Vegas Golden Knights Mock Expansion Draft Roundtable

Vegas Golden Knights: General view of the T-Mobile Arena adjacent to the Las Vegas strip. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: General view of the T-Mobile Arena adjacent to the Las Vegas strip. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights Mock Expansion Draft Roundtable (February Edition) – Matt Duscharme and Suraj Sukumar Re-Join Site Expert Ryan Ritchie for Another In-Depth Look at June’s Expansion Draft.  We’ve Included Full Protection Lists for All 30 Teams and Three Separate 30-Man Rosters for the NHL’s 31st Franchise.

Vegas Golden Knights front-office is holding mock expansion drafts throughout the year to prepare for next June. We here at Puck Prose are doing the same thing with in-depth analysis, full protection lists, and much more!

Las Vegas plans to conduct a monthly NHL mock expansion draft to prepare themselves for next June. We here at Puck Prose are looking to do the same thing with detailed analysis that should have us looking at some of the same players that George McPhee and company are as well.

We’re back for a double dose in February as we ramp our expansion draft coverage. Moving forward, we’ll be releasing two expansion roundtables per month. Writers Matt Duscharme and Suraj Sukumar have re-joined site expert Ryan Ritchie to share their projected Vegas Golden Knights roster.

With the collaboration, we’re hoping to give readers a better idea of who might be available next June. Also, fans can get an idea of the expansion draft landscape changes when teams use different formats or protect different players with those highly debatable final spots. If we’re lucky, we might have a few similar picks in terms of protection lists or Vegas roster players. All in all, it’s a good exercise to get a better/more accurate handle on the entire process, which is very different from past expansions.

Truth be told, we can target and identify the vast majority of protected players. Between no-movement clauses and star players, there are only so many spots that are actually debatable. Now, there’s still lots of time for player movement in 2016-17 leading up to the Mar.1 deadline, then another period following the playoffs. To play it safe, for the time being, we’ve chosen to omit certain players for different reasons. Each writer is following their own set of rules in this department with explanations as to why those individuals will be left out.

Rules for Expansion

*The NHL released its list of players who will be exempt from the expansion draft awhile back. Now, some folks are a bit confused it seems. This isn’t a list of players teams must protect (although the majority will need to be). Guys like Ryane Clowe, David Clarkson, and Nathan Horton, for example, are expected to be exempt from needing protection due to their injury status. Basically, any player who missed the previous 60 games heading into the expansion draft will have an automatic exemption, similar to the younger prospects.

All 30 NHL teams have two options to protect players

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen, one goaltender

b) Eight skaters and one goaltender

– All players that own a no-movement clause in their contract must be protected, unless they agree to waive it.

– *All first and second-year professionals are automatically exempt from the expansion draft

*There’s been some gray area to this one so we’d like to help clarify with the best explanation we could find. Before shutting down, General Fanager asked this very question to the NHL, with the following response:

via Sin Bin,

“A Player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing 10 or more NHL games in a given NHL season.”

“A player aged 20 or older (based on age on December 31 of calendar year in which the season starts) earns a year of professional experience by playing 10 or more Professional Games under a standard player contract in a given League Year.”

General Fanager also wanted answers for European skaters and how the NHL decides to calculate professional years overseas. Here’s the response:

“Professional seasons are expected to only count while a player is under an NHL SPC. A player like Artemi Panarin for instance, who played several “professional seasons” in the KHL prior to signing with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2015-16 season, is expected to still be exempt from the Expansion Draft. This is because his seasons in the KHL were played before he signed an NHL SPC, so his first “professional season” for purposes of expansion is considered the 2015-16 season.”

Player Exposure Requirements

All clubs must provide a minimum one player that falls under each of the following categories:

1) one defenseman who is under contract for 2017-18 and played in 40 games in 2016-17, or 70 games in 2015-16 and 2016-17 combined.

2) two forwards under contract for 2017-18 and played in 40 games in 2016-17, or 70 games in 2015-16 and 2016-17 combined.

3) one goalie under contract for 2017-18 or RFA

Truth be told, all 30 teams will naturally have players that meet the requirements. There won’t be much planning or thought put into it when most bottom six forwards or bottom pair defenseman go unprotected.

Oct 20, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing David Clarkson (23) controls the puck as New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan (44) defends during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 20, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing David Clarkson (23) controls the puck as New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan (44) defends during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

– Players with a career-ending injury, or who have missed the previous 60 games due to injury will be automatically exempt from the expansion draft. This is notable for individuals such as Ryane Clowe (NJ) or David Clarkson (CLB) who some feared would take up a spot due to no-move clauses.

Las Vegas Selection Rules

– Las Vegas must select one player from each of the 30 existing teams.

– They must select at least 14 forwards, nine defense, and three goalies.

– Las Vegas must spend between 60-100 percent of the prior season’s upper cap limit ($43.8-$73.0 million)

– *20 of those 30 selections must be under contract for 2017-18 (only 10 UFAs or RFAs are allowed for that two-day negotiating period)

Honestly, this one doesn’t make a lot of sense. Experts/analysts insist that RFAs don’t count against the 20 under contract, but that’s absurd. If Las Vegas selects an RFA, they own that player’s rights until he’s eligible for free agency, so technically speaking, the player is pretty much under contract. Even if he’s unhappy and wants to flee to the KHL, Vegas still owns him if he ever decides to come back – not as though an RFA is going anywhere.

By the way, that two-day negotiating period set forth during the time Las Vegas is selecting is to ensure they can get all 30 players under contract for 2017-18. Without it, there’d be too much uncertainty with selections. This way if a free agent refuses to join the expansion team, at least they have time to change their selection to someone under contract or another FA that will agree to terms.

All 30 NHL teams must submit their protection list by 5pm (et) on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the very latest. Las Vegas will then have until June 20, 2017 to submit their expansion draft picks. The announcement is expected to be made the following day on June 21st.

Vegas Golden Knights: Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) celebrates his goal with teammates Corey Perry (10) , Ryan Kesler (17) and Cam Fowler (4) during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Anaheim wins 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) celebrates his goal with teammates Corey Perry (10) , Ryan Kesler (17) and Cam Fowler (4) during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Anaheim wins 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Anaheim Ducks

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Corey Perry (NMC) 31 $8.625M F Nick Ritchie
F Ryan Getzlaf (NMC) 31 $8.25M F Kalle Kossila
F Ryan Kesler (NMC) 32 $6.875M F Kevin Roy
F Rickard Rakell 23 $3.8M F Max Jones
F Jakob Silfverberg 26 $3.75M F Julius Nattinen
F Andrew Cogliano 29 $3.0M F Deven Sideroff
F Antoine Vermette 34 $1.75M F Ondrej Kase
F Nate Thompson 32 UFA F Kenton Helgesen
F Ryan Garbutt 31 UFA
F Jared Boll 30 $900K D Jacob Larsson
F Nick Sorensen 22 RFA D Andy Welinski
F Emerson Etem 24 RFA D Shea Theodore
F Chris Wagner 25 $637.5K D Keaton Thompson
F Nic Kerdiles 22 RFA D Marcus Pettersson
F Joseph Cramarossa 23 RFA D Brandon Montour
F Corey Tropp 27 $625K
F Logan Shaw 24 RFA G Kevin Boyle
F Max Gortz 23 RFA
D Sami Vatanen 25 $4.875M
D Cam Fowler 24 $4.0M
D Kevin Bieksa (NMC) 35 $4.0M
D Simon Despres 25 $3.7M
D Clayton Stoner 31 $3.25M
D Josh Manson 25 $825K
D Hampus Lindholm 22 $5.25M
D Korbinian Holzer 28 UFA
D Nate Guenin 33 UFA
D Jeff Schultz 30 UFA
D Jaycob Megna 23 RFA
G John Gibson 23 $2.3M
G Jonathan Bernier 28 UFA
G Dustin Tokarski 27 $650K
G Jhonas Enroth 28 UFA
G Matt Hackett 26 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Corey Perry (NMC) F Corey Perry (NMC) F Corey Perry (NMC)
F Ryan Getzlaf (NMC) F Ryan Getzlaf (NMC) F Ryan Getzlaf (NMC)
F Ryan Kesler (NMC) F Ryan Kesler (NMC) F Ryan Kesler (NMC)
F Rickard Rakell F Rickard Rakell F Rickard Rakell
D Hampus Lindholm D Kevin Bieksa (NMC) D Hampus Lindholm
D Sami Vatanen D Hampus Lindholm D Sami Vatanen
D Cam Fowler D Cam Fowler D Cam Fowler
D Josh Manson D Sami Vatanen D Josh Manson
G John Gibson G John Gibson G John Gibson
*Bieksa asked to waive NMC *Bieksa asked to waive NMC

Sadly, the Anaheim Ducks are one of the teams in tough with the expansion draft. One way or another, this organization is bound to lose a quality player. If they choose to save an extra defenseman (the likely choice), it will result in exposed top-six forwards. However, if Anaheim wants to save those forwards, it would cost them a quality top-four d-man. Now, don’t be surprised if GM Bob Murray uses draft picks/or players in order to protect an extra body, but his insistence to go for it in 2016-17 will ultimately cost him.

Protection Lists:

As you can see, the Ducks don’t have a lot of options. They can ask Kevin Bieksa to waive his no-move in hopes of protecting Josh Manson, but that leaves one of Jakob Silfverberg or Rickard Rakell available. If they want to use a 7-3-1 scheme, they can certainly save the necessary forwards, but it leaves a defender available capable of logging 20-plus minutes/night.

If GM Bob Murray still has a job following the 2016-17 season, expect him to very busy leading up to the expansion draft.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Does Anaheim need to move a defenseman ahead of the expansion draft?

Well with a 4-4-1 protection scheme the only quality defenseman available would be Josh Manson and Simon Despres. Now given Despres’ injury history, he won’t be that hot of a commodity for Vegas, Manson on the other would be. So instead of losing him for nothing, they may as well get something for him before the March 1st deadline is over.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Arizona Coyotes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) celebrates with defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) and a67#@ after scoring a goal in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Arizona Coyotes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) celebrates with defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) and a67#@ after scoring a goal in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Coyotes

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Shane Doan 40 UFA F Dylan Strome
F Jamie McGinn 28 $3.33M F Lawson Crouse
F Martin Hanzal 29 UFA F Max Domi
F Tobias Rieder 23 $2.25M F Laurent Dauphin
F Brad Richardson 31 $2.083M F Christian Dvorak
F Radim Vrbata 35 UFA F Michael Bunting
F Ryan White 28 UFA F Dakota Mermis
F Anthony Duclair 21 RFA F Conor Garland
F Jordan Martinook 24 RFA F Ryan MacInnis
F Craig Cunningham (LTIR) 25 RFA F Christian Fischer
F Tyler Gaudet 22 RFA F Brendan Perlini
F Chris Mueller 30 UFA F Nick Merkley
F Garret Ross 24 RFA F Lane Pederson
F Peter Holland 25 RFA
F Matia Marcantuoni 22 RFA
F Mitchell Moroz 22 RFA
F Alex Burmistrov 25 RFA D Jakob Chychrun
F Branden Troock 22 RFA D Dysin Mayo
F Brendan Ranford 24 RFA D Kyle Wood
D Anthony DeAngelo
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson 25 $5.5M D Jalen Smereck
D Alex Goligoski (NMC) 31 $5.475M
D Connor Murphy 23 $3.85M G Adin Hill
D Michael Stone 26 UFA
D Luke Schenn 26 $1.25M
D Kevin Connauton 26 $1.0M
D Zbynek Michalek 33 UFA
D Jamie McBain 28 UFA
D Jarred Tinordi 23 RFA
G Mike Smith 34 $5.66M
G Louis Domingue 24 $1.05M
G Marek Langhamer 21 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Anthony Duclair F Martin Hanzal F Anthony Duclair
F Tobias Rieder F Tobias Rieder F Tobias Rieder
F Jordan Martinook F Anthony Duclair F Jordan Martinook
F Jamie McGinn F Radim Vrbata F Jamie McGinn
F Brad Richardson D Alex Goligoski (NMC) F Tyler Gaudet
F Radim Vrbata D Oliver Ekman-Larsson F Peter Holland
F Alexander Burmistrov D Connor Murphy F Alexander Burmistrov
D Alex Goligoski (NMC) D Michael Stone D Alex Goligoski (NMC)
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson G Louis Domingue D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
D Connor Murphy D Connor Murphy
G Louis Domingue G Louis Domingue
*Stone/Hanzal omitted, expected *Stone/Hanzal omitted, expected
to be traded to be traded

Due to a relatively young forward group, many of the Coyotes top players are automatically exempt. That’s good news for a team that may need to protect more than three defensemen. That could, however, change if Arizona decides to trade pending unrestricted free agent Michael Stone.

Protection Lists:

I’ve opted to omit Martin Hanzal and Michael Stone. Chances are that both of these players will be with a new organization by the time March 1st rolls around. One less defender to protect gives the Coyotes a little more flexibility up front with the 7-3-1 scheme. Guys like Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder are virtual locks to be saved. I’m also leaning towards Jamie McGinn, Brad Richardson, and Alex Burmistrov, which leaves just one spot. For the time being, I’m going with Radim Vrbata. There’s been some rumors that he could be dealt as a rental piece, but the history hasn’t been great for the Czech winger other one big year in Vancouver. Other than that, Vrbata has done most of his damage with the Coyotes at the NHL level. Because of that, I believe Arizona would be wise to re-sign the 35-year-old pending UFA instead of trading him.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Louis Domingue is the logical save between the pipes.  Given the state of Coyotes goaltending, do you believe they can continue to roll with Smith, Domingue in 2017-18? Do they need to buy out Mike Smith’s contract, trade for a number one? Or, could they sign a Chad Johnson/Anders Nilsson-type to compete in a tandem?  What is the long-term solution down in the Desert?

I do not believe goaltending is the problem in Arizona. They have high-end prospects in the pipeline, but their lack of quality talent up front has hindered their production as a team. They have a promising defensive group, which can be improved, but players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair were poised to have big seasons. Alex Burmistrov is a nice shot in the dark, and the young Russian can still prove his worth in the NHL. They are either playing catch up, or spending far too much time in their own zone. Until they improve their ability to hold the puck and score goals, goalies will continue to struggle in the Desert.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) reacts with center Dominic Moore (28) and center Tim Schaller (59) after scoring a goal during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) reacts with center Dominic Moore (28) and center Tim Schaller (59) after scoring a goal during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F David Krejci (NMC) 30 $7.25M F Danton Heinen
F Patrice Bergeron (NMC) 31 $6.875M F Noel Acciari
F David Backes (NMC) 32 $6.0M F Peter Cehlarik
F Brad Marchand 28 $6.125M F Colton Hargrove
F Matt Beleskey 28 $3.8M F Austin Czarnik
F Jimmy Hayes 26 $2.3M F Sean Kuraly
F Ryan Spooner 24 RFA F Justin Hickman
F David Pastrnak 20 RFA F Anton Blidh
F Riley Nash 27 $900K F Colby Cave
F Dominic Moore 35 UFA F Jake DeBrusk
F Tim Schaller 25 RFA F Zachary Senyshyn
F Tyler Randell 25 RFA F Frank Vatrano
F Zac Rinaldo 25 UFA
F Brian Ferlin 24 RFA D Rob O’Gara
D Matt Grzelcyk
D Zdeno Chara (NMC) 39 $4.0M D Jeremy Lauzon
D Torey Krug 25 $5.25M D Brandon Carlo
D Adam McQuaid 30 $2.75M D Jakub Zboril
D Kevan Miller 28 $2.5M
D John-Michael Liles 35 UFA G Zane McIntyre
D Colin Miller 23 $1.0M G Daniel Vladar
D Joe Morrow 23 RFA
D Alex Grant 27 UFA
D Tommy Cross 26 UFA
D Chris Castro 24 RFA
D Linus Arnesson 21 RFA
G Tuukka Rask (NMC) 29 $7.0M
G Anton Khudobin 30 $1.2M
G Malcolm Subban 22 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F David Krejci (NMC) F David Krejci (NMC) F David Krejci (NMC)
F Patrice Bergeron (NMC) F Patrice Bergeron (NMC) F Patrice Bergeron (NMC)
F David Backes (NMC) F David Backes (NMC) F David Backes (NMC)
F Brad Marchand F Brad Marchand F Brad Marchand
F David Pastrnak F David Pastrnak F David Pastrnak
F Ryan Spooner F Ryan Spooner F Ryan Spooner
F Matt Beleskey F Jimmy Hayes F Matt Beleskey
D Zdeno Chara (NMC) D Zdeno Chara (NMC) D Zdeno Chara (NMC)
D Torey Krug D Torey Krug D Torey Krug
D Colin Miller D Joe Morrow D Colin Miller
G Tuukka Rask (NMC) G Tuukka Rask (NMC) G Tuukka Rask (NMC)

Given the Bruins depth up front, a 7-3-1 protection scheme seems to be a given. We all seem to agree that at least eight players are virtual locks. Suraj and I agree on Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, but those are less certain. For example, one could make the argument that Jimmy Hayes must be protected, such as Matt has done.

