*NMC = No-movement clause *All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits). *Notable protected 2017 unrestricted free agents are kept based on an assumption they will re-sign with their respective teams before Las Vegas' window to negotiate with UFAs opens.
Jordan Staal (NMC)
Phillip Di Giuseppe
The Hurricanes have plenty of freedom to lock up the majority of their key pieces, and have enough big-league depth to avoid losing anything too significant.
One interesting name to watch will be Justin Faulk. The club will surely want to protect the star rearguard, but right now he's the only eligible defenseman signed for next season; teams must expose at least one defender signed for 2017-18.
So, Carolina has a few options: extend one of its blue-liners, just to expose them (Ryan Murphy, Klas Dahlbeck, and Matt Tennyson are the only ones at or near the required number of games played), add a player who's signed for 2017-18, or be forced to expose Faulk.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Dubinsky (NMC)
Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)
Nick Foligno (NMC)
Scott Hartnell (NMC)
The Blue Jackets have their dangerous offensive depth to protect, which means they'll likely go for the seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie format.
Zach Werenski is exempt from the expansion draft and Seth Jones will surely be protected. Who gets the last two spots? It's between Jack Johnson, David Savard, and 2012 second overall pick Ryan Murray. Whoever isn't protected likely gets nabbed by Las Vegas, as all three are quality options.
Promising goaltending prospect Joonas Korpisalo will also be exposed, however, which might be more desirable for the fledgling Golden Knights roster.
New Jersey Devils
New Jersey has only six forwards signed for 2017-18 - the first six on the list above - all of whom they'll likely want to protect. That means the Devils have to either extend a couple exposed forwards to comply with the draft rules, or risk leaving some key names available.
Damon Severson and Andy Greene seem to be the top candidates for protected defensemen - the former leads all Devils rearguards in points and the latter leads the team in average ice time.
The third spot isn't as clear; John Moore has the second-most points among Devils' blue-liners, but Ben Lovejoy logs the second-most minutes per game. The edge may go to the latter, as general manager Ray Shero has longtime ties to Lovejoy dating back to their days in Pittsburgh.
New York Islanders
John Tavares (NMC)
Johnny Boychuk (NMC)
Andrew Ladd (NMC)
The Islanders will have a tough choice between protecting their forward corps and keeping their blue line together.
If they want to lock up as many of their depth forwards as possible - which may be necessary given John Tavares is their lone remaining marquee scorer - they'll leave plenty of key defenders exposed.
But they do look set to lose at least one key offensive piece. If they go with the protection list above, they risk losing Michael Grabner, who's currently leading the team in goals. However, protecting Grabner would mean exposing one of the forwards on the chart above, all of whom seem to be core pieces for the Rangers.
The draft rules require teams to expose at least two forwards under contract for next season. Grabner would satisfy one of those spots, but if the club wants to keep its core group, it'll need to extend another forward to leave available for the Golden Knights.
Claude Giroux (NMC)
Valtteri Filppula (NMC)
Adding Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline cut one forward prospect from the team's protected list, as his no-movement clause means he must be protected.
Philadelphia still has enough room to protect most of its key names, however, but retaining forward depth will leave the blue line at risk. Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas both seem set for protection, while Ivan Provorov - who leads the team in average ice time - is exempt. But, a decision must be made between Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto - one of whom will be exposed, and both of whom would likely draw interest from McPhee's club.
In net, the team must decide between Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. Mason is getting the bulk of the starts, and has slightly better numbers, but there's a case to be made that Neuvirth is the more promising option moving forward, as indicated by the club extending him until 2019. It's a toss up, and both could be interesting options for Las Vegas.
Sidney Crosby (NMC)
Kris Letang (NMC)
Evgeni Malkin (NMC)
Phil Kessel (NMC)
Pittsburgh's core pieces are already protected through their no-movement clauses; the big question is in net. Goaltender Matt Murray is surely the team's first choice moving forward, but veteran Marc-Andre Fleury remains in town, with a no-movement clause requiring he be protected.
There are still a few options: trading Fleury in the offseason, asking him to waive his clause to be exposed in the draft, or swinging a deal with Las Vegas to have the franchise avoid Pittsburgh's netminders.
Pittsburgh's main goal will be maintaining its forward depth, which has been one of the club's central strengths; the 7/3/1 format seems preferable. Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are locks to stay, and after a dominant 2016-17, Justin Schultz looks set to remain as well. If so, Las Vegas has a few desirable options in rearguards Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley, and Ian Cole.
Washington can keep all its impact forwards with the 7/3/1 format, and elect to re-sign Karl Alzner in free agency.
Veteran Brooks Orpik looks likely to be exposed regardless. However, given Orpik's $5.5-million cap hit and that he's 36 years old with a diminishing role, Las Vegas may not be interested anyway.