It could have been worse, but it also could have been better.
The Kings dangled Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik and their lengthy and expensive contracts in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday, but the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t want either veteran forward and instead opted to select defenseman Brayden McNabb.
McNabb was more or less expendable by season’s end, anyway, having lost his spot in the Kings’ top six because of the fine play of Derek Forbort, who muscled his way into a regular role in the lineup as the partner of Drew Doughty, the 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner.
The Kings protected eight skaters and one goaltender, which meant they left several useful forwards available in the draft. Vegas passed on Brown, Gaborik, Kyle Clifford, Nic Dowd, Jarome Iginla, Trevor Lewis and Nick Shore in order to add the 6-foot-4, 212-pound McNabb.
Kings general manager Rob Blake would have no doubt been happy to see either Brown or Gaborik depart for Vegas, giving him more financial flexibility to make offseason moves to bolster a team that missed the playoffs this past season for the second time in three years.
Brown, in 2012, and Gaborik, in ’14, played key roles in the Kings’ Stanley Cup championships, but neither lived up to contracts in the wake of those titles. Brown signed an eight-year, $47 million contract in 2013. Gaborik signed a seven-year, $34.125 million deal in 2014.
Brown, 32, scored 14 goals last season, up from the 11 he had in each of the previous two.
Gaborik, 35, had 10 goals, and was limited to 56 games because of a broken foot.
In the end, Vegas GM George McPhee had zero interest in taking on big salaries.
McNabb, 26, will make a modest $1.7 million in 2017-18, the final year on a two-year contract. He had two goals and four points in 49 games, suffering a broken collarbone in an Oct. 29 game against the Blues in St. Louis. He was in and out of the lineup for much of the season.
Heading into training camp, the Kings’ top six could like…