Ed Willes: Golden Knights' rapid rise gets a big assist from modified expansion

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Date sent: 2017/11/17 07:33:31
Gerard Gallant, who has been through the <a href=""></a> expansion tango once before, is acutely aware his experience with the Vegas Golden Knights is a tad different from his experience with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now, he can look down his bench and see bonafide NHLers — 30-goal scorers James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault, 20-goal scorers David Perron and Reilly Smith, top-four defenceman Nate Schmidt.
Then, as a Jackets’ assistant, he looked down the bench and saw a bunch of problems.
Now, despite losing their top three goalies to injuries, the Knights are in the mix in the Pacific Division and have the look of a team with legitimate playoff aspirations.
Then, the Jackets won 28 games which actually represented good news for the first-year team. The bad news? They would make the playoffs once over their first 12 seasons.
Now, Gallant can see a future with the Knights; a gleaming new rink just off the Vegas strip, engaged fans, boatloads of draft picks, including three in the top 15 and seven in the top 96 from this summer.
Then, Gallant would survive his first three years as an assistant with the Jackets. He wouldn’t survive his fourth as the team’s head coach.
“The (expansion) rules weren’t as good,” says Gallant, the Knights’ head coach in their inaugural voyage. “(In Columbus) we didn’t have as many talented players as we do now. We worked hard and competed every night. But it was third- and fourth-line players. It wasn’t the same as we’re seeing with our group.
“(The Knights) know they have a pretty good team. If they work hard, compete and play the way they’re supposed to play, they can compete with anybody. I think they really believe that.”
And they’re making others believe along the way.
If you ever have half an hour to kill, ask an NHL executive about the Knights’ expansion agreement, the inconceivable advantages granted the league’s newest team and the injustice of it all. The Knights, without putting too fine an edge on things, made out like bandits this summer, putting together a team that is competitive right away while assembling a treasure trove of future assets.
In addition to the take from this summer, there are two more second-rounders and two third-rounders coming in 2019 and two more second-rounders in 2020.
I mean, the Knights got former Wild first-rounder Alex Tuch for a third-rounder and NOT taking Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba in the expansion draft; for assuming David Clarkson’s contract and not selecting Josh Anderson, David Savard or Jack Johnson they got William Karlsson, a first-rounder and a second-rounder from Columbus; for taking goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh, they got a second-rounder.
There was a lot of mumbling this summer <a href=""></a> that Knights’ GM George McPhee had held up teams for ransom during the expansion process. Maybe you can understand that sentiment but Vegas did pay $500 million for its franchise and McPhee was following the rules.
It just looked so strange given the NHL’s past expansion history.
“I was watching the expansion draft and some of the deals and the guys we were able to get,” said Knights’ defenceman Deryk Engelland. “I couldn’t have imagined them pulling that stuff off.”
It speak volumes, in fact, that the Knights came to town Thursday for a meeting with the Canucks that had playoff implications in the Pacific Division. The Knights, who won eight of their first nine games, sat one point ahead of the Canucks, San Jose and Calgary and two ahead of Anaheim.
If Fleury can bounce back from his concussion — or if Malcolm Subban or Oscar Dansk can supply NHL-calibre goaltending — they should be there or thereabouts in March.

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