NHL Expansion Draft: Five teams who will be hurt the least

Mackenzie Liddell

With a few exceptions, the expansion draft is a major burden for many teams.

Teams like the Ducks, Wild and Blue Jackets either have to give up an important piece or pay a steep price to keep the Golden Knights away, while others (looking at you Islanders and Panthers) will lose a quality asset due to some questionable asset management.

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Then there are the following teams, who will saunter into Wednesday’s expansion draft without much to worry about:

Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford takes a sip from the Stanley Cup. (Dave Sandford/NHLI/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

It seems like a given at this point that Marc Andre-Fleury is heading to Vegas, which would leave the Penguins’ two-time defending Stanley Cup roster virtually unscathed.

Fleury is certainly a valuable player in the locker room and a quality insurance plan for Matt Murray, but he shouldn’t be too hard to replace from a production standpoint.

Even if the Golden Knights decided to pass on Fleury given the number of options in net now available, the worst-case scenario for the Penguins is they lose a marginal forward like Bryan Rust or Carl Hagelin, or a depth defenseman like Ian Cole.

If Fleury is indeed the guy for Vegas, the Penguins still have a stud No. 1 goalie along with an additional $5.75 million in cap space to upgrade their roster in the offseason.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Mike Babcock share a laugh. (Chris Young/CP)

The expansion draft came at the perfect time for the Maple Leafs.

With half of their roster off limits to the Golden Knights, the Leafs were able keep their core in tact without wasting capital in a side deal.

Things were so easy for the Leafs they had the bandwidth to use a spot on overpaid fourth-liner Matt Martin and part-time forward Josh Leivo, who played well when called upon for all of 13 games last season.

Brendan Leipsic and Kerby Rychel are decent prospects, but the Maple Leafs have plenty of those in the cupboard — especially on the wing.

The Leafs probably won’t be so lucky the next time one of these rolls around.

Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers GM Ron Hextall. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Hand it to Ron Hextall: He played his cards perfectly, even if he was dealt a pocket pair.

By dealing Nick Cousins to the Coyotes for futures, the Flyers were able to secure a roster spot for 23-year-old center Scott Laughton and promising goaltender Anthony Stolarz, while leaving some unappealing leftovers for Vegas.

The Golden Knights will have the option to select veteran grinder Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or take a flyer on an overpaid, underperforming forward like Dale Weise ($2.35M), Matt Read ($3.625M) or Michael Raffl ($2.35M).

Andrew MacDonald and his ghastly contract are also available, in the off chance the Golden Knights accidentally check off the wrong box.

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli. (Codie McLachlan/CP)

The Oilers are a good team on the rise and won’t have their momentum stalled by the expansion draft.

Due partly to their youth (Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning) and partly to some convenient expiring contracts (Kris Russell), the Oilers weren’t backed into a tough decision.

The most accomplished player up for grabs for the Golden Knights is Benoit Pouliot, and the Oilers would gladly shed the two years and $8M remaining on his contract.

If Vegas stays away from Pouliot, the worst fate for the Oilers would be losing backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, which is unlikely given the options available, a young forward with limited upside like Jujhar Khaira, or depreciating draft bust Griffin Reinhart.

It’s about time the Oilers had something go their way in a draft.

Calgary Flames

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

For a team that has made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, the Flames will walk away from the expansion draft in great shape.

Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma are the only veteran players under contract next season who were exposed by the Flames, and losing any of them wouldn’t hurt Calgary’s chances at returning to the playoffs in 2018.

Losing a youngster like 2013 first-rounder Hunter Shinkaruk or defenseman Brett Kulak isn’t ideal but not debilitating, same goes for Alex Chiasson, who is a serviceable player but easily replaceable.

The bad teams

Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Teams that finished in the basement don’t have many good players to protect, leaving Vegas a shallow pool of quality talent to pick from.

Because bad teams naturally have the least to lose in the expansion draft, we’re just going to lump together the Avalanche, Canucks, Coyotes, Devils and Sabres and assume they really can’t come out of this any worse than they entered it.

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