Vegas holds all the cards with National Hockey League expansion draft list out

He holds the cards for a significant chunk of the league's talent, fielding calls from colleagues willing to trade something to keep McPhee from plucking certain players from their rosters, or to take someone from another team to flip in a deal.

No surprises there; those are the 11 players that made the most sense to shield, and the list was confirmed late Saturday by The Washington Post.

Forwards Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton have been protected.

The Blackhawks went the 7-3-1 route with their protected players: Forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman and Tomas Jurco were protected, as were defensemen Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Corey Crawford.

Even though the protection lists are public, the process isn't as straightforward as Vegas taking the best asset available from each team.

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"The Golden Knights organization is very pleased with how the expansion draft process has gone so far, through the National Hockey League trade freeze which took effect Saturday, June 17 at 12 noon PT", the Golden Knights said in a satement.

Now it's on Golden Knights general manager George McPhee to pore over the list of unprotected players and select one from each of the NHL's 30 teams by Wednesday. The Minnesota Wild exposed forward Eric Staal and defensemen Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba. The Golden Knights could swipe Rangers forward Michael Grabner, who scored 27 goals this past season. The Philadelphia Flyers didn't protect goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who the team signed to a two-year, $5 million contract extension in March. The Golden Knight can't select 10 goalies because they're required to use up 26 of their 30 picks in filling 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalie spots. This game McPhee is trying to play turns a promising expansion draft pick into an impressive haul that could make the team more competitive sooner.

The Golden Knights are owned by Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, a consortium led by Bill Foley, the team will be a member of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference starting in the 2017-18 season. They only need a couple, and there's opportunities for trades from that perspective. They are the only team to protect five defensemen.

What's uncertain is how many trades the Golden Knights have negotiated with teams to influence which player Vegas selects or avoids.

The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, which the Golden Knights have the option to sign over the next three days.

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