NHL Expansion Draft: Yzerman can negotiate to save unprotected players

By Lindsay Liquori, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017, 5:34 PM EDT

The NHL’s 31st team will reveal its roster Wednesday night.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights will pluck one player from each franchise, including the Lightning.  

Vegas must submit their selections to the NHL by 10 a.m.  Those picks will be announced during the NHL award showing, beginning at 8 p.m.

The Lightning could only protect three defensemen.

Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn are safe.  That sparked one of the biggest unprotected player debates. 

Why save 32-year-old Coburn instead of emerging rookie Jake Dotchin and former first rounder Slater Koekkoek?

“If you’ve got a lineup with five or six young defensemen, who have less than 48-50 games in the NHL you’re asking for trouble," said Roy Cummings, the former Lightning beat writer for the now defunct Tampa Tribune. 

"This is a league now where you gotta be able to play defense first. It’s becoming a lot like football. Defense wins championships.”

But before anyone, forward or defensman- is whisked away to Sin City, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman can make side deals with Vegas General Manager George McPhee.

The Golden Knights released a statement saying –before the Golden Knights claim a player off a team’s unprotected list, McPhee and his staff are willing to negotiate deals.

Translation: The Golden Knights want draft picks to fortify their fragile franchise for years to come.

“McPhee’s going to be patient," said Spectrum Sports Press Box contributor, Ira Kaufman.  "He’s building a franchise. There’s no pressure to win in the fall of 2017. Yzerman’s the guy with pressure."

“When the Lightning were building their team, along with the Ottawa Senators, they didn’t have that option," said Cummings referring to the 1992 expansion draft.  "They couldn’t make a whole lot of deals like that.  That’s a little bit different for Las Vegas, so they’re trying to take advantage of the opportunity to build through the draft.”

As for the Lightning and its fans, it’s probably best Steve Yzerman is the one gambling with their future.