Whether it’s the NHL Entry Draft or the Expansion Draft, picking new players for your franchise is risky business. You want to pick players that can help your franchise but you also want to plan for the future. George McPhee, General Manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, has been presented with this unique opportunity. Many teams are calling McPhee trying to swing deals with the GM to not draft certain players. Now, while McPhee is trying to be persuaded to not draft specific players by fellow GM’s, I’ll now do my best to ensure he doesn’t draft some of the names that may be attractive to him. (No, this article does not contain the likes of Jay McClement or Matt Beleskey)
Toby Enstrom – Winnipeg Jets – Age: 32
Every mock draft has Vegas selecting Enstrom and I’m still unsure why. While he does have just one year left on his ridiculous contract, that doesn’t mean McPhee can trade him for assets. When Enstrom broke into the league he was excellent at moving the puck as well as blocking shots. While he can still soak up a shot with the best of them, the offensive well has dried up rather quickly. His seven goals over the last 192 games leave you with very little to be excited about. It’s not all about goals? His 46 assists in that span aren’t great, either. It’s almost as if Enstrom has become scared to shoot the puck. His ice time has gone down by roughly two minutes but his shots have shrunk by exactly 50% compared to when he broke into the league. Over the first six seasons where he played 60 or more games (not counting the 2012-2013 season where he played just 22 games) Enstrom averaged 102 shots a season. Over his last three seasons where he did, in fact, play 60 or more games, Enstrom averaged 51 shots.
Michal Neuvirth – Philadelphia Flyers – Age: 29
The idea of taking four goalies truly perplexes me. Taking Marc-André Fleury will be McPhee’s first order of business between the pipes and then likely opting for the up and coming 25-year-old Phillipp Grubauer who has proven himself in the league with his starter-like stuff. After that, there aren’t many intriguing names. Take a gamble with your third (and final) goalie. Take Calvin Pickard who has miraculously salvaged a GAA under 3.00 while with the tire fire that is the Colorado Avalanche. He’s 25 and could lead to a 1-2 tandem with Grubauer in the near future should Fleury move on or show signs of slowing down. Taking Neuvirth leaves no promise for the future. Neuvirth is a perfectly serviceable backup goaltender who we’ve most likely seen the best of. We know what his ceiling is. Now, this isn’t a slight towards Neuvirth. He’s a very safe play if you want a backup goaltender. However, if I’m McPhee with a new franchise in my hands, I’m taking one bonafide starter and then taking two goalies with high promise rather than a safe backup.
Lee Stempniak – Carolina Hurricanes – Age: 34
Lee Stempniak is not a scorer. He’s not someone who you can rely on to be a top-six forward especially at the age of 34. Sure, he can be a third line scoring winger but that’s it. While his $2.5 hit isn’t that large, picking up a journeyman isn’t necessarily something McPhee should strive to do. Instead, McPhee should look at rolling the dice on more young talent such as Joakim Nordstrom from Carolina. At just 25, Nordstrom has a ton of room to grow. He’s a smart and quick two-way center who still has a lot to prove. After his 2015-2016 season, many thought he would breakout in 2016-2017 but he disappointed many. With top-six potential, a fresh start early in his career could make McPhee look like a genius.