Protection Lists:

I’ve had the Bruins pegged with the 7-3-1 scheme since the beginning. 10 of those 11 spots have been virtually locked up since we first learned about the expansion draft. The only real debatable slot is that final one up front. It’s basically a battle between Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes. Vegas would have to pay up to select either of these guys, and although Beleskey carries a bigger cap hit, he’s still the logical save.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: You chose to protect Matt Beleskey in December, Jimmy Hayes in January.  It’s one of the more debatable final spots around the NHL, so why the change of heart this time around?

The reason I switched from Matt Beleskey to Jimmy Hayes is quite simple, Beleskey in all aspects is really just a third line player who can score. And for $3.8 million a year at 28 for a player like that isn’t really worth it. Jimmy Hayes, on the other hand, is pretty much the same player as Beleskey skill-wise, but he’s only making $2.3 million and is also two years younger. So Boston could opt to keep Matt over Jimmy, but in my opinion, Hayes would be the smarter decision granted he costs less and you’re still having the same type of player on your team.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart (23) celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center. Sabres beat the Senators 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart (23) celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center. Sabres beat the Senators 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Ryan O’Reilly 25 $7.5M F Jack Eichel
F Kyle Okposo (NMC) 28 $6.0M F Hudson Fasching
F Evander Kane 25 $5.25M F Sam Reinhart
F Matt Moulson 32 $5.0M F Alex Nylander
F Tyler Ennis 27 $4.6M F Eric Cornel
F Brian Gionta 37 UFA F Vaclav Karabacek
F Marcus Foligno 25 RFA F Evan Rodrigues
F Cody McCormick 33 UFA F Nicholas Baptiste
F Zemgus Girgensons 22 RFA F Justin Bailey
F Johan Larsson 24 RFA F Jean Dupuy
F Nicolas Deslauriers 25 $775K F William Carrier
F Cal O’Reilly 30 UFA
F Cole Schneider 26 RFA D Casey Nelson
F Justin Kea 22 RFA D Brendan Guhle
F Daniel Catenacci 23 RFA D Brycen Martin
D Erik Burgdoerfer
G Jason Kasdorf
D Rasmus Ristolainen 21 $5.4M
D Zach Bogosian 26 $5.143M
D Dmitry Kulikov 25 UFA
D Josh Gorges 32 $3.9M
D Cody Franson 29 UFA
D Jake McCabe 23 $1.6M
D Justin Falk 28 UFA
D Taylor Fedun 28 UFA
D Brady Austin 23 RFA
G Robin Lehner 25 RFA
G Anders Nilsson 26 UFA
G Linus Ullmark 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Kyle Okposo (NMC) F Kyle Okposo (NMC) F Kyle Okposo (NMC)
F Ryan O’Reilly F Tyler Ennis F Ryan O’Reilly
F Evander Kane F Zemgus Girgensons F Evander Kane
F Zemgus Girgensons F Evander Kane F Zemgus Girgensons
D Rasmus Ristolainen D Rasmus Ristolainen D Rasmus Ristolainen
D Zach Bogosian D Zach Bogosian D Zach Bogosian
D Dmitry Kulikov D Dmitry Kulikov D Dmitry Kulikov
D Jake McCabe D Jake McCabe D Jake McCabe
G Robin Lehner G Robin Lehner G Robin Lehner

As you can see, we all tend to agree that Buffalo will have no choice but to protect four defensemen, despite Kulikov’s UFA status – the Sabres need to protect their investment. That puts them in a tough spot regarding who to save up front. One way or another, it seems Buffalo is destined to lose a forward.

Protection Lists:

Even though Dmitry Kulikov is slated to become a UFA, it’s important to get him protected. Some fans on social media have suggested the Sabres could circumvent the system with a pre-arrangement ensuring a refusal to sign with the expansion club, but those are the type of curious situations that can get the league involved. No instead, we protect Bogosian, Ristolainen, Kulikov, and McCabe, leaving four spots up front. Okposo and O’Reilly are locks, but debate could occur on those other two spots. Although it’s unlikely Las Vegas would have interest in Kane’s character issues, it’s too much of a risk to leave him exposed. With the last spot, I’ve chosen to protect a young 1st rounder still looking to reach his ceiling.  It’s not easy leaving Marcus Foligno exposed as he would be the perfect target for Vegas.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: For a second month in a row, you’ve opted to leave Sabres F Ryan O’Reilly exposed.  What is the thought process behind that decision?

The reason why I leave O’Reilly exposed is for one reason, Eichel. He’s going to be taking over that team and a player of his skill level is also going to receive a huge pay raise. So when you got two centers making well over $5 million (eventually Eichel will be) and with how much Buffalo is spending on wingers and defense, something has to happen or someone has to go. And O’Reilly seems like the more viable option. You could argue well two top centers is also better than one, while this is often true, for instance Crosby and Malkin. Pittsburgh has had to re tool their team every 3-4 years so it’s not always good. That’s why I choose to leave Ryan unprotected another reason too is because Buffalo can get a solid return for him at the deadline if they wish they go this route. Because like it or not, Eichel was drafted to be that guy, and leaving him on the second line for the next however many years, isn’t really doing him any good, and moving him to the top and O’Reilly on the second, you in turn have a player making north of $7 million on the second line who has a history with injuries.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Calgary Flames right wing Troy Brouwer (36) celebrates scoring a goal with Flames center Sean Monahan (23) during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Calgary Flames right wing Troy Brouwer (36) celebrates scoring a goal with Flames center Sean Monahan (23) during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Calgary Flames

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Johnny Gaudreau 23 $6.75M F Matthew Tkachuk
F Sean Monahan 22 $6.375M F Andrew Mangiapane
F Troy Brouwer 31 $4.5M F Brett Pollock
F Michael Frolik 28 $4.3M F Daniel Pribyl
F Mikael Backlund 27 $3.575M F Mark Jankowski
F Matt Stajan 32 $3.125M F Morgan Klimchuk
F Lance Bouma 26 $2.2M F Hunter Smith
F Kris Versteeg 30 UFA F Garnet Hathaway
F Sam Bennett 20 RFA F Austin Carroll
F Michael Ferland 24 RFA
F Alex Chiasson 26 RFA
F Freddie Hamilton 24 $613K D Rasmus Andersson
F Brandon Bollig 29 UFA D Kenney Morrison
F Linden Vey 25 RFA D Oliver Kylington
F Hunter Shinkaruk 22 $1.076M D Keegan Kanzig
F Emile Poirier 21 $863K
G David Rittich
D Mark Giordano 33 $6.75M G Jon Gillies
D Dougie Hamilton 23 $5.75M G Mason McDonald
D Dennis Wideman 33 UFA G Nick Schneider
D T.J. Brodie 26 $4.65M
D Deryk Engelland 34 UFA
D Jyrki Jokipakka 25 RFA
D Nicklas Grossmann 31 UFA
D Brett Kulak 22 RFA
D Ryan Culkin 22 RFA
D Tyler Wotherspoon 23 RFA
G Brian Elliott 31 UFA
G Chad Johnson 30 UFA
G Tom McCollum 26 $613K

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Johnny Gaudreau F Johnny Gaudreau F Johnny Gaudreau
F Sean Monahan F Sean Monahan F Sean Monahan
F Sam Bennett F Sam Bennett F Sam Bennett
F Michael Frolik F Mikael Backlund F Michael Frolik
F Mikael Backlund D Mark Giordano F Mikael Backlund
F Troy Brouwer D T.J. Brodie F Troy Brouwer
F Michael Ferland D Dougie Hamilton F Hunter Shinkaruk
D Mark Giordano D Jyrki Jokipakka D Mark Giordano
D T.J. Brodie G Chad Johnson D T.J. Brodie
D Dougie Hamilton D Dougie Hamilton
G Chad Johnson G Chad Johnson

The Flames could technically use either protection scheme as they’re bound to lose a decent player regardless. Since they’ve got an abundance of forwards and only three defenders that truly need protection, it makes sense to use the 7-3-1 option.

Protection Lists:

In terms of locks for protection, Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton are guaranteed. Up front, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, and Backlund are virtual locks as well. With seven forwards available for protection, that leaves us three spots to work with. Brouwer and Frolik are impact top-six forwards, which make for sensible saves. I’ve gone with Michael Ferland for the final spot serving as an important role player in the bottom-six. One could make a case for Lance Bouma, Alex Chiasson, or maybe even Hunter Shinkaruk.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates his hat trick goal against the Philadelphia Flyers second period at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes defeated the Flyers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates his hat trick goal against the Philadelphia Flyers second period at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes defeated the Flyers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Jordan Staal (NMC) 28 $6.0M F Sebastian Aho
F Jeff Skinner 24 $5.725M F Julien Gauthier
F Victor Rask 23 $4.0M F Aleksi Saarela
F Bryan Bickell 30 UFA F Nicolas Roy
F Elias Lindholm 21 $2.7M F Clark Bishop
F Lee Stempniak 33 $2.5M F Andrew Poturalski
F Viktor Stalberg 30 UFA F Valentin Zykov
F Joakim Nordstrom 24 $1.275M F Lucas Wallmark
F Jay McClement 33 UFA F Sergey Tolchinsky
F Andrej Nestrasil 25 RFA F Derek Ryan
F Teuvo Teravainen 22 RFA
F Phillip Di Giuseppe 23 RFA D Noah Hanifin
F Martin Frk 23 RFA D Brett Pesce
F Andrew Miller 28 UFA D Jaccob Slavin
F Brock McGinn 22 RFA D Tyler Ganly
F Erik Karlsson 22 RFA D Jake Bean
F Patrick Brown 24 RFA D Jake Chelios
F Brendan Woods 24 RFA D Haydn Fleury
F Connor Brickley 24 RFA D Roland McKeown
F Ty Rattie 23 RFA D Josh Wesley
D Justin Faulk 24 $4.83M G Alex Nedeljkovic
D Ron Hainsey 35 UFA
D Ryan Murphy 23 $788K
D Klas Dahlbeck 25 RFA
D Jakub Nakladal 28 UFA
D Matt Tennyson 26 UFA
D Keegan Lowe 23 RFA
D Trevor Carrick 22 RFA
D Dennis Robertson 25 RFA
G Cam Ward 32 $3.3M
G Eddie Lack 28 $2.75M
G Michael Leighton 35 UFA
G Daniel Altshuller 22 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Jordan Staal (NMC) F Jordan Staal (NMC) F Jordan Staal (NMC)
F Jeff Skinner F Jeff Skinner F Jeff Skinner
F Victor Rask F Victor Rask F Victor Rask
F Elias Lindholm F Elias Lindholm F Elias Lindholm
F Teuvo Teravainen F Teuvo Teravainen F Teuvo Teravainen
F Phillip Di Giuseppe F Andrej Nestrasil F Phillip Di Giuseppe
F Brock McGinn F Phillip Di Giuseppe F Brock McGinn
D Justin Faulk D Justin Faulk D Justin Faulk
D Klas Dahlbeck D Ryan Murphy D Klas Dahlbeck
D Ryan Murphy D Klas Dahlbeck D Ryan Murphy
G Cam Ward G Cam Ward G Cam Ward

If the rules would allow for it, the Canes would certainly love to protect extra forwards and maybe save one or two defenseman total. Fact is, most of their quality blueliners that emerged in 2015-16 are automatically exempt.

Protection Lists:

For my list, I’ve decided to protect what GM Ron Francis is building; the younger core players. Given the lack of talent on the back end needing to be saved, I’m going with Faulk, Dahlbeck, and Murphy on the back end. The obvious locks up front are Staal, Skinner, Rask, Lindholm, and Teravainen. Those last two spots are where things get a little fuzzy. Using our philosophy, it makes sense to protect both Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe. Neither has made the impact that a Nestrasil or Nordstrom has, but they could be major future pieces.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Andrej Nestrasil replaces Viktor Stalberg on your Hurricanes protection list.  Some folks have pegged Nestrasil as a decent target for Las Vegas, so what is it about his game that makes him a worthy save on Carolina’s part?

Well if many have pegged him as a person of interest for Vegas, then it’s good that he’s protected. Also, the reason I chose to over Stalberg, is because in one corner you have an aging player with a history of injuries that has never quite matched the hype. But in the other corner you have a player who is just about to enter his prime and is often consistent, so who would you rather protect? Option A or option B? Option B sounds like the smartest decision.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Patrick Kane (NMC) 27 $10.5M F Tyler Motte
F Jonathan Toews (NMC) 28 $10.5M F Nick Schmaltz
F Marian Hossa (NMC) 37 $5.275M F Artemi Panarin
F Artem Anisimov (NMC) 28 $4.55M F Vinnie Hinostroza
F Marcus Kruger 26 $3.083M F Graham Knott
F Richard Panik 25 RFA F Alexandre Fortin
F Ryan Hartman 22 $863K F Luke Johnson
F Andrew Desjardins 30 UFA F Martin Lundberg
F Jordin Tootoo 33 UFA F Tanner Kero
F Dennis Rasmussen 26 RFA
F Kyle Baun 24 $625K D Gustav Forsling
F Spencer Abbott 28 UFA D Carl Dahlstrom
F Pierre-Cedric Labrie 29 UFA D Robin Norell
F Brandon Mashinter 28 UFA D Nolan Valleau
F Mark McNeill 23 RFA D Erik Gustafsson
F Sam Carrick 24 RFA
F Michael Latta 25 RFA G Lars Johansson
D Brent Seabrook (NMC) 31 $6.875M
D Duncan Keith (NMC) 33 $5.538M
D Niklas Hjalmarsson (NMC) 29 $4.1M
D Brian Campbell 37 UFA
D Trevor van Riemsdyk 25 $825K
D Michal Kempny 26 RFA
D Michal Rozsival 38 UFA
D Ville Pokka 22 RFA
D Viktor Svedberg 25 $750K
D Dillon Fournier 22 RFA
G Corey Crawford (NMC) 31 $6.0M
G Scott Darling 27 UFA
G Mac Carruth 24 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Patrick Kane (NMC) F Patrick Kane (NMC) F Patrick Kane (NMC)
F Jonathan Toews (NMC) F Jonathan Toews (NMC) F Jonathan Toews (NMC)
F Marian Hossa (NMC) F Marian Hossa (NMC) F Marian Hossa (NMC)
F Artem Anisimov (NMC) F Artem Anisimov (NMC) F Artem Anisimov (NMC)
F Marcus Kruger F Ryan Hartman F Marcus Kruger
F Richard Panik F Marcus Kruger F Richard Panik
F Ryan Hartman F Andrew Desjardins F Ryan Hartman
D Duncan Keith (NMC) D Duncan Keith (NMC) D Duncan Keith (NMC)
D Brent Seabrook (NMC) D Brent Seabrook (NMC) D Brent Seabrook (NMC)
D Niklas Hjalmarsson (NMC) D Niklas Hjalmarsson (NMC) D Niklas Hjalmarsson (NMC)
G Corey Crawford (NMC) G Corey Crawford (NMC) G Corey Crawford (NMC)

If you’ve tinkered around with the expansion tools, you know that Chicago has locked themselves into seven players (four forwards, three defense, one goalie) with no-movement clauses. That leaves no possibility of using the 4-4-1 scheme to protect a valuable defender, unless of course, Chicago is willing to hand Marcus Kruger to Las Vegas.

