With the NHL season only having a maximum three games left in the season, a lot of people are starting to look ahead to the NHL expansion draft. The draft will be held on June 21, right before the NHL Awards show. The Vegas Golden Knights will be able to take one player from each of the 30 teams that is not protected by that team. Teams will either be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie, or eight skaters (forward or defense) and one goalie.
Being here in Nashville, I have heard a lot of different opinions on who the fans would like to see go through the expansion. The consensus pick has been Craig Smith. I believe he will still be wearing gold next season baring a trade. I have been thinking about this for a while also, and I think the player leaving Nashville and heading to Vegas will be either Calle Jarnkrok, or James Neal.
And here is why:
The Nashville Predators are going to go the eight skaters and a goalie route. It is the only way they are going to be able to keep the top four defensemen that the team prides themselves over. PK Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. That locks up four of the eight skaters right there. Then you have to lock up the JOFA line of Viktor Arviddson, Ryan Johansen, and Filip Forsberg (after signing Johansen and Arviddson to new contracts). That will make seven skaters. Pekka Rinne has a NTC (no trade clause), so he will be automatically protected, and Jussi Saros is still considerd a rookie, so he is also automatically protected. This leaves one skater left to be protected. In my opinion, I believe it comes down to the utility play of Calle Jarnkrok, or the veteran goal scorer of James Neal.
A lot of people will be quick on the gun to say keep James Neal because of his track record, and this is where I think otherwise and say use that last spot and keep Jarnkrok. Calle can play center or wing on any given night, and is very cap friendly at $2million a year for another five years. Neal had a very down year, and saw himself playing on the fourth line for a majority of the last part of the season, and makes $5million for one more year. I don’t see Jarkrok being anymore than a solid third line center, but if the Predators use that last slot on Jarkrok, they can use that money that is freed up by Neal to get a second line center that is going to be needed in the short future depending on if Mike Fisher calls it a career or not after the season. If Fish stays, Jarkrok can play on his wing, if Fish leaves, Jarnkrok can play third line center.
I just believe keeping Jarnkrok over Neal will be the smarter move in the end. Sorry to everyone that was wishing and hoping that Vegas will take Craig Smith.