The Rangers are set to lose one player this month to the expansion draft.  That player will pack his things and head to Sin City to play for the newest NHL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The Golden Knights cannot just take the best player from each NHL team and sit back to count their winnings.  There are multiple regulations that go along with the expansion draft.

Each team is allowed to create a list of “protected players” who cannot be touched by Vegas.  There are two options to choose from while creating this list.  Option A is the 7-3-1, seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie will be protected.  Option B is 8-1, eight skaters (regardless of forward/defensemen) and one goalie.  In Option B, you protect two fewer skaters, but you are not forced to protect three defensemen.

Something that needs to be taken into account is that any player with a No-Movement-Clause in their contract must be protected.  The current Rangers with NMC in their contracts are Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, and Marc Staal.  Now Lundqvist and Nash would have been protected regardless, so that is fine.  Staal on the other hand just adds to the frustration around his ridiculous contract.  Another NMC the Rangers had to deal with was that of Dan Girardi, whom was bought out by the team earlier this week.

Now since the Rangers HAVE to protect Marc Staal (unfortunately) and New York willl obviously protect their star Defenseman and Captain, Ryan McDonagh, it makes sense for the Rangers to use the 7-3-1 option. Let’s break it down by position.

Goalies

This section does not need much explaining.  Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the world and will be protected.  His NMC in his contract just makes that a certainty.  So that will leave backup Goalie Antti Raanta vulnerable to Vegas.  Raanta is certainly a capable goalie, as he has shown during his time replacing Lundqvist and could surely help out the expansion team.

Protected: Henrik Lundqvist

Defense

As previously stated, unless Marc Stall decides to randomly waive his NMC, which is unlikely, he needs to be protected.  Add Ryan McDonagh to that list because he is a stud and not going anywhere.  So that is two of the three defensemen protected in the 7-3-1.  The smartest move for the Rangers would be to resign Brendan Smith before the draft and use the last protection spot on him.  Smith proved his worth to the team after being shipped to New York at the trade deadline.  Smith was one of the Rangers biggest physical presences throughout the playoffs.

Brady Skjei would obviously be on the protected list, but he is already safe due to the fact that Vegas is not allowed to touch any first or second year skaters.  That is a plus for the Rangers because they get to keep him without any stress. This leaves a few options for Vegas.  They could take either Kevin Klein or Nick Holden.

Rumor has it that Klein is leaning towards retirement so that would obviously take him out of the picture.  Nick Holden would not be a bad option for Vegas.  He is a young and talented defenseman with offensive upside.

Protected: Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith

Forwards

With seven forward spots to protect, there are multiple spots that are no brainers.  Rick Nash is an automatic with his NMC and he will likely be joined by Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Mike Zibanejad, J.T. Miller, and Derek Stepan.  That is a very solid group of forwards to protect, but definitely leaves some key pieces to the team vulnerable.  Derek Stepan’s name has been floating around this week in trade rumors, but unless something comes up in the very near future, it is very likely he will be on the protected list.

This would leave Jesper Fast, Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Pirri, and Matt Puempel all eligible for the expansion draft.  Jesper Fast did just have surgery on his hip that will sideline him for a bit, but he has proven to be a solid forward in the NHL.  Michael Grabner is coming off a fantastic year for the Rangers, finishing second on the team in goals scored.  Oscar Lindberg is another appealing option because he has also proven himself as a solid forward who gets to the dirty areas and can make plays happen.

Thankfully for the Rangers, they do not have to risk losing either Jimmy Vesey or Pavel Buchnevich due to how young they are.  If they were also eligible, the Rangers would have some serious decisions to make in terms of who to protect.

Losing any of these forwards to Vegas will be a blow to the Rangers offense, but that is the way the world works.  Obviously, they would like to protect them all, but unfortunately it just isn not an option.

Protected: Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller, Derek Stepan

There you have it, the projected New York Rangers protected list for the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft.

Protected List: Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller, Derek Stepan


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