Protection Lists:

With only three spots to fill, the work is fairly limited only having to identify three forwards. Marcus Kruger is a must-save, Richard Panik is slowly working his way to a similar status (if he can keep it up), leaving just one spot. Given his emergence this year, Ryan Hartman might have the early lead, but that could always change.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) helps goalie Spencer Martin (30) defend the goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) helps goalie Spencer Martin (30) defend the goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Nathan MacKinnon 21 $6.3M F Andreas Martinsen
F Matt Duchene 25 $6.0M F Reid Petryk
F Gabriel Landeskog 23 $5.571M F Mikko Rantanen
F Jarome Iginla 39 UFA F J.T. Compher
F Carl Soderberg 31 $4.75M F A.J. Greer
F Joe Colborne 26 $2.5M F Julien Nantel
F Blake Comeau 30 $2.4M F Trent Vogelhuber
F John Mitchell 31 UFA
F Mikhail Grigorenko 22 RFA D Mason Geertsen
F Gabriel Bourque 26 UFA D Chris Bigras
F Rene Bourque 34 UFA D Anton Lindholm
F Jim O’Brien 27 UFA D Sergei Boikov
F Mike Sislo 28 UFA
F Joe Whitney 28 UFA G Spencer Martin
F Rocco Grimaldi 23 RFA
F Troy Bourke 22 RFA
F Samuel Henley 23 RFA
F Turner Elson 24 RFA
F Matt Nieto 23 RFA
F Felix Girard 22 RFA
D Erik Johnson (NMC) 28 $6.0M
D Tyson Barrie 25 $5.5M
D Francois Beauchemin (NMC) 36 $4.5M
D Fedor Tyutin 33 UFA
D Eric Gelinas 25 RFA
D Nikita Zadorov 21 RFA
D Patrick Wiercioch 26 RFA
D Mat Clark 26 UFA
D Cody Goloubef 26 UFA
D Duncan Siemens 23 RFA
D Cody Corbett 22 RFA
D Mark Barberio 26 $750K
G Semyon Varlamov 28 $5.9M
G Calvin Pickard 24 $1.0M
G Jeremy Smith 27 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Nathan MacKinnon F Nathan MacKinnon F Nathan MacKinnon
F Matt Duchene F Matt Duchene F Matt Duchene
F Gabriel Landeskog F Gabriel Landeskog F Gabriel Landeskog
F Carl Soderberg F Mikhail Grigorenko F Carl Soderberg
F Mikhail Grigorenko F Carl Soderberg F Mikhail Grigorenko
F Rocco Grimaldi F Matt Nieto F Rocco Grimaldi
F Joe Colborne F Rocco Grimaldi F Joe Colborne
D Erik Johnson (NMC) D Erik Johnson (NMC) D Erik Johnson (NMC)
D Tyson Barrie D Tyson Barrie D Tyson Barrie
D Nikita Zadorov D Nikita Zadorov D Nikita Zadorov
G Calvin Pickard G Calvin Pickard G Calvin Pickard
*Beauchemin asked to waive *Beauchemin asked to waive *Beauchemin asked to waive
NMC NMC NMC

It’s worth noting that 36-year-old defenseman Francois Beauchemin may be asked to waive his no-movement clause if Sakic can convince the veteran Las Vegas will have little interest (as we all have done). If that’s the case, Nikita Zadorov seems to be the next logical choice for protection on the back end in a 7-3-1 scheme.

Protection Lists:

Colorado is somewhat fortunate. They could technically use either protection scheme based on who they deem to be most important. Another big factor could be Francois Beauchemin. If he’s willing to waive his NMC, it sets them up perfectly as you can see. But if they’re forced to save him, the only real decision to make in a 4-4-1 scheme is whether to protect Carl Soderberg or Mikhail Grigorenko with that final spot.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Rocco Grimaldi replaces Blake Comeau on your protection list for Colorado. Does that decision change if Comeau, whose name is being bantered around in trade rumors, winds up staying in the Mile High City?

This was simply based on season progression. Looking at both players since the last Expansion Draft article, Grimaldi is showing potential, while Comeau is better off playing for a contender. He is a viable power forward, and could produce with the right linemates. Unfortunately, the Avalanche are a sinking ship right now, and Comeau has nothing to gain from staying aboard.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the first period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the first period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Brandon Saad 23 $6.0M F Sonny Milano
F Brandon Dubinsky (NMC) 30 $5.85M F Keegan Kolesar
F Nick Foligno (NMC) 28 $5.5M F Pierre-Luc Dubois
F Scott Hartnell (NMC) 34 $4.75M F Paul Bittner
F Cam Atkinson 27 $3.5M F Justin Scott
F Boone Jenner 23 $2.9M F Dante Salituro
F Matt Calvert 26 $2.2M F Kole Sherwood
F William Karlsson 23 $1.0M F Oliver Bjorkstrand
F Alexander Wennberg 22 RFA F Jordan Maletta
F Josh Anderson 22 $863K F Markus Hannikainen
F Lukas Sedlak 23 RFA F Nick Moutrey
F David Clarkson (NMC – LTIR) 32 $5.25M
F Brett Gallant 27 UFA D Zach Werenski
F Daniel Zaar 22 RFA D Markus Nutivaara
F Jaime Sifers 33 UFA D Dillon Heatherington
F Alex Broadhurst 23 RFA D Gabriel Carlsson
F T.J. Tynan 24 RFA D Dean Kukan
D Jacob Graves
D Blake Siebenaler
D Seth Jones 22 $5.4M D Oleg Yevenko
D Jack Johnson 29 $4.357M
D David Savard 26 $4.25M
D Ryan Murray 23 $2.825M
D Dalton Prout 26 $1.575M
D Scott Harrington 23 RFA
D John Ramage 25 $613K
D Ryan Stanton 27 UFA
G Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC) 28 $7.425M
G Joonas Korpisalo 22 RFA
G Oscar Dansk 22 RFA
G Anton Forsberg 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Brandon Dubinsky (NMC) F Brandon Dubinsky (NMC) F Brandon Dubinsky (NMC)
F Nick Foligno (NMC) F Nick Foligno (NMC) F Nick Foligno (NMC)
F Scott Hartnell (NMC) F Brandon Saad F Scott Hartnell (NMC)
F Brandon Saad F Cam Atkinson F Brandon Saad
F Cam Atkinson F Alexander Wennberg F Cam Atkinson
F Alexander Wennberg F Boone Jenner F Alexander Wennberg
F Boone Jenner F Josh Anderson F Boone Jenner
D Seth Jones D Seth Jones D Seth Jones
D Ryan Murray D Jack Johnson D Ryan Murray
D David Savard D Ryan Murray D David Savard
G Sergei Bobrovsky G Sergei Bobrovsky G Sergei Bobrovsky
*Scott Hartnell waives NMC

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the standings over previous years, but Columbus boasts one of the deeper groups in the NHL. No matter which protection scheme they choose, they stand to lose a quality player.

Protection Lists:

Working with what’s in front of us at the moment, Scott Hartnell and his NMC are still in the mix. The forced save leaves names like William Karlsson and Lukas Sedlak on the outside looking in. That could change if Jarmo can get Hartnell to either waive his no-move or find another team that wants him.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: If Scott Hartnell were to waive his no-move clause, it would open up an extra slot the Blue Jackets could desperately use.  You’ve chosen to protect Josh Anderson, but how close is that battle for the final spot with guys like William Karlsson and Lukas Sedlak?

The reason I had Hartnell waive his NMC, is quite simple, Columbus want’s to take the youth route, and after this years season which was mostly lead by their youth, why not continue that trend? Hartnell is an aging player in a young man’s game now. If Vegas were to take him they have a solid second line player who will also help them reach the cap floor. The other reason I chose to do that and protect Josh Anderson is due to the fact, Columbus has a plethora of young talent ready to make the jump next season, and while Josh has played a fair amount of time this season, he’s going to be a regular next year and one of the younger players in the AHL is going to take a spot from someone, so why not build the competition for the final spot between your youth, and the only way to do so is to move out a player, and Hartnell seems the best fit for that. In regards to Sedlak and Karlsson, either of them could take Anderson’s spot on the protection list, that’s how skilled and youthful Columbus has become.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Dallas Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) and center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Dallas Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) and center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Jason Spezza (NMC) 33 $7.5M F Devin Shore
F Patrick Sharp 34 UFA F Mattias Janmark
F Tyler Seguin 24 $5.75M F Denis Gurianov
F Jamie Benn (NMC) 27 $9.5M F Jason Dickinson
F Ales Hemsky 33 UFA F Remi Elie
F Cody Eakin 25 $3.85M F Cole Ully
F Antoine Roussel 26 $2.0M
F Jiri Hudler 32 UFA D Ondrej Vala
F Patrick Eaves 32 UFA D Julius Honka
F Lauri Korpikoski 30 UFA D Niklas Hansson
F Adam Cracknell 31 UFA D Chris Martenet
F Brett Ritchie 23 RFA
F Radek Faksa 22 RFA G Phillippe Desrosiers
F Curtis McKenzie 25 RFA
F Gemel Smith 22 RFA
F Justin Dowling 26 RFA
F Travis Morin 32 UFA
F Matej Stransky 23 RFA
D John Klingberg 24 $4.25M
D Dan Hamhuis 33 $3.75M
D Johnny Oduya 35 UFA
D Jordie Benn 29 $1.1M
D Jamie Oleksiak 23 RFA
D Patrik Nemeth 24 RFA
D Esa Lindell 22 RFA
D Stephen Johns 24 $725K
D Andrew Bodnarchuk 28 $725K
D Ludwig Bystrom 22 RFA
D Mattias Backman 24 RFA
D Nick Ebert 22 RFA
D Dustin Stevenson 27 UFA
D Justin Hache 22 RFA
G Kari Lehtonen 32 $5.9M
G Antti Niemi 33 $4.5M
G Justin Peters 29 UFA
G Henri Kiviaho 22 RFA
G Maxime Lagace 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Jason Spezza (NMC) F Jason Spezza (NMC) F Jason Spezza (NMC)
F Jamie Benn (NMC) F Jamie Benn (NMC) F Jamie Benn (NMC)
F Tyler Seguin F Tyler Seguin F Tyler Seguin
F Cody Eakin F Antoine Roussel F Cody Eakin
F Radek Faksa D John Klingberg F Radek Faksa
F Brett Ritchie D Esa Lindell F Brett Ritchie
F Antoine Roussel D Jamie Oleksiak F Antoine Roussel
D John Klingberg D Stephen Johns D John Klingberg
D Esa Lindell G Kari Lehtonen D Esa Lindell
D Stephen Johns D Stephen Johns
G Antti Niemi G Antti Niemi

No surprise, one of the hottest protection list debates exists on Dallas’ blue line. Beyond John Klingberg, you’d hesitate to call anyone a lock. They’ve got Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell, Jamie Oleksiak, Dan Hamhuis, Johnny Oduya, Jordie Benn, and Patrik Nemeth (among others) competing for two spots. This is a decision that could go down to the wire in terms of performance in 2016-17.

Protection Lists:

For this list, we’re assuming GM Jim Nill has every intent to keep his top talent together since they’re in the middle of a Stanley Cup window. That means protecting the likes of Cody Eakin, Radek Faksa, Brett Ritchie, and Antoine Roussel. On the blue line, there are a handful of players of similar talent level that could be debated upon. Logical selections have gotta be Klingberg and Johns. That third slot is a wild-card between Nemeth, Lindell, Oleksiak, Benn, and Hamhuis – Lindell is leading that group so far.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: You’ve switched from a 7-3-1 protection scheme to a 4-4-1 in Dallas. Reasoning? Explanation?

Last mock I had Dallas as a 7-3-1 scheme because then there were only small glimpses of Lindell, Johns, and Oleksiak, but as the season has rolled on so has my opinion on Dallas’ defense which is why I went with a 4-4-1 scheme. This way Dallas can protect Klingberg, Lindell, Oleksiak and Johns instead of leaving one of their top defenseman exposed, cause Dallas doesn’t have a d-core like they did last year, so holding onto talent from the back end for this team is very crucial now.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Detroit Red Wings players celebrate after a goal by defenseman Mike Green (25) during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Detroit Red Wings players celebrate after a goal by defenseman Mike Green (25) during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Henrik Zetterberg 36 $6.083M F Dylan Larkin
F Frans Nielsen (NMC) 32 $5.25M F Evgeny Svechnikov
F Gustav Nyquist 27 $4.75M F Dylan Sadowy
F Justin Abdelkader 29 $4.25M F Givani Smith
F Darren Helm 29 $3.85M F Axel Holmstrom
F Tomas Tatar 25 RFA F Dominic Turgeon
F Thomas Vanek 32 UFA F Tyler Bertuzzi
F Riley Sheahan 24 $2.075M F Zach Nastasiuk
F Drew Miller 32 UFA F Matt Lorito
F Steve Ott 34 UFA
F Luke Glendening 27 $1.8M D Villi Saarijarvi
F Andreas Athanasiou 22 RFA D Filip Hronek
F Johan Franzan (LTIR) 36 $3.955M D Brian Lashoff
F Joe Vitale (LTIR) 31 UFA D Daniel Renouf
F Tomas Jurco 23 RFA D Robbie Russo
F Tomas Nosek 24 $613K D Joe Hicketts
F Eric Tangradi 27 $650K
F Ben Street 29 UFA G Jake Paterson
F Anthony Mantha 22 $863K
F Mitch Callahan 25 RFA
D Mike Green 31 $6.0M
D Danny DeKeyser 26 $5.0M
D Niklas Kronwall 35 $4.75M
D Jonathan Ericsson 32 $4.25M
D Brendan Smith 27 UFA
D Alexey Marchenko 24 $1.45M
D Xavier Ouellet 23 RFA
D Ryan Sproul 23 $625K
D Nick Jensen 26 RFA
G Jimmy Howard 32 $5.292M
G Petr Mrazek 24 $4.0M
G Eddie Pasquale 25 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Frans Nielsen (NMC) F Frans Nielsen (NMC) F Frans Nielsen (NMC)
F Henrik Zetterberg F Henrik Zetterberg F Henrik Zetterberg
F Gustav Nyquist F Gustav Nyquist F Gustav Nyquist
F Tomas Tatar F Anthony Mantha F Tomas Tatar
F Justin Abdelkader F Tomas Tatar F Justin Abdelkader
F Riley Sheahan F Riley Sheahan F Andreas Athanasiou
F Anthony Mantha F Justin Abdelkader F Anthony Mantha
D Niklas Kronwall D Mike Green D Niklas Kronwall
D Mike Green D Danny DeKeyser D Mike Green
D Danny DeKeyser D Jonathan Ericsson D Ryan Sproul
G Petr Mrazek G Petr Mrazek G Petr Mrazek

The Red Wings would likely love to save upwards of four, maybe even five defensemen with a couple of guys just starting to make an impact. Unfortunately, they’ve got far too many forwards to take care of, leaving them with the 7-3-1 scheme.

Protection Lists:

My thought process behind the list is preserving the most important players, even though it leaves a few key guys on the outside looking in. The Red Wings would surely love to protect Athanasiou, Helm, and Glendening, among others, but numbers don’t seem to support it. To save any of those forwards, it means exposing the likes of Riley Sheahan or Anthony Mantha. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Wings make a move which allows them to save Athanasiou, Sheahan, and Mantha

The toughest selection was that final defensive slot. We’ve opted to go with Niklas Kronwall this time around – thinking it might be unwise to leave the 35-year-old unprotected, despite his age. Detroit would probably love to protect Nick Jensen, Ryan Sproul, and Xavier Ouellet as well, so who knows which direction they head in.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: You’ve opted to switch Ryan Sproul in favor of Danny DeKeyser in Detroit. Surely, the Red Wings would love to protect both. Any chance the Red Wings explore the possibility of leaving an aging Niklas Kronwall exposed? or, is it too risky?

