The Nation Notebook: Vegas Begins Its Wheeling And Dealing

Christian Pagnani
June 19 2017 07:00AM

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The Nation Network Notebook is a regular feature that rounds up interesting news, stories, and rumours from around the NHL that don’t quite deserve their own article. 

The NHL trade freeze is on until Thursday as teams wait for Vegas to pick their team. There were some surprise names on the unprotected side of things, but hold on before projecting them onto Vegas' roster, or your favourite team, as there might be a side deal already in place to prevent that. The NHL puts out the official salary cap for next season. The Coyotes are broke and need to find a way to the salary cap floor.

Protection List Surprises

Teams submitted their lists and they were revealed Sunday morning with some interesting names left unprotected. Detroit chose to protect the older, more expensive Jimmy Howard over Petr Mrazek. James Neal was left unprotected by Nashville.

The Florida Panthers went the eight skaters route, which is not that surprising considering the amount of good defensemen they have, but they protected Nick Bjugstad over Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault scored 30 goals last season and Smith had 50 points last season, but Bjugstad had a tough year only scoring 14 points in 54 points. The Panthers must be gambling that veteran defenseman Jason Demers might be enticing to acquire for either Vegas or another team through the Golden Knights.

Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen were left unprotected by Anaheim, but there is speculation that the Ducks have made a deal with Vegas, which makes things a bit complicated.

Side Deals?!

The expansion draft is a fun and exciting twist to the usual offseason, but hold on to your mock drafts for the Golden Knights' team just yet. A large amount of deals are reportedly being made so it'll be virtually impossible to predict Vegas' team, which the NHL will love.

Fans will have to tune into Wednesday's award show, as it seems unlikely these deals will leak ahead of time. The Islanders made some curious decisions, including protecting five defensemen and only three forwards, but people close to the Islanders speculate that a deal has been made so they won't lose a really good player, which could even come at the cost of a first-round draft pick and more.

The price to protect a player should be absurdly high as any team could offer more to obtain that player through Vegas themselves in a three-way trade. Minnesota left a few interesting players exposed in Eric Staal, Marco Scandella, and Matt Dumba, and the Wild are left without a first round pick this year, as well their second round picks this year and the next. If George McPhee wants picks and prospects in return, he might find a better deal to simply transfer Dumba or Scandella elsewhere.

It could be a wild few days, especially with the NHL draft occurring on Friday.

A $75-m Cap

There was some speculation the cap would remain flat for next year, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

The salary cap will increase by $2-million, which means everything to contending teams, as well as the Vegas Golden Knights as they leverage their salary cap space into potential picks or prospects for taking on bad contracts. Although, Vegas

As of right now, only the Chicago Blackhawks are above the cap ceiling, although they should be compliant as soon as Wednesday if Marcus Kruger heads to Vegas like rumours say he is. The Blackhawks seem to always find a way to shed money.

Coyotes need Fake Money

According to TVA, the Arizona Coyotes are looking to acquire one of those weird contracts like Pavel Datsyuk had, where they carried a big cap hit but spend little to no actual money for it.

$4.25-million of Mike Smith's contract is heading to Calgary, and Datsyuk's contract expires, leaving the Coyotes to find a way to reach the salary floor without really spending all that money. The Coyotes need a contract with a big cap hit, but a lot of the actual dollars already paid. Some have linked a contract like the one Marian Hossa has to the Coyotes as a possible fit where they either acquire and buy him out or keep him on the roster, but he's still a productive player and has a no-move clause so he's in control of his situation.

David Clarkson's playing days seem to be over, but his contract might be headed to Vegas.

The Coyotes will need to get creative in order to not spend real money, but how long can this go on and is this really the way the NHL wants its teams to operate?

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I like to read and write about sports. I'm @chrispagnani on Twitter.