What an NHL expansion team in Las Vegas would look like
Going by social media and talk radio this morning, the hockey world is twitterpated by the idea of an NHL expansion team landing in Las Vegas.
And what's not to love? A new arena, flashy new jerseys and the one road trip every out-of-town fan would dream of making with his favorite team each season.
While there are plenty of hurdles to be crossed before this supposed "done deal" hits the ice, that shouldn't stop us from having a bit of fun. For starters, what would the team be called?
For a town with a relatively brief history with the game, Vegas has some great throwback options for team names, including the Rattlers (WSHL), the Thunder (IHL), the Wranglers (ECHL) and the Aces (PSHL). And if the prospective owners are feeling really cheeky, is there a safer bet than the Gamblers (PSHL and WSHL)?
Looking for something original? How about the Venom or the Flamingos, or even the Rat Pack? How does the Blackjacks strike you? The Vig (short for "Vigorish")? The Poledancers? The Fountains of Wayne Newton?
Got something better? Keep it to yourself.
Naw, go ahead and comment below.
And then there's the question of the kind of team that a potential owner would get for his hefty expansion fee. Let's figure that out.
Just for grins, assume the new team was ready to jump into the league for the 2015–16 season, which would necessitate an expansion draft next summer. We'll use the same rules that governed the 2000 draft, which stocked both the Wild and the Blue Jackets. Teams would have two choices: they could protect one goalie, five defensemen and nine forwards; or two goalies, three defensemen and seven forwards. To allow clubs to protect their best young players, anyone playing on an entry-level contract would be exempt.
I'm no expert on no-trade/no-movement clauses, but I'm going to put on my commissioner's hat and rule that they do not apply for this mock expansion draft. I'll also assume that players who are heading for free agency next summer will all sign with their current teams, just to keep things nice and neat. And for this hypothetical first-year club, the salary cap's floor rule does not apply.
Even with those guidelines in place, there's plenty of room for debate. While most clubs would easily protect all their worthwhile assets, or use the draft to dump an overpriced veteran, a few would be forced to make some tough choices. Your take on which players they'd expose—and which players would appeal to Vegas—could vary significantly from how I see it playing out.
Here's my stab at a roster. Let's see yours.
Matt Beleskey (Ducks)
Bryan Bickell (Blackhawks)
Kyle Chipchura (Coyotes)
Joe Colborne (Flames)
Matt Halischuk (Jets)
Martin Havlat (Devils)
Simon Hjalmarsson (Blue Jackets)
Vincent Lecavalier (Flyers)
Matt Martin (Islanders)
Trevor Lewis (Kings)
Vladimir Sobotka (Blues)
Mark Stone (Senators)
Jason Zucker (Wild)
What do you have? A team that's consistent with what we've seen in the past few expansion drafts: strong goaltending, minimally skilled defense and a forward group that would bring the energy but would be hard pressed to light the lamp.