I think the leadership of a Kronwall is too good to part with. We have seen plenty of teams struggle without the right experience on the roster, and Kronwall provides just that. DeKeyser is a hefty contract based on his production, and the Red Wings have plenty to gain from a younger, right-handed shooter like Sproul. Of the three, DeKeyser is the one who should be risked on the market.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a second period goal by forward Anton Slepyshev (42) against the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a second period goal by forward Anton Slepyshev (42) against the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton Oilers

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Jordan Eberle 26 $6.0M F Connor McDavid
F Milan Lucic (NMC) 28 $6.0M F Jesse Puljujarvi
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 23 $6.0M F Anton Slepyshev
F Benoit Pouliot 30 $4.0M F Drake Caggiula
F Matt Hendricks 35 UFA F Patrick Russell
F Mark Letestu 31 $1.8M F Jere Sallinen
F Patrick Maroon 28 $1.5M F Kyle Platzer
F Zack Kassian 25 RFA F Greg Chase
F Anton Lander 25 UFA F Zach Pochiro
F Leon Draisaitl 20 RFA F Braden Christoffer
F Iiro Pakarinen 25 RFA
F Tyler Pitlick 24 RFA D Matthew Benning
F Taylor Beck 25 RFA D Darnell Nurse
F Jujhar Khaira 22 RFA D Ethan Bear
F Henrik Samuelsson 22 RFA D Caleb Jones
F Bogdan Yakimov 22 RFA D Joey Laleggia
D Ben Betker
D Andrej Sekera (NMC) 30 $5.5M
D Oscar Klefbom 23 $4.167M G Nick Ellis
D Adam Larsson 23 $4.167M G Eetu Laurikainen
D Mark Fayne 29 $3.625M
D Kris Russell 29 UFA
D Brandon Davidson 25 $1.425M
D Eric Gryba 28 UFA
D Andrew Ference (LTIR) 37 UFA
D Mark Fraser 30 UFA
D Griffin Reinhart 22 RFA
D Dillon Simpson 23 RFA
D David Musil 23 RFA
D Jordan Oesterle 24 RFA
G Cam Talbot (NMC) 29 $4.167M
G Jonas Gustavsson 32 UFA
G Laurent Brossoit 23 $750K

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Milan Lucic (NMC) F Milan Lucic (NMC) F Milan Lucic (NMC)
F Leon Draisaitl F Leon Draisaitl F Leon Draisaitl
F Jordan Eberle F Jordan Eberle F Jordan Eberle
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
F Benoit Pouliot D Andrej Sekera (NMC) F Benoit Pouliot
F Zack Kassian D Adam Larsson F Zack Kassian
F Patrick Maroon D Kris Russell F Patrick Maroon
D Andrej Sekera (NMC) D Oscar Klefbom D Andrej Sekera (NMC)
D Adam Larsson G Cam Talbot (NMC) D Adam Larsson
D Oscar Klefbom D Oscar Klefbom
G Cam Talbot (NMC) G Cam Talbot (NMC)

GM Peter Chiarelli has set himself up beautifully for the expansion draft. The Oilers are one of the few teams where a 7-3-1 scheme will protect just the right players, leaving few guys available that would be a devastating loss. The only real potential to have quality talent plucked is between the pipes with top prospect Laurent Brossoit – although the more Talbot performs, the easier that loss would be to deal with.

Protection Lists:

nine of 11 spots are spoken for even though only three actual NMC’s exist. Eberle, Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl, and Pouliot are virtual locks up front. Sekera, Klefbom, and Larsson are the only defensemen that need protection, leaving just two forward spots up for grabs. If Edmonton wants to keep the current group together that is having so much success, it makes sense to protect both Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Florida Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk (13) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates during the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Florida Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk (13) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates during the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Aleksander Barkov 21 $5.9M F Denis Malgin
F Vincent Trocheck 23 $4.75M F Jared McCann
F Nick Bjugstad 24 $4.1M F Kyle Rau
F Jussi Jokinen 33 $4.0M F Jayce Hawryluk
F Jaromir Jagr 44 UFA F Dryden Hunt
F Reilly Smith 25 $5.0M F Juho Lammikko
F Jonathan Huberdeau 23 $5.9M F Tim Bozon
F Derek MacKenzie 35 $1.375M F Chase Balisy
F Colton Sceviour 27 $950K
F Shane Harper 27 UFA D Michael Matheson
F Greg McKegg 24 RFA D Ian McCoshen
F Shawn Thornton 39 UFA D Thomas Schemitsch
F Jonathan Marchessault 25 $750K D Michael Downing
F Steve Hodges 22 RFA D Linus Hultstrom
F Brody Sutter 25 RFA D Josh Brown
F Paul Thompson 27 UFA
F Michael Sgarbossa 24 RFA G Samuel Montembeault
G Colin Stevens
D Keith Yandle (NMC) 30 $6.35M
D Jason Demers 28 $4.5M
D Mark Pysyk 24 RFA
D Alex Petrovic 24 RFA
D Aaron Ekblad 20 $7.5M
D Dylan McIlrath 24 RFA
D Jakub Kindl 29 UFA
D MacKenzie Weegar 22 RFA
D Brent Regner 27 UFA
G Roberto Luongo 37 $4.533M
G James Reimer 28 $3.4M
G Reto Berra 29 UFA
G Mike McKenna 33 UFA
G Sam Brittain 24 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Aleksander Barkov F Aleksander Barkov F Aleksander Barkov
F Jonathan Huberdeau F Jonathan Huberdeau F Jonathan Huberdeau
F Vincent Trocheck F Vincent Trocheck F Vincent Trocheck
F Reilly Smith F Reilly Smith F Reilly Smith
F Jonathan Marchessault F Jonathan Marchessault F Jonathan Marchessault
F Nick Bjugstad F Nick Bjugstad F Nick Bjugstad
F Jussi Jokinen F Jussi Jokinen F Jussi Jokinen
D Keith Yandle (NMC) D Keith Yandle (NMC) D Keith Yandle (NMC)
D Aaron Ekblad D Aaron Ekblad D Aaron Ekblad
D Jason Demers D Alex Petrovic D Jason Demers
G James Reimer G Roberto Luongo G Roberto Luongo

While the Panthers could lose a decent player in the expansion draft, they’re not in the uncomfortable position that many other clubs find themselves in. As it stands, the 7-3-1 scheme protects just the right players, leaving maybe one or two guys exposed that you’d probably like to keep, but are at least replaceable.

Protection Lists:

Just entering their Stanley Cup window, Florida must protect it’s most important players. Barkov, Trocheck, Bjugstad, Huberdeau, and Smith are obvious locks. Marchessault is working his way into a lock based off his hot start, and we’re including veteran Jussi Jokinen. Many are projecting he be left unprotected, but the dude just tallied 61 points in 2015-16, let’s be real here. On the back end, I’ve opted to protect Jason Demers instead of Alex Petrovic this time around. Florida could go either way here.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) celebrates the 5-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) celebrates the 5-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Kings

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Anze Kopitar (NMC) 29 $10.0M F Spencer Watson
F Dustin Brown 31 $5.875M F Adrian Kempe
F Jeff Carter 31 $5.273M F Matt Luff
F Marian Gaborik 34 $4.875M F Jonny Brodzinski
F Tyler Toffoli 24 RFA F Michael Amadio
F Trevor Lewis 29 $2.0M F Joel Lowry
F Dwight King 27 UFA F Patrick Bjorkstrand
F Kyle Clifford 25 $1.6M
F Teddy Purcell 31 UFA D Erik Cernak
F Tanner Pearson 24 RFA D Jacob Moverare
F Jordan Nolan 27 $950K D Damir Sharipzyanov
F Nic Dowd 26 $640K D Paul Ladue
F Nick Shore 24 RFA D Alex Lintuniemi
F Andy Andreoff 25 RFA D Kevin Gravel
F Devin Setoguchi 28 UFA D Zac Leslie
F Michael Mersch 24 RFA D Kurtis MacDermid
F Justin Auger 22 RFA
F Andrew Crescenzi 24 RFA
D Drew Doughty 26 $7.0M
D Alec Martinez 29 $4.0M
D Jake Muzzin 27 $4.0M
D Matt Greene 33 $2.5M
D Brayden McNabb 25 $1.7M
D Tom Gilbert 33 UFA
D Derek Forbort 24 $650K
D Rob Scuderi 37 UFA
D Zach Trotman 26 RFA
D Vincent Loverde 27 UFA
D Ernest Schilling 28 UFA
G Jonathan Quick 30 $5.8M
G Jeff Zatkoff 29 $900K
G Jack Campbell 24 $613K
G Peter Budaj 34 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Anze Kopitar (NMC) F Anze Kopitar (NMC) F Anze Kopitar (NMC)
F Jeff Carter F Jeff Carter F Jeff Carter
F Tyler Toffoli F Tyler Toffoli F Tyler Toffoli
F Tanner Pearson F Kyle Clifford F Tanner Pearson
D Drew Doughty D Drew Doughty D Drew Doughty
D Jake Muzzin D Jake Muzzin D Jake Muzzin
D Alec Martinez D Alec Martinez D Alec Martinez
D Derek Forbort D Derek Forbort D Derek Forbort
G Jonathan Quick G Jonathan Quick G Jonathan Quick

Here’s a team that could logically use either protection scheme (7-3-1 or 4-4-1). If they want to save a few extra forwards (i.e. Trevor Lewis, Dwight King, Kyle Clifford, etc.), it’ll cost them a defender such as Derek Forbort. However, if they should a 4-4-1 scheme to protect the likes of Doughty, Martinez, Muzzin, and Forbort, it leaves a few interesting players available that could interest George McPhee.

Protection Lists:

Given the emergence of Derek Forbort, it looks like all three of us have switched for the 4-4-1 protection scheme. Obvious locks include Jonathan Quick between the pipes, Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and Derek Forbort on the back end. Looking to the four spots up front, I’ve opted to go with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson. The thought process is that Vegas won’t have much interest in Marian Gaborik and his hefty price tag coupled with a nasty injury history. I’m sure they’d love to protect Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff as well, but one of those guys could be your potential loss in June.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Zach Parise (NMC) 32 $7.538M F Joel Eriksson Ek
F Mikko Koivu (NMC) 33 $6.75M F Chase Lang
F Jason Pominville (NMC) 33 $5.6M F Alex Tuch
F Eric Staal 31 $3.5M F Sam Anas
F Charlie Coyle 24 $3.2M F Pavel Jenys
F Mikael Granlund 24 RFA F Mario Lucia
F Nino Niederreiter 24 RFA F Christoph Bertschy
F Jason Zucker 24 $2.0M F Adam Gilmour
F Chris Stewart 28 $1.15M F Grayson Downing
F Erik Haula 25 RFA
F Teemu Pulkkinen 24 RFA D Dylan Labbe
F Zac Dalpe 26 UFA D Gustav Bouramman
F Jordan Schroeder 26 RFA D Mike Rielly
F Pat Cannone 30 UFA D Gustav Olofsson
F Brady Brassart 23 RFA D Nick Seeler
F Kurtis Gabriel 23 RFA D Zach Palmquist
F Tyler Graovac 23 $625K D Hunter Warner
F Zack Mitchell 23 RFA
G Adam Vay
D Ryan Suter (NMC) 31 $7.538M G Steve Michalek
D Jared Spurgeon 26 $5.188M
D Jonas Brodin 23 $4.167M
D Marco Scandella 26 $4.0M
D Mathew Dumba 22 $2.55M
D Christian Folin 25 RFA
D Nate Prosser 30 UFA
D Victor Bartley 28 UFA
D Alex Gudbranson 22 RFA
D Guillaume Gelinas 23 RFA
G Devan Dubnyk 30 $4.333M
G Darcy Kuemper 26 UFA
G Alex Stalock 29 $650K

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Zach Parise (NMC) F Zach Parise (NMC) F Zach Parise (NMC)
F Mikko Koivu (NMC) F Mikko Koivu (NMC) F Mikko Koivu (NMC)
F Jason Pominville (NMC) F Jason Pominville (NMC) F Jason Pominville (NMC)
F Nino Niederreiter F Nino Niederreiter F Nino Niederreiter
F Charlie Coyle F Erik Haula F Charlie Coyle
F Mikael Granlund F Mikael Granlund F Mikael Granlund
F Eric Staal F Eric Staal F Eric Staal
D Ryan Suter (NMC) D Ryan Suter (NMC) D Ryan Suter (NMC)
D Jared Spurgeon D Jonas Brodin D Jonas Brodin
D Matt Dumba D Jared Spurgeon D Matt Dumba
G Devan Dubnyk G Devan Dubnyk G Devan Dubnyk

The Wild have long been pegged as a team that is destined to hand the Vegas Golden Knights one of their key players. This is because Minnesota has an overabundance of defenders and not enough room to protect them all even if they were to use a 4-4-1 scheme. It’s an interesting scenario because much of what is carrying this club is their defensive presence, but you’ve gotta wonder if they feel the pressure to move a blueliner ahead of March 1st. Only time will tell.

Protection Lists:

One way or another, the Wild are likely to lose one of two defensemen. Because of that, Minnesota can make life a little easier on themselves. Sure, they could use a 4-4-1 protection scheme and choose who to keep between Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella. Then again, it’ll cost them three valuable exposed forwards to do so. Why not use the 7-3-1 format, protect Suter, Dumba, and Spurgeon, and let Las Vegas decide which top-four defender they’d prefer. At least that way, Minnesota can protect a few extra bodies.

Having three extra forward slots means the Wild don’t need to choose between saving Coyle or Granlund. They can save both, plus Nino Niederreiter. That 7th slot is where things get interesting. We’ve opted for an emerging Eric Staal, but other names that could contend are Jason Zucker, Erik Haula, Teemu Pulkkinen, Zac Dalpe, and Tyler Graovac.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Transferring to a 7-3-1 scheme in Minnesota, you were forced to leave an extra defender exposed.  No matter what, it seems the Wild are destined to lose a quality d-man. What is your take on the outlook of the Wild’s defensive conundrum heading into the expansion?

