Winners and Losers of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft

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    Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, left, and general manager George McPheeEthan Miller/Getty Images

    What might have once been a far-out, dystopian sequence to a Hunter S. Thompson book came true Wednesday night: Las Vegas picked an NHL team which will begin play in fewer than four months.

    The Vegas Golden Knights made their initial selections for their inaugural team as part of the NHL Awards show in Sin City.

    Some of the selections were leaked to the media earlier in the day, which gave the Knights' night something of an anti-climactic feel. But there were some surprises, such as Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard being the first player officially selected by the team.

    While many will have a hard time telling the Golden Knights apart without consulting a scoresheet, they did snag a couple of big names, such as Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal. And, as expansion teams go, this Las Vegas team has a chance to be the best in NHL history. Of course, having to spend like any other team to meet the salary-cap floor (unlike expansion teams of the past) will help that along.

    So, while there were not a lot of big surprises, there were enough to compile a "winners and losers" slideshow for your viewing pleasure. We chose four winners and four losers, so take a look and make your voice heard if you agree or disagree, or if you would propose something not on the list.

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      Marc-Andre Fleury, leftGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

      If there is a perfect person to be the face of a new franchise, it is the always-smiling, always-upbeat Marc-Andre Fleury.

      Few players are as well-liked and respected by players and management alike as Fleury. He helped win three Stanley Cups as a goalie with the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite being benched much of the last two years in favor of youngster Matt Murray.

      Pittsburgh could only protect one of the two, and it made more sense to protect 23-year-old Murray. But Fleury now gets to go to a place where he's wanted, where he has the chance to play most every night, in a city such as Las Vegas. He will be the center of attention again, and beyond that, he just gets the chance to get out there and play again.

      The 32-year-old is on the back nine of his career probably, and, yeah, he'll probably have some rough nights playing for an expansion team. But he's got the right attitude to be an expansion goalie. Vegas fans will love him, and it says here he'll love Vegas.

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        Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

        What a shock: Vegas general manager George McPhee didn't do any favors for David Poile in this draft. 

        Despite what The Tennessean reported as an earnest effort by Predators GM Poile to make a deal that would have avoided the chance of McPhee and the Golden Knights selecting a player such as top-six forward James Neal, the Golden Knights went ahead and took him anyway, despite the fact Neal can be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

        Here's the backstory: Poile severely shafted McPhee in a 2013 trade in which Nashville got Washington Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg for veteran Martin Erat and Michael Latta. That trade was a disaster for McPhee and the Caps, and it helped lead to his eventual firing in Washington.

        McPhee took away one of Nashville's top scorers with the selection of Neal, despite him not being your prototypical expansion team kind of choice. Payback? It might have been a possibility.

        Now, Neal goes from a Stanley Cup finalist to an expansion team.

        As Poile told Preds communications and content coordinator Brooks Bratten after losing Neal:

        Poile says he and James Neal are on good terms, but "it's not perfect for him and it's not perfect for us." #Preds

        — Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten)
        June 22, 2017

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          Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

          Pierre-Edouard Bellemare didn't seem like much, looking at the depth chart of the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a fourth-line guy and 32 years old.

          But as reports from Philadelphia seem to indicate, the Flyers did not want to lose Bellemare. Despite being a depth guy, the Frenchman was an alternate captain for coach Dave Hakstol and a favorite with fans and his teammates.

          Vegas recognized the value in such a player and made Bellemare an inaugural team selection Wednesday night.

          Yes, the Flyers can fill the void of such a player more easily than others, no doubt. So, while it's not a tragic loss, it was a definite win for the Golden Knights.

          He will be a real fan favorite in Vegas, and as a native of Paris, think of all the great promotional tie-ins the Golden Knights can have with him and the casino of the same name.

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            Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

            When alternate captain Dion Phaneuf declined to waive his no-move clause, it forced the Ottawa Senators to protect him in the expansion draft. It was a risk they took when they acquired the player from Toronto, and Wednesday night they paid the price.

            That price was in the form of defenseman Marc Methot, who was one of Ottawa's real leaders on and off the ice and also the defensive partner of Erik Karlsson.

            Methot was a plus-13 for the Senators this past season, Phaneuf a minus-six. He was the stay-home guy who allowed Karlsson to terrorize at the offensive end. Now that he's gone, Karlsson's job just got a lot tougher.

            Extremely sad to see my good friend leave me and us way to early. All the best brother @MarcMethot3

            — Erik Karlsson (@ErikKarlsson65)
            June 22, 2017

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              Christian Petersen/Getty Images

              The Minnesota Wild had to leave young, top-four defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella exposed in the expansion draft, not to mention their leading goal scorer of last season, Eric Staal.

              But Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was able to convince McPhee to take role player Erik Haula in the expansion draft, in exchange for laying off the other three. Fletcher also had to include a 2014 first-round pick in the deal, Alex Tuch.

              Haula, a center, was more expendable to a Wild team that still thinks it can win right away. Sure, Tuch might prove to make this a loss for the Wild in the end, but he hasn't proved anything yet.

              Minnesota could only protect so many D-men, so it was a win for the Wild not to lose either Dumba or Scandella.

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                Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

                The Dallas Stars lost a 26-year-old versatile player, Cody Eakin, who played a lot on the Stars' top line this past season.

                Why the Stars chose to leave him unprotected will be second-guessed plenty among the fans, but their rationale was they didn't want to lose any of the defensemen they valued. 

                But the Stars were kidding themselves in thinking there was a lot to lose on the back end. They've been one of the worst defensive teams of the last couple years. While Eakin did have an off season in 2016-17, he has too much talent for that to have continued. 

                The Stars will miss him.

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                  Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

                  It looks like it will be a real struggle for the Vegas Golden Knights to score goals, judging by their initial picks.

                  Sure, they got some characters guys (Eakin, Bellemare) and a proven scorer (Neal). But, yeah, it would probably be wise to bet the "under" on Vegas games for the first season.

                  That said, the Golden Knights' defense already looks better than some established teams already (hello, Colorado Avalanche).

                  Vegas has some real talent with the additions of D-men such as Marc Methot, Colin Miller, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Las Vegas drafted 13 defensemen, which gives McPhee options on the trade market to add more of that needed offense.

                  It's a strong starting group on the blue line for the Golden Knights.

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                    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

                    This may be in the minority, but it says here that New York Islanders GM Garth Snow gave up too much in exchange for the Golden Knights not to take one of their exposed players. 

                    The Islanders traded Vegas their first-round pick in this NHL draft (15th overall), a second-round choice in the 2019 draft, defensive prospect Jake Bischoff and oft-injured center Mikhail Grabovski. Vegas agreed to also take backup goalie Jean-Francois Berube as part of the deal.

                    Sure, Grabovski and his $5 million cap hit is addition by subtraction. But did Snow really need to give up that much more for Vegas not to take a Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome or Calvin de Haan?

                    No, it wouldn't have been great to lose any one of those three players for nothing. But it feels like Snow overvalued them a little too much, at the expense of possibly strong assets in the future.

                    It's not like the Islanders were just one step away from winning a Cup or anything, either.

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