NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights finally have some players to put on the desert ice this fall.

Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin, 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault and forwards David Perron and James Neal are among the veterans selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday night.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee announced their choices during the NHL's annual postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, where Vegas will begin play in the fall.

Fleury took the stage in a Golden Knights jersey to wild cheers from his new home fans. The three-time Cup winner lost his starting job with the back-to-back champion Penguins, but he'll get to start over in the desert with two years on his contract.

The picks included defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brayden McNabb, forward Oscar Lindberg.

The Golden Knights also announced additional acquisitions of a handful of veterans and free agents, including Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore and Florida forward Reilly Smith.

The NHL wrote its draft rules to give the Golden Knights more opportunities to compete early in their existence, and their expansion draft choices certainly appear to form a solid core that could make noise in the Pacific Division.

"They're way past getting off the ground," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "I think this is by far the best expansion team ever" (see full story).

Oilers: 20-year-old McDavid wins Hart Trophy
LAS VEGAS -- Connor McDavid has won his first Hart Trophy. Hardly anybody in hockey believes it will be his last.

The Edmonton captain claimed the award as the NHL's most valuable player Wednesday night at the league's postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, the new home of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

The league also revealed the results of the Golden Knights' expansion draft to an arena filled with new fans of the NHL's 31st franchise.

McDavid also won the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league's most outstanding performer in a vote of his fellow players.

The honors capped a remarkable sophomore season for the 20-year-old center, who won the scoring title and led the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after an 11-year absence. The former No. 1 pick beat out fellow finalists Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"I'm so proud to be in Edmonton," McDavid said. "I'm so proud to be an Oiler, and so proud to play with the guys."

McDavid is the third-youngest player to win the award. Only Crosby and Wayne Gretzky claimed the Hart as teenagers (see full story).

NHL: Home openers announced; Golden Knights’ 1st game in Dallas
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will make their regular-season debut on the road in Dallas on Oct. 6 and host the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 10 in the first home game in franchise history.

NHL teams announced their home openers Wednesday with the full, 1,271-game schedule for the 2017-18 season set to be released Thursday.

Vegas will play its first two games on the road, visiting Arizona on Oct. 7 before the second leg of an early back-to-back for coach Gerard Gallant's club.

The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will raise another banner and begin their quest for a three-peat Oct. 4 against the St. Louis Blues. The Penguins visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5 in a matchup of the only teams to win the Cup three times in the salary-cap era.

The Western Conference-champion Nashville Predators open the season Oct. 5 at Boston. Nashville celebrates the longest playoff run in franchise history at home Oct. 10 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia opens Oct. 4 at the San Jose Sharks, who have the longest active season-opener winning streak at seven. The first night of the season also includes the Calgary Flames at the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Winnipeg Jets, a matchup of the top two picks in the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews against Patrik Laine.

The Detroit Red Wings host Minnesota on Oct. 5 in the first NHL regular-season game at the new Little Caesars Arena.

The back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals open their season at Ottawa on Oct. 5 and host the Montreal Canadiens in their home opener Oct. 7

NHL Notes: Awards, expansion draft collide in Las Vegas

NHL Notes: Awards, expansion draft collide in Las Vegas

It's 116 degrees in the ice hockey capital of the world.

For the next few days, Las Vegas is the place to be on skates. The desert gambling mecca is hosting the NHL's annual postseason awards show on Wednesday, when the league also will reveal the Vegas Golden Knights' choices in the expansion player draft to stock the club with talent for its inaugural season in the fall.

Las Vegas has hosted the awards show for several years, welcoming the NHL's best for a red carpet presentation and a short week of partying in a city that knows a little something about entertainment.

But Vegas' hometown team is in the spotlight for the first time this year, reaching a major milestone in its process of becoming the NHL's 31st franchise -- and doing it during a heat wave.

Combining the awards show and the expansion draft should only enhance the fun for Vegas fans welcoming their city's first major professional sports team. Thousands of those fans are expected to gather at T-Mobile Arena after the expansion draft for a raucous "Round Table Rally" to celebrate the Golden Knights' first major acquisitions.

"You don't always have to do things the same way," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the two-for-one Vegas show. "We're not afraid to try something a little different. We think it's going to be a lot of fun for our fans, particularly those here in Las Vegas" (see full story).

Devils: Constant in recent years has been missing playoffs
NEWARK, N.J. -- If anyone needs the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft, it is the New Jersey Devils.

After making the playoffs for 20 of 22 seasons, the Devils have fallen on hard times. They have missed the postseason for the last five years and they are coming off their worst season in nearly three decades.

In some ways, it's not surprising. After years of success that included three Stanley Cup championships and two other trips to the championship round, New Jersey ran into problems after going to the final in 2012.