As everyone knows, Minnesota’s offensive core is outstanding with a lot of talent so a 7-3-1 scheme is needed to protect all of their skilled forwards moving ahead. But the bad side of that is either Spurgeon, Dumba or Scandella will be left open for picking. Spurgeon to me has always been the best defenseman out of the three with the most potential upside with Dumba very close behind him. And granted where Minnesota is placed in the standings means they’ll most likely have a bottom 15 pick in this years draft, so sending a conditional pick to Vegas to protect either Dumba or Scandella seems to be a great option as well. But one can be moved for a prospect defenseman and the other can be protected with the pick. So if Minnesota was to go that route and use what I would use, they still have two of there three best defenseman with a solid defensive prospect who will make up for the player they chose to move. But if they decide to go 4-4-1 well a lot of offensive talent is going to be left exposed and its easier to figure out what to do with three defenseman than it is seven forwards.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Montreal Canadiens forward Michael McCarron (34) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period of a 5-3 win at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Montreal Canadiens forward Michael McCarron (34) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period of a 5-3 win at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Tomas Plekanec 33 $6.0M F Artturi Lehkonen
F Alexander Radulov 30 UFA F Martin Reway
F Max Pacioretty 27 $4.5M F Nikita Scherbak
F Andrew Shaw 25 $3.9M F Daniel Audette
F Brendan Gallagher 24 $3.75M F Michael McCarron
F David Desharnais 30 UFA F Mark MacMillan
F Alex Galchenyuk 22 RFA F Jeremy Gregoire
F Torrey Mitchell 31 $1.2M
F Paul Byron 27 $1.167M D Mikhail Sergachev
F Brian Flynn 28 UFA D Noah Juulsen
F Phillip Danault 23 $913K D Tom Parisi
F Daniel Carr 24 $725K D Ryan Johnston
F Chris Terry 27 UFA D Brett Lernout
F Max Friberg 23 RFA
F Bobby Farnham 27 UFA G Michael McNiven
F Jacob de La Rose 21 RFA G Charlie Lindgren
F Sven Andrighetto 23 RFA G Zach Fucale
F Connor Crisp 22 RFA
F Charles Hudon 22 RFA
F Stefan Matteau 22 RFA
D Shea Weber 31 $7.587M
D Andrei Markov 37 UFA
D Jeff Petry (NMC) 28 $5.5M
D Alexei Emelin 30 $4.1M
D Nathan Beaulieu 23 RFA
D Greg Pateryn 26 $800K
D Zach Redmond 28 $613K
D Philip Samuelsson 25 RFA
D Joel Hanley 25 RFA
D Nikita Nesterov 23 RFA
D Dalton Thrower 22 RFA
G Carey Price 29 $6.5M
G Al Montoya 31 $1.063M

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Alex Galchenyuk F Alex Galchenyuk F Alex Galchenyuk
F Brendan Gallagher F Max Pacioretty F Brendan Gallagher
F Max Pacioretty F Brendan Gallagher F Max Pacioretty
F Tomas Plekanec F Tomas Plekanec F Tomas Plekanec
F Andrew Shaw F Andrew Shaw F Andrew Shaw
F Alex Radulov F Alex Radulov F Alex Radulov
F Charles Hudon F Sven Andrighetto F Sven Andrighetto
D Jeff Petry (NMC) D Jeff Petry (NMC) D Jeff Petry (NMC)
D Shea Weber D Shea Weber D Shea Weber
D Nathan Beaulieu D Nathan Beaulieu D Nathan Beaulieu
G Carey Price G Carey Price G Carey Price

This is admittedly one of the toughest teams to figure out. They could make an argument for using either protection scheme, and tend to have a large number of players vying for very few spots. It makes those final 2-3 forward slots a difficult choice.

Protection Lists:

On the back end, Weber, Petry, and Beaulieu are logical choices to protect. Personally, I’d prefer to save the three extra forwards opposed to keeping Emelin. I’m not even sure Las Vegas would be interested in the Russian defender.

Up front, the Habs may opt to leave Plekanec unprotected to see if they could shed the contract, but it might be wise to save the longtime Montreal forward. It also makes sense to save their newest investment in Andrew Shaw. That leaves two slots for (2) Alex Radulov, David Desharnais, Torrey Mitchell, Paul Byron, Brian Flynn, Phillip Danault, Daniel Carr, Jacob de La Rose, Sven Adrighetto, and Charles Hudon. I’m leaning towards Hudon and Radulov at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Habs opt to give Radulov a nice extension somewhere in the near future.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Sven Andrighetto replaces Charles Hudon for that final forward spot in Montreal. How close is that battle for the final slot, and who else is vying for protection?

Definitely too close to call right now. However, Andrighetto’s production at the NHL level right now is something to keep in mind. Barring an injury or a return to the AHL, Andrighetto should be able to hold that spot for the rest of the season, unless Hudon makes the jump and performs similarly. For now, we will give the edge to Andrighetto. Not to mention, that is a great looking name on a jersey.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: Nashville Predators defenseman Yannick Weber (7) moves the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Nashville Predators defenseman Yannick Weber (7) moves the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Filip Forsberg 22 $6.0M F Kevin Fiala
F James Neal 29 $5.0M F Vladislav Kamenev
F Mike Fisher 36 UFA F Yakov Trenin
F Craig Smith 27 $4.25M F Justin Kirkland
F Ryan Johansen 24 RFA F Anthony Richard
F Colin Wilson 27 $3.938M F Adam Payerl
F Mike Ribeiro 36 UFA F Frederick Gaudreau
F Calle Jarnkrok 25 $2.0M F Michael Liambas
F Viktor Arvidsson 23 RFA
F Colton Sissons 22 $625K D Samuel Girard
F Miikka Salomaki 23 $613K D Frederic Allard
F Cody Bass 29 $613K D Jack Dougherty
F Austin Watson 24 RFA D Alexandre Carrier
F Harry Zolnierczyk 29 UFA D Trevor Murphy
F Trevor Smith 31 $613K D Jonathan-Ismael Diaby
F Pontus Aberg 23 RFA
F Cody McLeod 32 $1.33M G Juuse Saros
F Derek Grant 26 UFA G Jonas Gunnarsson
F Vernon Fiddler 36 UFA
D P.K. Subban 27 $9.0M
D Roman Josi 26 $4.0M
D Mattias Ekholm 26 $3.75M
D Ryan Ellis 25 $2.5M
D Matt Carle 32 UFA
D Anthony Bitetto 26 $613K
D Yannick Weber 28 UFA
D Petter Granberg 24 $613K
D Matt Irwin 28 $650K
D Jaynen Rissling 23 RFA
D Brad Hunt 28 UFA
D Adam Pardy 32 UFA
D Andrew O’Brien 23 RFA
G Pekka Rinne (NMC) 33 $7.0M
G Marek Mazanec 25 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Filip Forsberg F Filip Forsberg F Filip Forsberg
F Ryan Johansen F Ryan Johansen F Ryan Johansen
F James Neal F James Neal F James Neal
F Viktor Arvidsson F Viktor Arvidsson F Viktor Arvidsson
D P.K. Subban F Craig Smith D P.K. Subban
D Roman Josi F Colin Wilson D Roman Josi
D Ryan Ellis F Calle Jarnkrok D Ryan Ellis
D Mattias Ekholm D Roman Josi D Mattias Ekholm
G Pekka Rinne (NMC) D P.K. Subban G Pekka Rinne (NMC)
D Mattias Ekholm
G Pekka Rinne (NMC)

Welcome Preds fans to that exclusive club of teams bound to provide one of the better selections to Las Vegas. The conundrum is this: use a 7-3-1 scheme and lose D Mattias Ekholm, or use a 4-4-1 scheme and lose one of Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrork, the list goes on.

Protection Lists:

Assuming things stay relatively normal without significant change, the 4-4-1 scheme makes a little more sense. Ekholm is far more valuable than any one of those forwards that Nashville could lose. Some have suggested James Neal be left unprotected due to his contract, but that would be a mistake for the Preds, he’s a quality goal scorer. The only real debate is who to protect with that fourth and final slot up front. Logic would have told us the fight was between Colin Wilson and Craig Smith, but it seems Viktor Arvidsson has leap-frogged both after an impressive start on Nashville’s top line.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey Devils

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Taylor Hall 24 $6.0M F Pavel Zacha
F Travis Zajac 31 $5.75M F Blake Speers
F Mike Cammalleri 34 $5.0M F Miles Wood
F Kyle Palmieri 25 $4.65M F Michael Mcleod
F Adam Henrique 26 $4.0M F John Quenneville
F Devante Smith-Pelly 24 $1.3M F Nathan Bastian
F Jacob Josefson 25 RFA F Nick Lappin
F P.A. Parenteau 33 UFA F Ryan Kujawinski
F Beau Bennett 24 RFA F Blake Coleman
F Luke Gazdic 27 UFA F Brandon Baddock
F Ryane Clowe (NMC – LTIR) 34 $4.85M F Blake Pietila
F Carter Camper 28 UFA F Joseph Blandisi
F Ben Thomson 23 RFA F Sergey Kalinin
F Petr Straka 24 RFA
F Stefan Noesen 23 RFA D Yohann Auvitu
D Steve Santini
D Andy Greene 33 $5.0M D Josh Jacobs
D Ben Lovejoy 32 $2.667M D Colton White
D John Moore 25 $1.667M D Colby Sissons
D Kyle Quincey 31 UFA D Vojtech Mozik
D Jon Merrill 24 $1.138M
D Damon Severson 22 RFA G Mackenzie Blackwood
D Brandon Gormley 24 RFA G Ken Appleby
D Andrew MacWilliam 26 UFA
D Karl Stollery 28 UFA
D Reece Scarlett 23 RFA
D Seth Helgeson 26 RFA
G Cory Schneider 30 $6.0M
G Keith Kinkaid 27 UFA
G Scott Wedgewood 24 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Taylor Hall F Taylor Hall F Taylor Hall
F Travis Zajac F Travis Zajac F Travis Zajac
F Adam Henrique F Adam Henrique F Adam Henrique
F Kyle Palmieri F Mike Cammalleri F Kyle Palmieri
D Andy Greene D Andy Greene D Andy Greene
D Damon Severson D Damon Severson D Damon Severson
D John Moore D John Moore D John Moore
D Jon Merrill D Jon Merrill D Jon Merrill
G Cory Schneider G Cory Schneider G Cory Schneider

GM Ray Shero has options at this point. Depending on how he feels, the Devils could use either protection scheme. The debate becomes, would you rather save D Jon Merill/or John Moore or Devante-Smith Pelly and Mike Cammalleri plus one other forward.

Truth be told, if I’m GM George McPhee, my eyes are set squarely on goaltenders Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood.

Protection Lists:

Switching to a 4-4-1 scheme this time around, we’ve still got Cory Schneider between the pipes, as well as Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore, and now Jon Merrill on the back end. That means I’ve only got four forwards spots to work with, which leaves the likes of Mike Cammalleri exposed. Instead, I’m choosing to protect Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: You’ve opted to move to a 4-4-1 protection scheme for the Devils. Jon Merrill replaces Cammalleri, Smith-Pelly, and Bennett. Was this decision performance/money related? I’m interested to hear the thought process behind the switch.

After acquiring Taylor Hall, the Devils have a lot more wiggle room up front. With the current price tags surrounding defensemen, especially young ones, the Devils need to hold on to players like Merrill. He is a good-sized defenseman, and fits the Devils system perfectly. They are already invested in several players for the near future, and they must build around them to be successful immediately. Smith-Pelly and Bennett do not fit those plans, and are looking more like bottom-six players on very good teams.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss (1) makes a blocker save against the Washington Capitals during the third period at Barclays Center. The Islanders won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss (1) makes a blocker save against the Washington Capitals during the third period at Barclays Center. The Islanders won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

New York Islanders

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F John Tavares (NMC) 26 $5.5M F Anthony Beauvillier
F Andrew Ladd (NMC) 30 $5.5M F Mathew Barzal
F Mikhail Grabovski 32 $5.0M F Josh Ho-Sang
F Nikolay Kulemin 30 $4.188M F Michael Dal Colle
F Anders Lee 26 $3.75M F Mitch Vande Sompel
F Casey Cizikas 25 $3.35M F Carter Verhaeghe
F Josh Bailey 27 $3.3M F Kyle Schempp
F Cal Clutterbuck 28 $3.5M F Ross Johnston
F Brock Nelson 25 $2.5M
F Ryan Strome 23 $2.5M D Parker Wotherspoon
F Jason Chimera 37 $2.25M D Devon Toews
F Shane Prince 23 $850K D Kyle Burroughs
F Alan Quine 23 $613K
F Eric Boulton 40 UFA G Eamon McAdam
F Ben Holmstrom 29 UFA G Stephon Williams
F Bracken Kearns 35 UFA
F Stephen Gionta 33 UFA
F Steve Bernier 31 UFA
D Johnny Boychuk (NMC) 32 $6.0M
D Nick Leddy 25 $5.5M
D Travis Hamonic 26 $3.857M
D Thomas Hickey 27 $2.2M
D Calvin de Haan 25 RFA
D Dennis Seidenberg 35 UFA
D Ryan Pulock 22 $863K
D Scott Mayfield 24 $625K
D Adam Pelech 22 RFA
D Matt Finn 22 RFA
D Lois Leduc 22 RFA
D Jesse Graham 22 RFA
G Jaroslav Halak 31 $4.5M
G Thomas Greiss 30 $3.3M
G Jean-Francois Berube 25 RFA
G Christopher Gibson 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F John Tavares (NMC) F John Tavares (NMC) F John Tavares (NMC)
F Andrew Ladd (NMC) F Andrew Ladd (NMC) F Andrew Ladd (NMC)
F Anders Lee F Brock Nelson F Anders Lee
F Brock Nelson F Ryan Strome F Brock Nelson
F Ryan Strome D Johnny Boychuk (NMC) F Ryan Strome
F Josh Bailey D Nick Leddy F Josh Bailey
F Casey Cizikas D Travis Hamonic F Casey Cizikas
D Johnny Boychuk (NMC) D Calvin de Haan D Johnny Boychuk (NMC)
D Nick Leddy G Thomas Greiss D Nick Leddy
D Travis Hamonic D Thomas Hickey
G Thomas Greiss G Jean-Francois Berube
*Hamonic could be traded

The New York Islanders are another team destined to hand the NHL’s 31st franchise a decent player. As it stands, they’ve got way too many defenseman with the likes of Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, and Ryan Pulock. Long story short, the Isles risk losing a piece on the back end.

Protection Lists:

Here’s another team that is difficult to figure out. With reason to save upwards of five defensemen, GM Garth Snow needs to make some difficult decisions. My thought process is this: If the Isles want to protect Ryan Pulock (might be wise), they could use a 4-4-1 scheme leaving both Hickey and de Haan unprotected. Then again, the highly touted prospect is yet to make any type of impact so we’re willing to bet other players rank higher on Las Vegas’ list. Given the amount of quality forwards in need of protection, Garth Snow mid as well use the 7-3-1 format and let George McPhee likely select one of Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey.

I was leaning towards protecting Jaroslav Halak at the start of the season after his impressive World Cup performance. Trade rumors and a demotion, however, suggest he may have an expiration date. Given the recent extension to Thomas Greiss, it seems the Isles have decided who they’ll protect.

In terms of locks to be protected, Boychuk, Leddy, and Hamonic make up the back end. Up front, Tavares, Ladd, Lee, Strome, and Nelson are safe. That leaves a couple of spots for the likes of Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey, Shane Prince, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, the list goes on. We’ve opted to protect Cizikas and Bailey.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: You mentioned the possibility of Travis Hamonic being dealt by the Islanders. Who might be interested/good fit? Who might the Isles target in return from those teams?

I think the Winnipeg Jets was his most desirable home, but they seem to have quieted the noise surrounding Jacob Trouba. However, if that door did open again, the right pieces could finalize that deal. There is a lot more potential surrounding Trouba, but the Islanders have plenty of defensemen and forwards to go around. If they can find the right balance of players and picks, this could be a great fit for both teams.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: New York Rangers right wing Rick Nash (61) celebrates scoring a goal during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: New York Rangers right wing Rick Nash (61) celebrates scoring a goal during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Rick Nash (NMC) 32 $7.8M F Pavel Buchnevich
F Derek Stepan 26 $6.5M F Jimmy Vesey
F Chris Kreider 25 $4.625M F Ryan Gropp
F Mats Zuccarello 29 $4.5M F Robin Kovacs
F J.T. Miller 23 $2.75M F Adam Tambellini
F Mika Zibanejad 23 RFA F Adam Chapie
F Kevin Hayes 24 $2.6M F Cristoval Nieves
F Michael Grabner 29 $1.65M F Steven Fogarty
F Brandon Pirri 25 RFA F Malte Stromwall
F Jesper Fast 24 RFA
F Oscar Lindberg 24 RFA D Brady Skjei
F Josh Jooris 26 RFA D Sergey Zborovskiy
F Tanner Glass 32 UFA D John Gilmour
F Marek Hrivik 25 RFA D Troy Donnay
F Justin Fontaine 28 UFA D Ryan Graves
F Chris Brown 25 RFA D Michael Paliotta
F Nicklas Jensen 23 RFA
F Matt Puempel 23 RFA G Brandon Halverson
D Marc Staal (NMC) 29 $5.7M
D Dan Girardi (NMC) 32 $5.5M
D Ryan McDonagh 27 $4.7M
D Kevin Klein 31 $2.9M
D Nick Holden 29 $1.65M
D Steven Kampfer 28 UFA
D Adam Clendening 23 RFA
D Chris Summers 28 UFA
D Mat Bodie 26 UFA
D Calle Andersson 22 RFA
D Tommy Hughes 24 RFA
G Henrik Lundqvist (NMC) 34 $8.5M
G Antti Raanta 27 $1.0M
G Mackenzie Skapski 22 RFA
G Magnus Hellberg 25 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Rick Nash (NMC) F Rick Nash (NMC) F Rick Nash (NMC)
F Derek Stepan F Derek Stepan F Derek Stepan
F Chris Kreider F Chris Kreider F Chris Kreider
F Mats Zuccarello F Mats Zuccarello F Mats Zuccarello
F Mika Zibanejad F J.T. Miller F Mika Zibanejad
F J.T. Miller F Mika Zibanejad F J.T. Miller
F Kevin Hayes F Oscar Lindberg F Kevin Hayes
D Dan Girardi (NMC) D Dan Girardi (NMC) D Dan Girardi (NMC)
D Marc Staal (NMC) D Marc Staal (NMC) D Marc Staal (NMC)
D Ryan McDonagh D Ryan McDonagh D Ryan McDonagh
G Henrik Lundqvist (NMC) G Henrik Lundqvist (NMC) G Henrik Lundqvist (NMC)

Things got interesting a few months back when the NHL announced that Rick Nash was among the names of those who needed protection in the expansion draft. Prior to that, many had pegged Nash as a player to be left exposed, and possibly selected by Vegas. Now with the inclusion of Rick Nash, the NY Rangers stands to leave a quality forward exposed.

