Vatanen was the odd-man out in being left unprotected from a deep and talented group of Ducks defensemen. But he will not be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury.
Neal was not the only high-profile player left exposed by the Predators, who are coming off their first Stanley Cup finals appearance. Other notable Nashville players unprotected were the young forwards Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons, who combined to score eight goals in the playoffs.
Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer; the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown; and the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec. As for defensemen, Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian and Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis are available.
There is also a wealth of proven goaltenders available given that teams were required to expose at least one. Aside from Fleury, other goalies available are Florida’s Roberto Luongo, Detroit’s Peter Mrazek and Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth.
The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, who the Golden Knights have the option to sign over the next three days. Any pending free agent signed would count as Vegas’s expansion-draft selection from that player’s team.
What is uncertain is how many trades the Golden Knights have negotiated with teams to influence which player Vegas selects or avoids.
McPhee has said he has had contact with all teams and was expected to have several trades in place. In exchange, McPhee was intent on stockpiling draft picks to help spur the franchise’s growth through youth.
Those deals will not be officially revealed until Wednesday.
There is also nothing barring Vegas from having a deal in place to select a player in order to trade him to another team.
The Islanders were the only team that protected five defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic Ryan Pulock and Adam…