TAMPA — Vegas general manager George McPhee said he has side deals with at least six other NHL teams leading up to tonight's expansion draft.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman wouldn't confirm or deny if Tampa Bay is involved in one of them. "It's not something I'd share publicly at this time," Yzerman said.
But the Lightning is expected to have a deal with the Golden Knights to ensure they stay away from one, if not both, D Slater Koekkoek and D Jake Dotchin, according to league sources. Koekkoek and Dotchin were left unprotected for the expansion draft. Tampa Bay is guaranteed to lose one player.
It makes sense for Tampa Bay to try to keep Koekkoek and Dotchin. Dotchin, 23, helped solidify the blueline's top-four in the second half of last season. Koekkoek, 23, the 10th overall pick in 2012, has played in 41 career NHL games, finishing last season with AHL Syracuse. Both are restricted free agents.
The three Lightning defensemen who were protected are Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn. The protected forwards are Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov.
In a potential side deal with Vegas, the Lightning could use one of its promising forward prospects, or package a draft pick (Tampa Bay has two second rounders in this weekend's draft, where it picks No. 14 overall). Or a trade could involve the Lightning ensuring Vegas takes another defenseman, like Jason Garrison ($4.6 million cap hit next season) or Andrej Sustr. The most notable Lightning forwards the Golden Knights can choose from are J.T. Brown and Yanni Gourde (an unrestricted free agent).
Hedman up for Norris
It's already been an exciting summer for Hedman, who won a gold medal with Sweden at last month's World Championships.
Tonight, he is in Las Vegas for the NHL awards, a finalist for the Norris Trophy given to the league's top defenseman. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and San Jose's Brent Burns are the favorites.
"It's obviously a tremendous honor for me," Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. "To be there with Erik, too, playing with him when we're under 15, under-16 national teams. Kind of growing up together on that stage. And then playing in NHL and getting nominated together for the Norris, it's a good feeling."
Hedman had mixed feelings over last week's trade of Jonathan Drouin to Montreal. Hedman was bummed to lose Drouin, but excited to see what he labels a "grade-A" prospect in D Mikhail Sergachev.
"I was kind of shocked to see it at first," Hedman said of the trade. "It's a tough business. You see so many guys go. We believe in the plan we've got for our team. With the expansion draft and us being close to the cap, it's a tough business. Dru is going to have a tremendous career in the NHL."