. They're in the process of making 30 selections (14 forwards, 9 defensemen, 3 goalies, 4 wildcards) for a roster of just 23. Obviously, that's like jamming a square block into the circle hole, it's just too much for what's been given. They'll need to make some moves to recoup some assets so they don't lose some of that excess for nothing. With that said, let's take a look at players on what appear to be more expensive, shorter term contracts that would look a lot more appealing if VGK were to use their salary retention slots on them in trades.
Adam McQuaid currently has 2 years left on a deal that's worth $2.75M AAV. Not really a terribly expensive deal that was mentioned, but he will be 31 years old in October. He posted 2 G, 8 A in 77 GP this year as well as having a 54.42% CF%, good for 3rd among Bruins D. Retaining some salary on a trade could just be intriguing enough to teams to get a good haul in return. However, a younger Bruins D in Colin Miller is also unprotected, and at 24, he also has one year left on his deal worth $1M before becoming an RFA next summer. He'll be sure to draw some suitors around the league as well, but he may also be someone VGK may want to keep around to grow with the organization. Both are right handed shooting defencemen that are now at a premium in the NHL.
Matt Moulson had 11 of his 32 points on the powerplay last season. Moulson also had a $5M cap hit last season and will continue to do so until his deal is up after two seasons. Moulson becomes a much more intriguing option at say something along the lines of a $2.5M cap hit to be a capable bottom 6 forward and powerplay contributor for teams who may need some more winger depth and help scoring.
The Canes acquired G Scott Darling from the Blackhawks this offseason and signed him to a contract that would probably say that he's their main man in between the pipes next year. To back him up, they have Cam Ward and Eddie Lack with 1 year remaining on their contracts, worth $3.3M and $2.75M respectively. Both may be enticing to teams to looking for cheaper help in goal for next year, however Ward does have a modified no-trade clause that could make him the harder player to move.
The Stars also made a trade this offseason, acquiring and signing G Ben Bishop from the Kings for the next 6 seasons. They already had committed $10.4M in net prior to that in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi ($5.9M and $4.5M respectively). The Stars may be hoping, and willing to give up enough assets for Vegas to take one of them off their hands. Vegas could potentially retain enough salary to then get even more assets after flipping them in another deal.
Detroit Red Wings
The goalie train continues with the Red Wings making one of the more surprising protections of the process, by opting to protect G Jimmy Howard. That makes 25 year-old Petr Mrazek available, who has one season left at $4M before becoming an RFA. Mrazek should command quite the return on his own, if Vegas decided they wanted to flip him. Salary retention may just be gravy, and add to the return he could command.
Personally, I think I would select either F Jujhar Khaira or D Jordan Oesterle off the Oilers. However, if the Knights decided to go this route with the Oilers, Benoit Pouliot has $4M owed to him over the next two seasons. Pouliot becomes a lot more palatable at $2M for potential suitors around the league for the 30 year old that posted 14 Pts in 67 GP.
The Panthers ended up exposing the more diminutive F Jonathan Marchessault. The 30 goal scorer on a cheap deal should draw the eye of VGK as they'll probably need help putting the puck in the back of the net next season. However, also exposed by the Panthers is RHD Jason Demers who has a $4.5M hit over the next 4 years. Teams around the league are searching for RHD to help bolster their defense, and Demers could fit the bill if teams are willing to pay the price.
James Neal has scored at least 20 goals in all 9 of his NHL seasons. That scoring punch could definitely be of aid to the expansion Knights next season. Neal has $5M owed to him next year. If teams come knocking on Vegas' door looking for some scoring help at a bargain price, Neal just may be the player they are looking for.
People may think Bobby Ryan's name would be mentioned in this spot. There you go, that's all that he'll get. The Senators would have to put together quite the bundle to get that deal worth $7.125M spanning the next 5 seasons off their hands. The much more realistic option would be D Marc Methot that has $4.9M owed to him over the next 2 years. F Clarke MacArthur could also be mentioned here, but his injury history may scare too many teams off.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have two potential candidates that could be trade bait with a little help. C Jori Lehtera (2yrs at $4.7M) and winger David Perron (1yr at $3.75M) could draw some intrigue from teams looking to add to their forward depth at a reduced rate than what they are currently at.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It should be fully expected that the Lightning will probably lose one of Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek or Cedric Paquette. However, GM Steve Yzerman is apparently also a magician that always has a few tricks up his sleeve. That could lead to the Knights taking D Jason Garrison who with one year left at $4.6M, may look a lot nicer to teams with half the cap hit.
Those are just some of the players that I have identified as potential trade bait. Let me know if you think I had missed any players of note. Information in the article can be found at www.nhl.com, www.capfriendly.com and www.puckalytics.com .