Vegas Golden Knights hold cards as NHL expansion draft nears

Panthers Release List of Protected Players for Expansion Draft

It's official: Fleury among Penguins unprotected on expansion list

The annual awards ceremonies will be held in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

There is a temptation to say there has never been a moment quite like this before in National Hockey League history - where George McPhee, the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, is acting as a broker for the mixed bag of talent made available to him Sunday morning as part of the 2017 expansion draft proceedings.

For the Washington Capitals, there was no suspense on Sunday morning, as The Post reported their protection list on Saturday afternoon. The 23-year-old forward was swapped to Arizona last weekend from the Philadelphia Flyers in a three-player, one draft-pick transaction.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer, Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown and Montreal's Tomas Plekanec.

Vegas could easily get its franchise goaltender in Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, a top-line scoring winger with 10 20-goal seasons in Nashville's James Neal and a top-pairing defenseman in Ottawa's Marc Methot while also picking up some potentially high draft picks for staying away from young talent from Anaheim, Columbus and the New York Islanders. A roster freeze went into effect June 17, with clubs only allowed to talk trade with the Golden Knights. They protected forwards Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Ryan Reaves, along with defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Joel Edmundson plus goalie Jake Allen. Anaheim wants to keep defensemen Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson, Columbus wants to keep goalie Joonas Korpisalo, forward Josh Anderson, and defenseman Jack Johnson, and NY wants to keep forwards Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas.

Francis didn't say what his plans might be, saying, "We'll just see where we are and what happens" in the expansion draft.

Now begins the jockeying regarding some of those top players.

Teams were required to expose a minimum of two forwards and one defensemen who were under contract for the 2017-18 season and had played a minimum of 40 games last season or 70 games in the past two seasons.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and 29 other teams revealed what players they chose to protect and leave unexposed in the upcoming expansion draft.

The Blue Jackets are reportedly including the 24th overall pick in this year's entry draft in their deal, per both TSN and Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

Every GM in the league can see the list of unprotected players, and may want some of them.

George McPhee and the Golden Knights, meanwhile have to prepare for two drafts. They only need a couple, and theres opportunities for trades from that perspective.

So, the Knights - who will be coached by fired Panthers coach Gerard Gallant - have a few options in the one Florida player it can select. "It's not so much an expansion draft for them as it is an accumulation of assets", Calgary General Manager Brad Treliving recently told Sportsnet 960 The Fan's "Boomer in the Morning".

When it constructed rules for the upcoming expansion draft, the National Hockey League tried to ensure at least one thing: that the Vegas Golden Knights weren't immediately bad. Sure, he could sign a free agent July 1, or he could take advantage of this rare circumstance. McPhee is listening to his options and things could get insane over the next week as the Golden Knights seek to build an unrivalled stable of picks and prospects with an eye toward the future.

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