William Carrier has never been to Las Vegas. That’s about to change.
The Golden Knights plucked the winger from Buffalo’s roster Wednesday night during the NHL expansion draft. It wasn’t a surprise to Carrier, who had been reading mock drafts since being placed on the Sabres’ unprotected list Sunday.
“I heard lots of rumors,” Carrier told The Buffalo News by phone. “Most of them, my name was on the list, so it wasn’t really a surprise. I was pretty happy when they actually chose me.
“I’ve never been to Vegas. I’ve heard good stories about it, so it should be good.”
Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill informed Carrier of his pending selection during the afternoon, and the 22-year-old envisioned the opportunity he’ll receive with the expansion team.
“Everything’s new, to be honest, and I’m just excited to be part of that,” Carrier said. “It’ll be a big opportunity to make a statement in camp. I’ve been used to trying to earn a spot, but everything is going to be new. New city, new rink and all the fans are going to be excited. It should be good.”
Vegas wanted young talent that can develop in the desert, and Carrier fits the mold. He showed impressive speed during 41 games as a rookie last season, though the finish is not yet there. The winger had five goals and three assists.
Drafted in the second round by St. Louis in 2013, Carrier came to Buffalo as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the Blues in February 2014. He has one year left on an entry-level contract that pays $689,167 per season.
“I’ve had lots of texts in the last few minutes from, well, now they’re old teammates,” Carrier said. “They used to be teammates. I’ve got great memories, even in Rochester playing there for two years. All the organization has been really good to me.
“I had the chance to play my first game and score my first goal. Everything Buffalo brought to my life I really appreciate it.”
The Golden Knights also acquired Buffalo's sixth-round pick in this year's draft. Teams were allowed to make trades with Vegas to entice the new club to take or not take certain players. There were two Sabres that Vegas liked.
"Buffalo had interest in influencing us to go in one direction to protect a certain part of their roster, so they gave us a sixth-round pick," Vegas General Manager George McPhee said during the broadcast of the expansion draft on NBCSN.
The biggest loss for Buffalo would have been goaltender Linus Ullmark, who is scheduled to share the crease this season and signed a two-year contract earlier this month.
The Golden Knights had their choice of forwards Matt Moulson, Carrier, Nicolas Deslauriers, Brian Gionta, Derek Grant, Justin Kea, Cal O'Reilly and Cole Schneider; defensemen Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Justin Falk, Brady Austin, Mathew Bodie, Taylor Fedun and Cody Franson; and goalies Ullmark and Anders Nilsson.
The Sabres had little to offer in the expansion draft compared to most teams. Key players such as Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Brendan Guhle were exempt as first- or second-year professionals. Buffalo protected forwards Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson; defensemen Rasmus Ristolainein, Nathan Beaulieu and Jake McCabe; and goalie Robin Lehner.
Players available from other teams gave the Golden Knights a good feeling as they headed toward the big night in their new arena.
"I believe we put together a great team from the net out," owner Bill Foley told reporters after his first board of governors meeting. "I believe the fans are really going to like the team and the trades and the draft picks and the prospects that we have.
"What surprised me was the quality of some of our forwards that we were able to get out of this situation, moving players around."
The expansion draft had been highly anticipated since the NHL named Vegas as its 31st franchise last June.
“We’re real,” McPhee said Wednesday morning as the team sent an email selecting its players.
With the expansion draft done, the NHL will continue its busiest stretch of the season. A trade freeze has been in effect since Saturday, but it will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday. It’s believed numerous deals are completed and ready to be announced.
The NHL Draft will be held Friday night and Saturday morning in Chicago. Teams are free to interview free agents beginning Sunday, and the free agent signing period starts July 1.