If there's one thing that's certain entering the NHL's Las Vegas expansion draft, it's that the newcomers, George McPhee's Golden Knights, hold all the cards.
With the ability to pick one unprotected player from each of the league's other 30 teams, not to mention force worried general managers into pre- and post-draft bargaining, Vegas truly has a favorable path to existence in the NHL.
That doesn't mean McPhee and Co. aren't struggling to weigh the value of potential expansion picks against the value of those same picks as trade bait. As much as the Golden Knights could pursue veteran talent and strive for immediate relevance thanks to the crop of proven players available to them, the team also has the freedom to stockpile on draft capital by acting as the middle man in other teams' trades.
It's a safe bet that at least a few big names (see: Marc-Andre Fleury) will wind up in Vegas. After all, the Golden Knights need some name recognition entering Year 1 in a brand new market.
But if McPhee and the NHL's 31st team take advantage of other clubs' interests, here are five players the Golden Knights could take in the expansion draft, only to mortgage as trade chips:
Let's preface this by reiterating that if anyone is likely to land in Vegas as the headliner of the Golden Knights' expansion-draft roster, it's Fleury. There are plenty of reasons that make Vegas the perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins' longtime goalie, who would probably flourish in a new setting with a renewed chance to start.
But even if McPhee is set on grabbing the Pens veteran (and the feeling here, like many other places, is that he is), some team out there will assuredly call about his availability. Imagine the Philadelphia Flyers throwing out a trade offer. At the least, the Golden Knights could field inquiries and see if someone is willing to bite on an aging goalie who makes tons of sense in Vegas but may make even more sense to McPhee if he reels in considerable assets.
His name was floated around March's trade deadline as a potential blue-line acquisition around the league.
And he seems like a prototypical draft-and-trade kind of player out of Winnipeg. His power-play success and goal-scoring ability from the defense make him an interesting target for more of a playoff contender that's looking for some depth upgrades.
He fits right into the draft-and-trade possibilities as a winger with a soon-to-be expiring contract and some goal-scoring success -- he lit the lamp 18 times in 2016-17. If Vegas does grab someone like Jonathan Marchessault and a slew of other high-potential or big-name forwards, from James Neal to the scarily salaried Bobby Ryan, Perron seems like an ideal candidate to be touted on the trade block.
Like Fleury, the Florida Panthers forward seems like a slam dunk to land in Vegas. And as hard as it may be to believe, Marchessault probably deserves even more consideration as a guy the Golden Knights should hang on to.
Actually, it shouldn't be hard to believe, as a $750,000 breakout goal scorer with youth and upside sounds like one heck of a snag for a new franchise. But those kind of characteristics also make for a potential blockbuster deal if the right team calls with the right offer.
If the Golden Knights don't opt for an older goal scorer in Eric Staal, who may also have his fair share of interested suitors around the league after a strong 2016-17 campaign, Dumba is a logical alternative, especially if Vegas wants to keep him around as an up-and-coming centerpiece of the defense. And like Marchessault, he also figures to draw plenty of interest around the league as someone who can chip in both now and down the road.