Protection Lists:

Many of the Rangers protection slots are already accounted for. For example, King Henrik carries that NMC in goal, and so do Girardi and Staal on the back end. With just a single defensive spot open, the obvious selection is Ryan McDonagh. Looking up front, locks to be saved include Nash, Stepan, Kreider, Zuccarello, and Zibanejad. You might even say that J.T. Miller is a borderline must-save, leaving just one spot for the likes of Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Brandon Pirri, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, the list goes on. I’ve gone with Hayes, but that could change between now and June.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman (6) celebrates his game tying goal in the last minute of play in the third period against the Calgary Flames at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Flames defeated the Senators 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman (6) celebrates his game tying goal in the last minute of play in the third period against the Calgary Flames at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Flames defeated the Senators 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Bobby Ryan (NMC) 29 $7.25M F Logan Brown
F Mike Hoffman 26 $5.188M F Gabriel Gagne
F Derick Brassard 29 $5.0M F Francis Perron
F Clarke MacArthur 31 $4.65M F Nick Paul
F Mark Stone 24 $3.5M F Vincent Dunn
F Kyle Turris 27 $3.5M F Chad Nehring
F Zack Smith 28 $3.25M
F Chris Neil 37 UFA D Thomas Chabot
F Chris Kelly 35 UFA D Andreas Englund
F Jean-Gabriel Pageau 23 RFA D Maxime Lajoie
F Curtis Lazar 21 RFA D Macoy Erkamps
F Casey Bailey 25 RFA D Ben Harpur
F Tom Pyatt 29 UFA D Cody Donaghey
F Tommy Wingels 28 UFA
F Ryan Dzingel 24 RFA G Matt O’Connor
F Mike Blunden 29 $738K
F Phil Varone 25 RFA
F Max McCormick 24 RFA
F Ryan Rupert 22 RFA
D Dion Phaneuf (NMC) 31 $7.0M
D Erik Karlsson 26 $6.5M
D Marc Methot 31 $4.9M
D Cody Ceci 22 $2.8M
D Mark Borowiecki 27 $1.1M
D Patrick Sieloff 22 RFA
D Mikael Wikstrand 22 RFA
D Chris Wideman 26 $800K
D Mike Kostka 30 UFA
D Fredrik Claesson 23 RFA
G Craig Anderson 35 $4.2M
G Andrew Hammond 28 $1.35M
G Chris Driedger 22 RFA
G Mike Condon 26 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Bobby Ryan (NMC) F Bobby Ryan (NMC) F Bobby Ryan (NMC)
F Derick Brassard F Derick Brassard F Derick Brassard
F Mark Stone F Mark Stone F Mark Stone
F Mike Hoffman F Mike Hoffman F Mike Hoffman
F Jean-Gabriel Pageau F Kyle Turris F Jean-Gabriel Pageau
F Kyle Turris F Jean-Gabriel Pageau F Kyle Turris
F Zack Smith F Curtis Lazar F Ryan Dzingel
D Dion Phaneuf (NMC) D Dion Phaneuf (NMC) D Dion Phaneuf (NMC)
D Erik Karlsson D Erik Karlsson D Erik Karlsson
D Cody Ceci D Cody Ceci D Cody Ceci
G Craig Anderson G Craig Anderson G Craig Anderson

The Ottawa Senators could use a 4-4-1 protection scheme in order to protect their top four defensive group, but it just won’t be feasible with a plethora of forwards available. It seems Marc Methot could be the odd-man out on the back end, which may or may not interest Las Vegas in his early 30s. Don’t be surprised if the Sens use a conditional pick or prospects to get additional protection for Methot.

Protection Lists:

In the 7-3-1 format, there are five forwards that could be considered virtual locks to be saved: Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris. Things get interesting in the battle for those last two spots. J-G Pageau seems like a logical save, leaving a fight between Curtis Lazar, Zack Smith, and Ryan Dzingel for that last spot. It’s interesting because Lazar was the highest investment via the draft. Dzingel is the standout performer of the trio. But Zack Smith is the one who earned an early extension. For that reason alone, it looks like Smith could occupy that final spot.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Ryan Dzingel has replaced Curtis Lazar for that final spot up front in Ottawa. While Dzingel has emerged in 2016-17, Lazar has left some muttering the words “bust”. Is it too early to call Lazar a bust? Should the Golden Knights be looking at him as a guy who could emerge with a change of scenery?

The Ottawa Senators have a lot of talent up front. Lazar looked great at the World Junior Championships, but has struggled tremendously in the NHL. He did break his pointless streak with an assist late in January, but there is simply little faith in the young forward at the moment. Based on the Senators have little to offer from a prospect perspective, Lazar could be a great snag for the Golden Knights. The second half of the season will dictate his future in the NHL.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) comes out of the locker room at the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes defeated the Flyers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) comes out of the locker room at the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes defeated the Flyers 5-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Flyers

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Claude Giroux (NMC) 28 $8.275M F Roman Lyubimov
F Jakub Voracek 27 $8.25M F Travis Konecny
F Brayden Schenn 25 $5.125M F Pascal Laberge
F Sean Couturier 23 $4.33M F Nicolas Aube-Kubel
F Wayne Simmonds 28 $3.975M F Cole Bardreau
F Matt Read 30 $3.625M F Danick Martel
F Michael Raffl 27 $2.35M F Tyrell Goulbourne
F Dale Weise 28 $2.35M F Radel Fazleev
F Boyd Gordon 33 UFA
F Scott Laughton 22 RFA D Robert Hagg
F Nick Cousins 23 RFA D Ivan Provorov
F Taylor Leier 22 RFA D Samuel Morin
F Chris VandeVelde 29 UFA D Travis Sanheim
F P.E. Bellemare 31 UFA D Reece Wilcox
F Jordan Weal 24 RFA D Philippe Myers
F Colin McDonald 32 $638K
F Andy Miele 28 UFA G Alex Lyon
F Chris Conner 32 UFA G Carter Hart
F Greg Carey 26 UFA
D Mark Streit 38 UFA
D Andrew MacDonald 30 $5.0M
D Michael Del Zotto 26 UFA
D Radko Gudas 26 $3.35M
D Nick Schultz 34 UFA
D Brandon Manning 26 $975K
D Shayne Gostisbehere 23 RFA
D Jesper Pettersson 22 RFA
D T.J. Brennan 27 $625K
D Mark Alt 25 RFA
D Will O’Neill 28 $613K
G Steve Mason 28 UFA
G Michal Neuvirth 28 UFA
G Anthony Stolarz 22 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Claude Giroux (NMC) F Claude Giroux (NMC) F Claude Giroux (NMC)
F Jakub Voracek F Jakub Voracek F Jakub Voracek
F Wayne Simmonds F Wayne Simmonds F Wayne Simmonds
F Sean Couturier F Sean Couturier F Sean Couturier
F Brayden Schenn F Brayden Schenn F Brayden Schenn
F Michael Raffl F Matt Read F Michael Raffl
F Scott Laughton F Scott Laughton F Scott Laughton
D Shayne Gostisbehere D Shayne Gostisbehere D Shayne Gostisbehere
D Radko Gudas D Mark Streit D Radko Gudas
D Brandon Manning D Brandon Manning D Brandon Manning
G Steve Mason G Anthony Stolarz G Anthony Stolarz.

Philly has a lot of tough decisions to make in expansion. Who do they protect between the pipes? Which defenders beyond the Ghost need to be saved? Which forwards occupy those last couple of spots in a seven forward scheme? We’ve done our best to tackle these questions.

Protection Lists:

I’m opting to protect Steve Mason right now. Both Mason and Neuvirth are UFAs next summer, while 22-year-old Anthony Stolarz also remains as an option. At this point, it looks like Mason could earn another contract, but we’ll have to see how the season plays out.

On the blue line, a max of four defensemen could potentially use protection and that number dips to three if the Flyers let Michael Del Zotto walk into free agency. Philly is trending towards a younger back end, so I’ve opted to protect Gostisbehere, Gudas, and Manning.

Five forwards are virtual locks for Philadelphia: Claude Giroux (NMC), Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn. That leaves two forward spots for a number of players. This is where the debate will be as I’ve chosen Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl. Those selections leave Matt Read, Dale Weise, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, and P.E. Bellemare on the outside looking in.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) talk prior to a face-off against the Nashville Predators during the third period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) talk prior to a face-off against the Nashville Predators during the third period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Evgeni Malkin (NMC) 30 $9.5M F Thomas DiPauli
F Sidney Crosby (NMC) 29 $8.7M F Jake Guentzel
F Phil Kessel (NMC) 29 $6.8M F Teddy Blueger
F Patric Hornqvist 29 $4.25M F Daniel Sprong
F Carl Hagelin 28 $4.0M F Dominik Simon
F Chris Kunitz 37 UFA F Conor Sheary
F Eric Fehr 31 $2.0M F Carter Rowney
F Nick Bonino 28 UFA
F Matt Cullen 39 UFA D Ethan Prow
F Oskar Sundqvist 22 RFA D Lukas Bengtsson
F Josh Archibald 24 RFA
F Bryan Rust 24 $640K G Sean Maguire
F Scott Wilson 24 $625K G Tristan Jarry
F Tom Kuhnhackl 24 $625K
F Jean-Sebastian Dea 22 RFA
F Tom Sestito 29 UFA
F Garrett Wilson 25 RFA
F Kevin Porter 30 UFA
F Danny Kristo 26 UFA
D Kris Letang (NMC) 29 $7.25M
D Olli Maatta 22 $4.083M
D Trevor Daley 33 UFA
D Ian Cole 27 $2.1M
D Justin Schultz 26 RFA
D Derrick Pouliot 22 RFA
D Brian Dumoulin 25 RFA
D David Warsofsky 26 UFA
D Chad Ruhwedel 26 UFA
D Stuart Percy 23 RFA
D Cameron Gaunce 26 UFA
D Steve Oleksy 30 UFA
D Tim Erixon 25 RFA
G Marc-Andre Fleury (NMC) 31 $5.75M
G Matt Murray 22 $3.75M

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Sidney Crosby (NMC) F Sidney Crosby (NMC) F Sidney Crosby (NMC)
F Evgeni Malkin (NMC) F Evgeni Malkin (NMC) F Evgeni Malkin (NMC)
F Phil Kessel (NMC) F Phil Kessel (NMC) F Phil Kessel (NMC)
F Patric Hornqvist F Patric Hornqvist F Patric Hornqvist
F Nick Bonino F Carl Hagelin F Nick Bonino
F Carl Hagelin F Chris Kunitz F Carl Hagelin
F Bryan Rust F Oskar Sundqvist F Bryan Rust
D Kris Letang D Kris Letang D Kris Letang
D Olli Maatta D Olli Maatta D Olli Maatta
D Justin Schultz D Justin Schultz D Justin Schultz
G Matt Murray G Matt Murray G Matt Murray
*Fleury asked to waive NMC/or *Fleury asked to waive NMC/or *Fleury should be traded
presumed to be traded presumed to be traded

The Penguins still have a lot of work to do ahead of the expansion draft. They need to trade Marc-Andre Fleury, or risk having to buy him out in the summer. They’ve also got a headache on the back end, which has only gotten worse over time. Heading into 2016-17, it seemed Pittsburgh would need to make a tough decision between protecting Brian Dumoulin or Derrick Pouliot. Instead what they got was an emerging Justin Schultz to further complicate matters. It’ll be interesting to see what the Pens do moving forward.

Protection Lists:

This is pure speculation, but something tells me that Pittsburgh will do a good job at hiding Pouliot the rest of 2016-17. He started the year on the long-term IR, and if they force him down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for most/or all of the season, it becomes increasingly difficult for Las Vegas to select a player with limited NHL experience.

With Pouliot on the sidelines, Pittsburgh can save Letang, Maatta, and Schultz. That leaves Ian Cole, Trevor Daley, and Brian Dumoulin available.

Picking six of the seven forwards was fairly simple. Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel have no-move clauses. Hornqvist, Bonino, and Hagelin might be considered that next tier of forwards, which leaves just one opening up front. Here’s where the serious debate begins as we’re choosing between Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Garrett Wilson (among others).

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: It seems Justin Schultz continues to shine, forcing all three of us to use a protection slot on a guy who seemed his next stop was Europe. The Penguins were already facing a difficult decision between Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliot on the back end heading into 2016-17. Should Pens fans be worried about losing a young, quality defender in the expansion draft?

100%. If there is anything Vegas should be chasing from current teams, it is going to be defense. However, if they want to be successful right away, they could look towards more experienced players, which would work in the Penguins’ favor. I still think Marc-Andre Fleury has a big part to play. If he does not get traded, and the Penguins are able to convince him to waive his NMC, the Golden Knights could go for the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out closer to the NHL trade deadline.

– Suraj Sukumar

Even if Pittsburgh or ourselves decided a 4-4-1 scheme instead of a 7-3-1, Pittsburgh would still be losing either Dumoulin or Pouliot. So regardless of the Pens decision, fans should definitely be worried about losing a quality young defenseman. The only way they could possibly overcome it is to do a 4-4-1 scheme and use a conditional pick to protect the left over defensemen.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Joe Thornton 37 UFA F Marcus Sorensen
F Patrick Marleau 37 UFA F Joonas Donskoi
F Joe Pavelski 32 $6.0M F Timo Meier
F Logan Couture 27 $6.0M F Nikolay Goldobin
F Mikkel Boedker 26 $4.0M F Danny O’Regan
F Joel Ward 35 $3.275M F Jonathon Martin
F Tomas Hertl 22 $3.0M F Kevin Lebanc
F Buddy Robinson 25 RFA F Alex Schoenborn
F Melker Karlsson 26 RFA F Adam Helewka
F Chris Tierney 22 RFA F Rourke Chartier
F Barclay Goodrow 23 RFA F Nikita Jevpalovs
F Micheal Haley 30 UFA
F Ryan Carpenter 25 RFA D Jeremy Roy
F Zack Stortini 31 UFA D Patrick McNally
D Michael Brodzinski
D Brent Burns 31 $8.0M D Julius Bergman
D Paul Martin 35 $4.85M D Joakim Ryan
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic 29 $4.25M D Cavan Fitzgerald
D Justin Braun 29 $3.8M
D Brenden Dillon 25 $3.27M G Mantas Armalis
D David Schlemko 29 $2.1M
D Mirco Mueller 21 RFA
D Tim Heed 25 RFA
D Dylan DeMelo 23 $650K
D Dan Kelly 27 UFA
G Martin Jones 26 $3.0M
G Aaron Dell 27 $625K
G Troy Grosenick 27 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 4 – 4 – 1
F Joe Pavelski F Joe Thornton F Joe Pavelski
F Tomas Hertl F Patrick Marleau F Tomas Hertl
F Logan Couture F Joe Pavelski F Logan Couture
F Melker Karlsson F Logan Couture F Melker Karlsson
D Brent Burns F Mikkel Boedker D Brent Burns
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic F Tomas Hertl D Marc-Edouard Vlasic
D Brenden Dillon F Melker Karlsson D Brenden Dillon
D Dylan DeMelo D Brent Burns D Dylan DeMelo
G Martin Jones D Marc-Edouard Vlasic G Martin Jones
D Justin Braun
G Martin Jones

Let the debate begin! Truth be told, the Sharks have a number of similar quality players that just happen to fall in that gray area where only a limited amount can be protected at each position. So, those final few spots up front and last spot on the blue line has multiple players vying to be saved.

