From the outset of hearing that there would be a new expansion team in the NHL, we wondered who the Las Vegas team would poach from the Calgary Flames. Would they take a promising young player like Brett Kulak or Hunter Shinkaruk? Perhaps select a veteran that would alleviate some salary cap space issues for the Flames, like Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan or Lance Bouma? A good depth piece like Alex Chiasson?
The Las Vegas Golden Knights chose an option that I straight up ruled out in my recent piece assessing who the Flames would lose from an expansion draft. An option I ruled out because it made no sense to me on multiple angles. The Las Vegas Golden Knights, signed 35-year-old grizzled vet Deryk Engelland to a 1-year contract, which counted as their selection from the Calgary Flames. Which meant the Flames did not lose anyone who will be under contract with the organization 2 weeks from now. A veteran, statistically below replacement-level defenseman that they could have signed in free agency next week.
I understand why Vegas wanted Deryk Engelland. He lives in the area, is a likeable guy and a veteran leader. Definitely the sort of player that can help turn new fans on to the game of hockey. They are not going to be a competitive team, as Engelland was not the only very strange pick they made in this expansion draft. They are going to be very bad, even if they add some pieces in free agency or the trade market. They can afford to have Engelland be a lineup regular, when a better team like the Flames, should really be filling out their roster with more talented players at this point in time.
What is very confusing, is why Las Vegas took Deryk Engelland now. As stated earlier, they could have signed him on July 1st next week. Engelland obviously wanted to sign there, as he lives there in the off-season. While he has attributes teams value, it is not as if there would be a bidding war for a 35-year-old veteran who just scored a career high 16 points and posted some very bad possession numbers.
So, why would the Golden Knights not take Kulak, Shinkaruk or Chiasson? Any of those guys have some degree of value. They could have been shopped for some sort of draft pick, or have as a piece for the AHL squad. Worst case scenario, you waive them and lose them for nothing, but at least you had the asset. Looking at their forward group today, it is hard to argue against the idea of Shinkaruk or Chiasson being able to crack their opening night lineup.
From a Flames perspective, this is a terrific outcome. The only better option would have been if Brouwer or Bouma were taken away, which was more of a dream than a reality. Instead, the Flames lose a guy that they probably were not going to sign (and definitely should not have signed). Kulak has shown enough throughout his career so far that he warrants the opportunity to play in the NHL next season. Shinkaruk can be kept to continue developing and maybe push for an NHL role. Chiasson is available to be a good depth player and penalty-killer.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights did their new division rivals a solid. We may never understand why, but I think we can all be quite happy about it.