The team was aging. Its drafts were weak. High-scoring wing Zach Parise used free agency to sign with Minnesota after losing the Cup to the Kings. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned to play in Russia after the following season. There was a lack of scoring, a little less defense and little depth throughout the roster.

A team that knew how to make the postseason suddenly didn't have the assets to get there (see full story).

Red Wings: Judge denies request to block funding tied to new arena
DETROIT -- A judge has denied a request to block some public funding for Little Caesars Arena and the Detroit Pistons' move from the suburbs.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith issued his decision late Monday, saying a requested injunction would cause "catastrophic damage" to Detroit.

The lawsuit says Michigan law prohibits spending school property tax revenue on the projects because a tax voters approved in 2012 was to be used exclusively for Detroit's public schools. It said a vote from Detroit residents was needed first.

The lawsuit sought to block the Detroit Downtown Development Authority from using the money. The City Council on Tuesday approved $34.5 million in taxpayer-funded bonds for the project.

The arena, which will be home to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the NBA's Pistons, opens this fall.

Marc-Andre Fleury among players exposed for Vegas NHL expansion draft

Marc-Andre Fleury among players exposed for Vegas NHL expansion draft

Three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Nashville forward James Neal and Anaheim defenseman Sami Vatanen were among the high-profile players made available on Sunday for the Vegas Golden Knights to select in the NHL expansion draft.

Now it's on Golden Knights general manager George McPhee to pore over the list of unprotected players and select one from each of the NHL's 30 teams by Wednesday.

Fleury was left unprotected by Pittsburgh after he agreed to waive the no-movement clause in his contract. The Penguins instead protected Matt Murray a week after the second-year goalie led them to win their second consecutive championship.

The Predators were put in a bind by exposing Neal, a 10-time 20-goal-scorer, because they elected to protect a fourth defenseman.

Vatanen was the odd-man out in being left unprotected from a deep and talented group of Ducks defensemen. The fifth-year player, however, won't be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury.

Neal wasn't the only high-profile player left exposed by the Predators, who are coming off their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Other notable Nashville players unprotected were forwards Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer, Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown and Montreal's Tomas Plekanec. As for defensemen, Buffalo's Zach Bogosian and Dallas' Dan Hamhuis are available.

There's also a wealth of proven goaltenders available given that teams were required to expose at least one. Aside from Fleury, other goalies exposed are Florida's Roberto Luongo, Detroit's Peter Mrazek and Philadelphia's Michal Neuvirth.

The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, which the Golden Knights have the option to sign over the next three days. Any pending free agent signed would count as Vegas' expansion-draft selection from that player's team.

What's uncertain is how many trades the Golden Knights have negotiated with teams to influence which player Vegas selects or avoids.

McPhee has said he's had contact with all teams and was expected to have several trades in place. In exchange, McPhee was intent on stockpiling draft picks to help spur the franchise's growth through youth.

Those deals won't be formally revealed until Wednesday.

There's also nothing barring Vegas from having a deal in place to select a player in order to trade him to another team.

The Islanders were the only team that protected five defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, leaving forwards Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome and defensemen Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey available.

Some players left unprotected, such as Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, carry hefty contracts, which Vegas might shy away from so not to restrict the team's payroll structure under the salary cap. Ryan has five years left on a seven-year $50.8 million contract and represents a $7-plus-million cap hit.

The Senators were handcuffed by veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf's decision to not waive his no-movement clause. That forced the team to also expose top-pairing blueliner Marc Methot.

Among players with previous connections to McPhee available are Stars center Cody Eakin, Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Neuvirth, whom he drafted in Washington.

The former Capitals GM also previously signed Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt out of college and Sharks right winger Joel Ward in free agency and traded for Flames right winger Troy Brouwer.

The release of the teams' protected lists kicks off a busy two-week stretch for the NHL. The league's annual awards ceremonies will be held in Las Vegas on Wednesday and then teams will gather in Chicago for the two-day entry draft, which opens on Friday.

Then comes the start of free agency, which opens on July 1.

Several general managers, including Arizona's John Chayka on Saturday, noted how the Golden Knights can corner the goalie market and use those assets as trade bait.

"Vegas doesn't need 10," said Chayka after making a proactive move to free up the Coyotes' protected list by trading veteran goalie Mike Smith to Calgary.

Chayka was exaggerating, but only slightly. The Golden Knight can't select 10 goalies because they're required to use up 26 of their 30 picks in filling 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalie spots.

The start of the expansion draft process means a trading freeze is in place through Thursday morning for the 30 other teams.

That doesn't mean the other GMs can't talk.

Said Chayka: "I think the league will kind of wait and see how the exposure lists comes out ... then hopefully re-engage and see if we can make a deal that makes our team better."