Let the mock drafting begin.
The NHL officially announced protection lists for the upcoming expansion draft Sunday morning, allowing fans a look at which players will be unavailable for selection and who could potentially make up the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights roster when the squad is announced at the NHL Awards on Wednesday. And the announcement of each list is sure to come with some shocks and surprises, though each of those whose exposure has been met with an eye-bulging response should be taken with a grain of salt.
As has been noted throughout this process, the protection lists are somewhat of a starting point for each of the 30 teams that will be forced to lose a player to the expansion Golden Knights. For those who still have a player exposed that they’d like to protect, now is the time where some side dealing can take place to entice Vegas into plucking a player from the roster whose departure won’t leave a GM ruing the day expansion was announced. Golden Knights GM George McPhee has made it abundantly clear he’s open to listening to such deals, too.
“Vegas has indicated that they will give all 30 clubs every opportunity to keep their rosters intact if they’d like,” the Golden Knights said in a statement Saturday evening. “This means that before the Golden Knights claim a player off a team’s unprotected list, McPhee and his staff are willing to negotiate deals so the other clubs do not lose a player they would otherwise like to keep.”
Don’t take that to mean keeping a roster intact will be cheap, however. As we’re sure to find out over the coming days, turning McPhee’s eyes off of a top prize and onto a second- or third-best player could be costly with payment coming in the form of picks and prospects.
That said, and without further ado, take a look at the 30 expansion draft protection lists:
Anaheim: There may be something else that has to happen here with both Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson available. Ducks GM Bob Murray may have to dissuade McPhee from taking Manson, the younger of the two rearguards.
Arizona: The big loss for the Coyotes could be Jamie McGinn, if the Golden Knights are inclined to select the winger. He signed a three-year, $10-million deal last summer, but his time may already be up in Arizona.
Boston: Speculation was that it would Colin Miller, not Kevan Miller, who would be protected by the Bruins. The flip isn’t going to please some in Boston, but unless the Bruins have a deal in place to save Colin, he could be the Miller leaving town.
Buffalo: Slim pickings for the Golden Knights off of the Sabres’ roster, but Zach Bogosian’s exposure is a sure sign that his time is almost up in Buffalo.
Calgary: One season after signing a four-year, $18-million deal, Brouwer is left exposed by the Flames. That said, it is probably safe to assume the Golden Knights go a different route when targeting Calgary’s roster.
Carolina: Lee Stempniak has had a tough time finding a consistent home in the NHL. He has played for 10 teams. He could be the second player in league history to play for 11 teams if he’s taken in the expansion draft.
Chicago: The rumored deal that involves Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk heading to the Golden Knights is still possible with the Blackhawks’ protection list. One has to wonder if there’s more to the trade.
Colorado: It looked like there wouldn’t be much to choose from when it came to the Avalanche, but Mikhail Grigorenko is an interesting player to be left exposed.
Columbus: Watch for a possible deal, as it was reported by Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline that the Blue Jackets will send a first-round pick — the 24th-overall selection — to the Golden Knights to keep their squad together.
Dallas: Stars protecting Valeri Nichushkin is an interesting one. It leaves current roster players such as Curtis McKenzie unprotected.
Detroit: The Red Wings clearly feel comfortable in knowing Petr Mrazek won’t be scooped up with Marc-Andre Fleury likely to head to Vegas.
Edmonton: No surprises here. With a youthful team, the Oilers managed to keep their entire group together with only minor losses. The signing of Jujhar Khaira seems to have been solely for the purposes of exposing him.
Florida: Panthers left exposing some players who are key to their offense, including Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, who was a breakout star this past season with 30 goals. It was a necessary evil, however, in order to keep the blueline together.
Los Angeles: The Kings seem to be hoping and praying that one of Dustin Brown or Marian Gaborik gets picked up by the Golden Knights. Unless there’s a deal in place, that’s incredibly unlikely.
Minnesota: By failing to make a deal ahead of the roster freeze, the Wild have been forced to expose two defenders, and you can be certain that barring a trade with the Golden Knights, either Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella will be heading to Vegas in the expansion draft.
Montreal: No deal with Alexander Radulov means the Golden Knights can at least talk contract with the free agent-to-be. Sure would be interesting to see Vegas forego a roster selection in favor of picking up the playmaking winger.
Nashville: The 4-4-1 protection method was a no-brainer for the Predators, but the question now is how GM David Poile manages to ensure protection for James Neal and persuade McPhee to take one of Craig Smith or Colin Wilson.
New Jersey: As colleague Matt Larkin predicted, Mike Cammalleri is left unprotected. Could make for an interesting pickup for the Golden Knights.
NY Islanders: Much like the Wild, the Islanders’ failure to make a move ahead of the roster freeze means at least one defender is likely heading to the Golden Knights. It’s up to McPhee now to decide whether he is more intrigued by Thomas Hickey or Calvin de Haan, as New York’s 3-5-1 protection method left both blueliners exposed. Maybe a deal is in place to protect one or the other and ensure McPhee stays away from the breadth of forwards who’ve been left exposed.
NY Rangers: Long been speculated that Antti Raanta would be the one to go from the Rangers, and if Vegas sees the netminder as part of their crease next season, he’s there for the taking.
Ottawa: Dion Phaneuf’s decision not to waive his no-movement clause is certain to impact the Senators blueline now. With very little to choose from, it would make most sense for McPhee to target Marc Methot.
Philadelphia: Michael Del Zotto could be one of the free agent signings waiting to happen.
Pittsburgh: Every exposed player is rather inconsequential with Marc-Andre Fleury available for selection. Waiving his no-trade clause has made it seem all but certain he’ll be heading to Vegas in the draft.
San Jose: The Golden Knights could land themselves a top-line forward in Mikkel Boedker if they’re willing to pay the remaining three years and $12 million on his four-year deal.
St. Louis: Magnus Paajarvi excelled under coach Mike Yeo with the Blues, but not enough for St. Louis to protect the speedy forward. There are a few intriguing players for McPhee to ponder, and it seems far less likely that McPhee takes a chance on Nail Yakupov now.
Tampa Bay: The exposure of Andrej Sustr ahead of Braydon Coburn is surprising, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman may be counting on McPhee’s interest in someone such as J.T. Brown or Cedric Pacquette ahead of the defender.
Toronto: It’s all about the two defenders for the Maple Leafs. One has to figure the most likely selections are Alexey Marchenko or Martin Marincin. A bit surprising to see Matt Martin protected.
Vancouver: There’s not much for the Golden Knights to choose from when it comes to the Canucks. Sbisa, perhaps?
Washington: No surprises here. The Tyler Graovac trade earlier this week allowed the Capitals to expose only one major forward. That leaves Brett Connolly and Jay Beagle as the most NHL-ready forwards, but goaltender Philipp Grubauer could be selected.
Winnipeg: Toby Enstrom might get free meals wherever he goes in Manitoba’s capital. That he agreed to waive his NMC opened the door for the Jets to protect their three key defenders and keep much of the young core together.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.