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Vegas Selects Fleury, Pickard, Berube in Expansion Draft

Vegas Selects Fleury, Pickard, Berube in Expansion Draft

The Vegas Golden Knights officially have a roster. The expansion draft results were announced on Wednesday night at the 2017 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. The roster did not contain very much surprise, as information on which players were being taken was slowly leaked throughout the day.

It had been rumoured for quite some time that Marc-André Fleury would be joining the Golden Knights as the possible face of the franchise, and that proved to be correct. He received a standing ovation from the audience at the T-Mobile Arena when he came onto the stage wearing the new Golden Knights uniform.

Fleury had been with the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise since being selected 1st overall in the 2003 NHL Entry draft. The three-time Stanley Cup winner is coming off back-to-back cups, the latest coming a mere 10 days ago. The 32-year-old Fleury was required to waive his no movement clause in order to be exposed in the expansion draft, something he agreed to do months ago, even if it wasn’t confirmed until recently, after the Penguins won the Cup. Vegas also received a 2020 second-round draft pick from Pittsburgh as incentive to make sure that they selected Fleury.

It didn’t take the Penguins long to post a tribute to their long-time goaltender, who became a fan favourite in Pittsburgh not only for his exciting, explosive style on the ice, but also for his commitment to the community off the ice, which continued into his final days there.

The Golden Knights also plucked 25-year-old Calvin Pickard from the Colorado Avalanche. Pickard is coming off a tough season in which he posted a .904 save percentage in 50 games, as the Avalanche finished dead last in the NHL. He handled the season as best as he could, but they were routinely heavily outshot – which is something that he may have to get used to in Vegas. He is only one year removed from a rookie season in which he posted a .922 save percentage in 20 games.

The third and final goaltender selected by the Golden Knights ended up being Jean-Francois Bérubé as the result of a side deal with the New York Islanders. In exchange for not selecting exposed players such as Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome the Golden Knights agreed to select Bérubé and acquired the $5M contract of Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski is on long term injury reserve and is not expected to suit up for the new franchise.

For Fleury, it’s a fresh start to become a starting goaltender in the NHL once again. Pickard will push him for starts, and remains an excellent option as backup, but this is Fleury’s team. At only 32, the Golden Knights feel like there is plenty of tread left on the tire in his career.

Most recently, during the Penguins 2017 cup run, Fleury posted a .924 save percentage in 15 games while Matt Murray was injured. His save percentage was below the league average at .909 during the regular season, dipping below the .915 mark for only the second time in his last seven seasons. That’s pretty solid consistency, and he gives the Golden Knights their best shot at some stability out of the gate.

Of the other goaltenders that were exposed and available, there are confirmed reports that the Golden Knights were enticed with draft picks to avoid selecting Linus Ullmark from the Buffalo Sabres, and Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Petr Mrazek, Antti Raanta, Philipp Grubauer, and Aaron Dell were all available and presumably passed on in favour of the three goaltenders that were selected.

One final note for Colorado Avalanche fans: The loss of Calvin Pickard may sting, but the team was left in a tricky situation as it has been rumoured that the Golden Knights had heavy interest in selecting Semyon Varlamov if he was left exposed.

He was protected, and the worst-case scenario of Pickard being selected was the result. Varlamov is close with the team’s new goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila, which may have been a factor in the decision.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.