The debate goes further than just players though. San Jose needs to figure out whether they plan to protect seven forwards or four-plus defenseman. The 7-3-1 scheme is most likely, but that could change depending how SJ does in 2016-17.

*Important note: Suraj and I are omitting Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both are slated to become UFAs and I don’t think they’d be interested in either – Suraj thinks otherwise as you’ll see later on. San Jose can save the two forward spots with a safe gamble that Thornton/Marleau go untouched. The only way these lists change is if SJ reaches an extension with either before the end of the year.

Protection Lists:

This time around, I’ve opted to switch to a 4-4-1 protection scheme. Martin Jones is a lock between the pipes. On the blue line, I’m going with Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Breden Dillon, and Dylan DeMelo. That leaves just four spots up front. Without the need to protect Thornton or Marleau, we’re technically only losing the ability to protect one forward that would have previously slipped in with the 7-3-1 scheme. Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture are must-save forwards, leaving just one spot for debate. I think Melker Karlsson is worth protecting given his age/skill-set, but one could make an argument for the likes of Joel Ward, Chris Tierney, or Barclay Goodrow (among others).
– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: St. Louis Blues left wing Kenny Agostino (73) celebrates his goal with left wing Kenny Agostino (73) and center Jori Lehtera (12) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Blues defeated the Flyers, 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: St. Louis Blues left wing Kenny Agostino (73) celebrates his goal with left wing Kenny Agostino (73) and center Jori Lehtera (12) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Blues defeated the Flyers, 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Vladimir Tarasenko 24 $7.5M F Mackenzie MacEachern
F Paul Stastny 30 $7.0M F Robby Fabbri
F Alexander Steen 32 $5.75M F Jordan Kyrou
F Jaden Schwartz 24 $5.35M F Ivan Barbashev
F Jori Lehtera 28 $4.7M F Adam Musil
F David Perron 28 $3.75M F Conner Bleackley
F Patrik Berglund 28 UFA F Justin Selman
F Nail Yakupov 23 RFA F Samuel Blais
F Ryan Reaves 29 $1.125M F Wade Megan
F Dmitrij Jaskin 23 $1.0M
F Kyle Brodziak 32 $950K D Jordan Schmaltz
F Scottie Upshall 33 UFA D Colton Parayko
F Landon Ferraro 25 RFA D Vince Dunn
F Magnus Paajarvi 25 RFA D Thomas Vennelli
F Kenny Agostino 24 RFA D Dmitri Sergeev
F Andrew Agozzino 25 RFA
F Jacob Doty 23 RFA G Ville Husso
F Jordan Caron 25 RFA G Luke Opilka
F Alex Friesen 25 RFA
D Alex Pietrangelo 26 $6.5M
D Jay Bouwmeester 33 $5.4M
D Kevin Shattenkirk 27 UFA
D Carl Gunnarsson 29 $2.9M
D Robert Bortuzzo 27 $1.15M
D Joel Edmundson 23 $1.05M
D Petteri Lindbohm 23 RFA
D Chris Butler 30 UFA
D Morgan Ellis 24 RFA
D Reid McNeill 24 RFA
G Jake Allen 26 $4.35M
G Carter Hutton 30 $1.125M
G Phoenix Copley 24 RFA
G Jordan Binnington 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Vladimir Tarasenko F Vladimir Tarasenko F Vladimir Tarasenko
F Jaden Schwartz F Paul Stastny F Jaden Schwartz
F Jori Lehtera F Alexander Steen F Jori Lehtera
F David Perron F Jaden Schwartz F David Perron
F Alexander Steen F Jori Lehtera F Alexander Steen
F Paul Stastny F David Perron F Paul Stastny
F Dmitrij Jaskin F Patrik Berglund F Dmitrij Jaskin
D Alex Pietrangelo D Alex Pietrangelo D Alex Pietrangelo
D Jay Bouwmeester D Jay Bouwmeester D Jay Bouwmeester
D Joel Edmundson D Joel Edmundson D Joel Edmundson
G Jake Allen G Jake Allen G Jake Allen
*Shattenkirk expected to be *Shattenkirk expected to be *agree with Shattenkirk
traded at some point traded at some point

The Blues are in a tough position. If they want to save seven forwards, they likely stand to lose a quality defender. Should they choose to protect four or more defenseman, quality forwards become available. One way or another, St. Louis stands to lose a decent player unless they can wheel and deal in June to protect a few extra bodies via trade.

Protection Lists:

The way I see it is this: Four forwards, two defensemen, and goalie Jake Allen all require protection. That leaves three forwards and one d-man to fill out our list.

Looking to the back end, three players are vying for that last spot; Joel Edmundson, Petteri Lindbohm, and Carl Gunnarsson. Given his age and cap hit, it might be safe to assume Gunnarsson will be on the outside looking in. It seems Edmundson might have the early lead on Lindbohm, but we’ll have to see how the new season plays out.

Up front, those last three spots are tough to pick. Still available at this point is Paul Stastny, David Perron, Patrik Berglund (UFA), Nail Yakupov, and Dmitrij Jaskin. How exactly is St. Louis supposed to pick between that group? Right now, it seems Stastny and Jaskin might be the top two.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: Ty Rattie was claimed off waivers by Carolina, leaving an extra forward spot for the Blues. Aside from your pick, which other players are candidates for a possible save and how close is that battle between the likes of Jaskin, Berglund, Yakupov, etc?

I am a big Ty Rattie fan, and I’m glad to see him get an opportunity with the Hurricanes. As for the Blues, they need to focus on the now, and players like Jaskin and Yakupov are still major question marks. I like Jaskin’s physical and defensive play, but Berglund’s overall ability could edge out both youngsters. For now, Jaskin gets the nod after making a good transition to the pros, and costing just $1 million next season. It would be nice to see Yakupov save his career in Las Vegas anyway.

– Suraj Sukumar

Well, Yakupov hasn’t shown St. Louis anything since coming over in the deal, so in my opinion losing him wouldn’t be a big deal. Berglund, on the other hand, is a key player the Blues need down the middle and Jaskin is a solid fourth line winger. But with that being said, fourth line fringe wingers aren’t hard to find so he can easily be replaced as well. So going forward the key player St. Louis needs to focus on out of the three is Berglund.

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Steven Stamkos (NMC) 26 $8.5M F Adam Erne
F Ryan Callahan (NMC) 31 $5.8M F Mitchell Stephens
F Valtteri Filppula (NMC) 32 $5.0M F Matthew Peca
F Nikita Kucherov 23 $4.767M F Anthony Cirelli
F Alex Killorn 27 $4.45M F Dennis Yan
F Tyler Johnson 26 RFA F Brian Hart
F Ondrej Palat 25 RFA F Jonne Tammela
F Brian Boyle 31 UFA F Brayden Point
F Vladislav Namestnikov 23 $1.938M F Cameron Darcy
F Erik Condra 30 $1.25M F Joel Vermin
F J.T. Brown 26 $1.25M
F Jonathan Drouin 21 RFA D Dominik Masin
F Cedric Paquette 23 $813K D Ben Thomas
F Henri Ikonen 22 RFA D Daniel Walcott
F Gabriel Dumont 26 RFA
F Tye McGinn 26 RFA G Adam Wilcox
F Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond 31 UFA
F Michael Bournival 24 RFA
F Mike Halmo 25 RFA
F Cory Conacher 26 UFA
F Yanni Gourde 24 RFA
F Jeremy Morin 25 RFA
F Tanner Richard 23 RFA
D Jason Garrison 31 $4.6M
D Anton Stralman 30 $4.5M
D Victor Hedman 25 $7.875M
D Braydon Coburn 31 $3.7M
D Andrej Sustr 25 RFA
D Slater Koekkoek 22 RFA
D Dylan Blujus 22 RFA
D Jake Dotchin 22 RFA
D Luke Witkowski 26 UFA
D Matt Taormina 30 UFA
D Jonathan Racine 23 RFA
G Ben Bishop 29 UFA
G Andrei Vasilevskiy 22 $3.5M
G Kristers Gudlevskis 24 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Steven Stamkos (NMC) F Steven Stamkos (NMC) F Steven Stamkos (NMC)
F Ryan Callahan (NMC) F Ryan Callahan (NMC) F Ryan Callahan (NMC)
F Valtteri Filppula (NMC) F Valtteri Filppula (NMC) F Valtteri Filppula (NMC)
F Nikita Kucherov F Nikita Kucherov F Nikita Kucherov
F Tyler Johnson F Tyler Johnson F Tyler Johnson
F Ondrej Palat F Ondrej Palat F Ondrej Palat
F Jonathan Drouin F Jonathan Drouin F Jonathan Drouin
D Victor Hedman D Victor Hedman D Victor Hedman
D Anton Stralman D Anton Stralman D Anton Stralman
D Andrej Sustr D Slater Koekkoek D Andrej Sustr
G Andrei Vasilevskiy G Andrei Vasilevskiy G Andrei Vasilevskiy
*Bishop traded at deadline

Even though they’re one of the deepest teams that promise to hand Las Vegas a top selection, the Lightning’s protection list is arguably the easiest to determine. Their seven forward spots are locked in, which leaves debate for maybe one or two spots on the back end.

Ben Bishop will be omitted until he finds a new home. It’s unclear if he’ll stick around the entire year or not, but at some point, he will be moved. The 22-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy is the logical save between the pipes.

Protection Lists:

As mentioned, the forward spots are all accounted for. Between NMC’s for Stamkos, Callahan, and Filppula, it leaves just enough room to protect Kucherov, Johnson, Palat, and Drouin. Little can be done to save the likes of Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, or J.T. Brown.

Hedman is a lock on the back end obviously. The only real debate is the last two d-slots. I’m assuming Steve Yzerman might favor the likes of Sustr and Stralman over veterans Garrison and Coburn. Slater Koekkoek might also be in the mix.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) celebrates his goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) celebrates his goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Joffrey Lupul 33 $5.25M F Trevor Moore
F Nazem Kadri 26 $4.5M F Auston Matthews
F Brooks Laich 33 UFA F Zach Hyman
F James van Riemsdyk 27 $4.25M F William Nylander
F Tyler Bozak 30 $4.2M F Mitch Marner
F Milan Michalek 31 UFA F Kasperi Kapanen
F Leo Komarov 29 $2.95M F Frederik Gauthier
F Colin Greening 30 UFA F Andreas Johnsson
F Matt Martin 27 $2.5M F Nikita Soshnikov
F Kerby Rychel F Tobias Lindberg
F Connor Brown 22 $863K F Dmytro Timashov
F Ben Smith 22 RFA
F Brendan Leipsic 28 UFA D Nikita Zaitsev
F Josh Leivo 22 RFA D Travis Dermott
F Byron Froese 23 $613K D Rinat Valiev
F Seth Griffith 23 RFA D Justin Holl
D Andrew Nielsen
D Morgan Rielly 22 $5.0M G Kasimir Kaskisuo
D Jake Gardiner 26 $4.05M
D Roman Polak 30 UFA
D Martin Marincin 24 $1.25M
D Connor Carrick 22 $750K
D Viktor Loov 23 RFA
D Frank Corrado 23 RFA
D Andrew Campbell 28 UFA
D Matt Hunwick 31 UFA
G Frederik Andersen 27 $5.0M
G Curtis McElhinney 33 UFA
G Antoine Bibeau 22 RFA
G Garret Sparks 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Nazem Kadri F Nazem Kadri F Nazem Kadri
F James van Riemsdyk F James van Riemsdyk F James van Riemsdyk
F Leo Komarov F Tyler Bozak F Leo Komarov
F Connor Brown F Connor Brown F Connor Brown
F Matt Martin F Leo Komarov F Matt Martin
F Brendan Leipsic F Brendan Leipsic F Brendan Leipsic
F Josh Leivo F Matt Martin F Josh Leivo
D Morgan Rielly D Morgan Rielly D Morgan Rielly
D Jake Gardiner D Jake Gardiner D Jake Gardiner
D Connor Carrick D Connor Carrick D Connor Carrick
G Frederik Andersen G Frederik Andersen G Frederik Andersen

The Maple Leafs are one of the few teams that could use either protection scheme and have it make little difference to the quality of player left available. Given the fact there’s a handful of younger forwards who could have a future in Toronto, it might make sense to use the traditional 7-3-1 option.

Protection Lists:

In terms of locks for protections, goaltender Frederik Andersen, defenders Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, and forwards Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov, and Connor Brown are safe bets. For those final three forward spots, we’re opting with Brendan Leipsic, Matt Martin, and Josh Leivo.

For that final spot on the blue line, I’ve selected Connor Carrick. Some may opt for Martin Marincin, as I did back in November. The more you watch him play though, the less worthy of a protection spot he seems to be.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: The Maple Leafs clearly need some help on the right side of the back end.  Which defenders would Toronto be wise to target, and who would you be willing to give up to acquire that upgrade?

All the talk about van Riemsdyk being moved for a defenseman doesn’t sit well with me, he’s been a solid scorer for the Leafs and is consistent every game. Moving him for a right handed defenseman just for a possible first-round exit from the playoffs wouldn’t be a smart decision. Him, Bozak, and Marner play absolutely well together, and that’s not something that should be broken up, but if Gretzky can be moved, anything can happen. For Toronto to acquire a defenseman without using JVR as a key stone of the deal, the Leafs would have to move a couple prospects in doing so. And that doesn’t really serve justice to the “proper youth rebuild” they want to achieve cause moving out younger players with talent for a defenseman over 25 or even higher is a step backwards. But that’s what it would take, either JVR and a couple of picks, or a few solid prospects and a pick, so either option isn’t a good one. The best move would be waiting until free agency and seeing what’s on the market, and if Edmonton doesn’t offer Russell a contract by then, why not take another shot at him?

– Matt Duscharme

Vegas Golden Knights: Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) celebrates his goal against Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk (40) (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) celebrates his goal against Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk (40) (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Daniel Sedin (NMC) 36 $7.0M F Jake Virtanen
F Henrik Sedin (NMC) 36 $7.0M F Yan-Pavel Laplante
F Loui Eriksson (NMC) 31 $6.0M F Joseph Labate
F Alex Burrows 35 UFA F Michael Carcone
F Brandon Sutter 27 $4.375M F Cole Cassels
F Derek Dorsett 29 $2.65M
F Jannik Hansen 30 $2.5M D Troy Stecher
F Sven Baertschi 24 $1.85M D Nikita Tryamkin
F Anton Rodin 25 RFA D Olli Juolevi
F Markus Granlund 23 $900K D Ben Hutton
F Bo Horvat 21 RFA D Jordan Subban
F Brendan Gaunce 22 RFA D Guillaume Brisebois
F Jack Skille 29 UFA D Ashton Sautner
F Michael Zalewski 24 RFA D MacKenze Stewart
F Jayson Megna 26 UFA D Anton Cederholm
F Michael Chaput 24 RFA
F Alexandre Grenier 25 RFA G Thatcher Demko
F Borna Rendulic 24 RFA G Michael Garteig
F Reid Boucher 23 RFA
D Alex Edler 30 $5.0M
D Chris Tanev 26 $4.45M
D Luca Sbisa 26 $3.6M
D Erik Gudbranson 24 RFA
D Philip Larsen 26 UFA
D Alex Biega 28 $750K
D Andrey Pedan 23 RFA
D Chad Billins 27 UFA
D Evan McEneny 22 RFA
D Tom Nilsson 23 RFA
G Ryan Miller 36 UFA
G Jacob Markstrom 26 $3.667M
G Richard Bachman 29 $650K

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Daniel Sedin (NMC) F Daniel Sedin (NMC) F Daniel Sedin (NMC)
F Henrik Sedin (NMC) F Henrik Sedin (NMC) F Henrik Sedin (NMC)
F Loui Eriksson (NMC) F Loui Eriksson (NMC) F Loui Eriksson (NMC)
F Brandon Sutter F Bo Horvat F Brandon Sutter
F Jannik Hansen F Markus Granlund F Jannik Hansen
F Bo Horvat F Alex Burrows F Bo Horvat
F Sven Baertschi F Jannik Hansen F Sven Baertschi
D Erik Gudbranson D Erik Gudbranson D Erik Gudbranson
D Chris Tanev D Alex Edler D Chris Tanev
D Alex Edler D Chris Tanev D Alex Edler
G Jacob Markstrom G Jacob Markstrom G Jacob Markstrom

Well, if you’re a Canucks fan, at least you can take comfort in the fact that all necessary players will be protected. That being said, it has a lot to more to do with the mess GM Jim Benning has created in Vancouver with a lack of talent. Not all hope is lost though. They’ve got some exciting pieces in the system that include Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Cole Cassels, and Guillaume Brisebois (among others). With a few good moves, this organization could quickly get back on track.

Protection Lists:

Despite the strong start, it seems veteran Ryan Miller is on his way out with an expiring contract. Vancouver needs to protect Markstrom and future in goal circles around top prospect Thatcher Demko. 2016-17 is simply about making sure Markstrom can handle a large workload. Demko will need support at the start of his career and injuries are always possible.

On the blue line, Edler, Tanev, and Gudbranson are the logical saves at this point. Some speculation has suggested that Vancouver may opt to trade Edler to continue the trend towards a younger team, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Up front, the Sedin twins and Eriksson own no-move clauses and require protection. The next three players that need protection are Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, and Jannik Hansen, leaving a single spot. Left available is Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett, Sven Baertschi, Anton Rodin, and Markus Granlund (among others). Whoever impresses the most from Rodin, Beartschi, and Granlund in 2016-17 is the likely save. Our money is on Rodin at this point even though he’s still on the injured reserve.

– Ryan Ritchie

washington capitals

Vegas Golden Knights: Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Alex Ovechkin 31 $9.538M F Zach Sanford
F Nicklas Backstrom 28 $6.7M F Jakub Vrana
F Marcus Johansson 26 $4.583M F Travis Boyd
F T.J. Oshie 29 UFA F Riley Barber
F Lars Eller 27 $3.5M F Tim McGauley
F Justin Williams 35 UFA
F Evgeny Kuznetsov 24 RFA D Connor Hobbs
F Daniel Winnik 31 UFA D Jonas Siegenthaler
F Tom Wilson 22 $2.0M D Madison Bowey
F Jay Beagle 31 $1.75M D Trevor Lewington
F Andre Burakovsky 21 RFA
F Brett Connolly 24 RFA G Vitek Vanecek
F Chandler Stephenson 22 RFA G Adam Carlson
F Nathan Walker 22 RFA
F Liam O’Brien 22 RFA
F Zach Sill 28 $613K
F Garrett Mitchell 25 RFA
F Paul Carey 28 UFA
F Brad Malone 27 UFA
F Stanislav Galiev 24 RFA
F Chris Bourque 30 UFA
F Christian Thomas 24 RFA
D Matt Niskanen 29 $5.75M
D Brooks Orpik 36 $5.5M
D John Carlson 26 $3.967M
D Karl Alzner 28 UFA
D Dmitry Orlov 25 RFA
D Nate Schmidt 25 RFA
D Taylor Chorney 29 $800K
D Christian Djoos 22 RFA
D Aaron Ness 26 $613K
D Darren Dietz 23 RFA
G Braden Holtby 27 $6.1M
G Philipp Grubauer 24 RFA
G Joe Cannata 26 UFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Alex Ovechkin F Alex Ovechkin F Alex Ovechkin
F Nicklas Backstrom F Nicklas Backstrom F Nicklas Backstrom
F Evgeny Kuznetsov F Evgeny Kuznetsov F Evgeny Kuznetsov
F Andre Burakovsky F Andre Burakovsky F Andre Burakovsky
F Marcus Johansson F T.J. Oshie F Marcus Johansson
F Tom Wilson F Lars Eller F Tom Wilson
F T.J. Oshie F Marcus Johansson F T.J. Oshie
D Matt Niskanen D Matt Niskanen D Matt Niskanen
D John Carlson D John Carlson D John Carlson
D Dmitry Orlov D Karl Alzner D Dmitry Orlov
G Braden Holtby G Braden Holtby G Braden Holtby

Washington is another one of those teams that basically controls their own destiny in who they lose. If they choose to protect seven forwards, they more than likely stand to lose a quality d-man. Should they choose to save an extra blueliner, it will certainly cost them a top-six forward. Decisions, decisions.

Protection Lists:

My thought process is this: one defender such as Karl Alzner is not as valuable as Marcus Johansson, Tom Wilson, and T.J. Oshie combined. In this 7-3-1 scheme, we’ve got three forwards, all three defensemen, and Braden Holtby in net as locks to be saved. On the back end, Niskanen, Carlson, and Orlov are logical choices. Up front, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Kuznetsov are the glue that holds this team together. The next closest player to lock-status is Andre Burakovsky with Marcus Johansson trailing closely behind. For those final two spots, I’ve gone with Wilson and Oshie, leaving Brett Connolly, Justin Williams (UFA), Daniel Winnik (UFA), Jay Beagle, and Lars Eller available.

– Ryan Ritchie

Vegas Golden Knights: Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little (18), defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) and right wing Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little (18), defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) and right wing Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets

Available Age 17/18 Automatically Exempt
F Mark Scheifele 23 $6.125M F Jack Roslovic
F Blake Wheeler 30 $5.6M F Patrik Laine
F Bryan Little 28 $4.7M F Andrew Copp
F Drew Stafford 30 UFA F Kyle Connor
F Mathieu Perreault 28 $4.125M F Nikolaj Ehlers
F Shawn Matthias 28 $2.125M F Brandon Tanev
F Chris Thorburn 33 UFA F Brendan Lemieux
F Adam Lowry 23 $1.125M F Nic Petan
F Joel Armia 23 $925K F Chase De Leo
F Marko Dano 21 RFA F James Lodge
F Scott Kosmachuk 22 RFA F Axel Blomqvist
F Anthony Peluso 27 UFA
F Quinton Howden 24 RFA D Josh Morrissey
F J.C. Lipon 23 RFA D Nelson Nogier
F Ryan Olsen 22 RFA D Jan Kostalek
G Jamie Phillips
D Dustin Byfuglien (NMC) 31 $7.6M G Eric Comrie
D Tobias Enstrom (NMC) 31 $5.75M
D Tyler Myers 26 $5.5M
D Jacob Trouba 22 $3.0M
D Paul Postma 27 UFA
D Ben Chiarot 25 RFA
D Julian Melchiori 24 $625K
D Brian Strait 28 UFA
D Brenden Kichton 24 RFA
G Ondrej Pavelec 29 UFA
G Michael Hutchinson 26 $1.15M
G Connor Hellebuyck 23 RFA

Ryan Matt Suraj
4 – 4 – 1 4 – 4 – 1 7 – 3 – 1
F Mark Scheifele F Mark Scheifele F Mark Scheifele
F Blake Wheeler F Blake Wheeler F Blake Wheeler
F Bryan Little F Bryan Little F Bryan Little
F Joel Armia F Adam Lowry F Joel Armia
D Dustin Byfuglien (NMC) D Dustin Byfuglien (NMC) F Marko Dano
D Toby Enstrom (NMC) D Toby Enstrom (NMC) F Adam Lowry
D Tyler Myers D Tyler Myers F Scott Kosmachuk
D Jacob Trouba D Jacob Trouba D Dustin Byfuglien (NMC)
G Connor Hellebuyck G Connor Hellebuyck D Tyler Myers
D Jacob Trouba
G Connor Hellebuyck
*Enstrom asked to waive NMC

The Jets are one of those rare teams that could make an argument for using either protection scheme. If they could get Toby Enstrom to waive his NMC or find a trade partner for a defender, it opens up the door to protecting three extra forwards. If they choose to stand pat, Winnipeg may be forced to use a 4-4-1 scheme, leaving a few extra forwards exposed. We could learn a lot over the next month.

Protection Lists:

I’ve chosen to go with a 4-4-1 scheme, assuming the Jets keep their defensive group together. The obvious saves are Byfuglien, Enstrom, Myers, and Trouba on the back end, and Connor Hellebuyck in goal. Looking up front, Scheifele, Wheeler, and Little are your virtual locks, leaving just a single spot for a handful of players. The battle is basically between Joel Armia and Mathieu Perreault, and the way I see it, if you’re losing talent anyways, then you might as well force Vegas to pay for it, hence why I’ve opted to protect Armia.

– Ryan Ritchie

Q: For the second month in a row, you’ve opted to protect Jets forward Scott Kosmachuk. What is it about his game that makes him a worthy save if Winnipeg has the ability to save seven forwards?

They need depth forwards, badly. They have good goalies, a very strong defensive group, and highly-talented forwards for years to come. To take the next step in the NHL food chain, the Jets need to start developing players for the bottom half of their squad. Players like Joel Armia and Nicolas Petan are not depth forwards, and the Jets need to address their third and fourth lines if they want to succeed against the best teams. Maybe Kosmachuk is a step in the right direction.

– Suraj Sukumar

Vegas Golden Knights: General aerial view of the MGM Grand Las Vegas hotel and casino and the Las Vegas strip and skyline on Las Vegas Blvd. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights: General aerial view of the MGM Grand Las Vegas hotel and casino and the Las Vegas strip and skyline on Las Vegas Blvd. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights – Ryan Ritchie

Forwards
Name Pos Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Marian Gaborik RW 34 $4.875M $4.875M $4.875M $4.875M UFA
Tyler Ennis C/W 27 $4.6M $4.6M UFA
Alex Killorn C/LW 27 $4.45M $4.45M $4.45M $4.45M $4.45M..
Colin Wilson C/LW 27 $3.938M $3.938M UFA
Jakob Silfverberg RW/LW 26 $3.75M $3.75M UFA
Patrik Berglund C/LW 28 UFA
Matt Read RW/LW 30 $3.625M UFA
Lance Bouma C/W 26 $2.2M UFA
Jason Zucker LW/RW 25 $2.0M RFA
Joakim Nordstrom LW 24 $1.275M RFA
Marko Dano C/W 22 RFA
Phillip Danault C 23 $913k RFA
Markus Granlund C 23 $900k RFA
Curtis Lazar C/RW 21 RFA
Kerby Rychel LW 22 $863k RFA
Brett Connolly RW/LW 24 RFA
Defense
Name LH/RH Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Jack Johnson LHD 30 $4.357M UFA
Thomas Hickey LHD 27 $2.2M UFA
Nick Jensen RHD 26 RFA
Jordie Benn LHD 29 $1.1M $1.1M UFA
Alex Petrovic RHD 24 RFA
Kevin Connauton LHD 26 $1.0M UFA
Mirco Mueller LHD 21 RFA
Trevor van Riemsdyk RHD 25 $825k RFA
Brian Dumoulin LHD 25 RFA
Seth Helgeson LHD 26 RFA
Goalies
Name Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Semyon Varlamov 28 $5.9M $5.9M UFA
Antti Raanta 27 $1.0M UFA
Malcolm Subban 23 RFA
Laurent Brossoit 23 $750k RFA

Projected Cap Hit: $50,525,476
Projected Cap Space: $21,169,524
Players Under Contract: 20

Vegas Golden Knights – Matt Duscharme

Forwards
Name Pos Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
F Kyle Palmieri RW/LW 25 $4,65M $4,65M $4,65M $4,65M UFA
F Cody Eakin C 25 $3.85M $3.85M $3.85M UFA
F Jakob Silfverberg RW/LW 26 $3.75M $3.75M UFA
F David Desharnais C 30 UFA
F Jamie McGinn LW/RW 28 $3.33M $3.33M UFA
F Josh Bailey LW/RW 27 $3.3M UFA
F Charlie Coyle C/RW 24 $3.2M $3.2M $3.2M UFA
F Mathieu Perreault C/LW 29 $4.125M $4.125M $4.125M $4.125M UFA
F Marcus Foligno LW 25 RFA
F Sven Baertschi LW 24 $1.85M RFA
F Patrick Maroon LW 28 $1.5M UFA
F Tanner Pearson LW 24 RFA
F Joakim Nordstrom LW 24 $1.275M RFA
F Jesper Fast RW/LW 25 RFA
F Tomas Jurco RW/LW 24 RFA
Defense
Name LH/RH Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
D Paul Martin RHD 35 $4.85M $4.85M UFA
D Michael Del Zotto LHD 26 UFA
D Dmitry Orlov RHD 25 RFA
D Ryan Ellis RHD 26 $2.5M $2.5M UFA
D Ian Cole RHD 27 $2.1M UFA
D Dalton Prout RHD 26 $1.575M UFA
D Brian Campbell LHD 37 UFA
D Andrej Sustr RHD 26 RFA
D Martin Marincin LHD 24 $1.25M RFA
D Mark Pysyk RHD 25 RFA
D Mark Borowiecki LHD 27 $1.1M UFA
D Colin Miller RHD 24 $1M RFA
Goalies
Name Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
G Semyon Varlamov 28 $5.9M $5.9M UFA
G Carter Hutton 31 $1.125M UFA
G Tom McCollum 27 $612.5K UFA

Projected Cap Hit: $52,845,833
Projected Cap Space: $20,154,167
Players Under Contract: 20

Vegas Golden Knights – Suraj Sukumar

Forwards
Name Pos Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Joe Thornton C 37 UFA
Patrick Sharp LW/C 35 UFA
Alex Killorn C/LW 27 $4.45 $4.45 $4.45 $4.45 $4.45
Tyler Bozak C 30 $4.20 UFA
Lee Stempniak LW//RW 33 $2.50 UFA
Blake Comeau LW/RW 30 $2.40 UFA
Jimmy Hayes RW 27 $2.30 UFA
Riley Sheahan C 25 $2.08 RFA
Jason Zucker LW/RW 25 $2.00 RFA
Calle Jarnkrok C 25 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00
Zack Smith C 28 $3.25 $3.25 $3.25 $3.25 UFA
Mark Letestu C/RW 31 $1.80 UFA
Michael Grabner RW 29 $1.65 UFA
Devante Smith-Pelly RW/LW 24 $1.30 RFA
Colton Sceviour C/RW 27 $950K UFA
Philip Danault C 23 $912K RFA
Shane Prince LW 24 $850K RFA
NIck Cousins C 23 RFA
Defense
LH/RH Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Josh Gorges LHD 32 $3.90 UFA
Simon Despres LHD 25 $3.70 $3.70 $3.70 $3.70 UFA
Luca Sbisa LHD 27 $3.60 UFA
Carl Gunnarsson LHD 30 $2.90 $2.90 UFA
Brayden McNabb LHD 26 $1.70 UFA
Kevin Connauton LHD 26 $1.00 UFA
Alex Petrovic RHD 24 RFA
Ville Pokka RHD 22 RFA
Tyler Wotherspoon LHD 23 RFA
Scott Harrington LHD 23 RFA
Goalies
Name Age 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22
Marc-Andre Fleury 32 $5.75 $5.75 UFA
Philipp Grubauer 25 RFA
Michael Hutchinson 26 $1.15 UFA

Projected Cap Hit: $55,387,500
Projected Cap Space: $17,612,500
Players Under Contract: 22

As mentioned in the first slide, we’re shifting to a double dose of mock drafts moving forward. That means we’ll be releasing two mock expansion roundtables per month. So make sure to keep tuned later in February for an updated version. Site expert Alyssa Naimoli will join the team next time around with four different opinions on June’s expansion draft.

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