Kunitz, Fleury left unprotected in National Hockey League expansion draft

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero speaks during a NHL hockey news conference introducing John Hynes as the team's new head coach in Newark N.J. If anyone needs the No. 1 pick in the NHL Dra

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero speaks during a NHL hockey news conference introducing John Hynes as the team's new head coach in Newark N.J. If anyone needs the No. 1 pick in the NHL Dra

The Vegas Golden Knights are the league's first expansion franchise in almost two decades, and they will begin play in 2017-18 after selecting at least one player from each of the other 30 teams in the NHL.

The general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights will choose the players who will suit up first for the NHL's 31st team, and they will be revealed during the NHL Awards ceremony on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Because Fleury had a no-movement clause in his contract, the Penguins faced the possibility of being obligated to protect him and leave Murray, a 23-year-old with two Stanley Cup championships to his credit, exposed. The deals the Golden Knights make are expected to be announced at the draft Wednesday night.

The Predators were put in a bind in being forced to expose Neal, a 10-time 20-goal-scorer, because they elected to protect a fourth defenseman. The fifth-year player, however, won't be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to fix a shoulder injury.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were Los Angeles's Dustin Brown, Montreal's Tomas Plekanec and Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz. Once the dust settles from the draft weekend, teams will prepare for the start of the annual unrestricted free agent market on July 1.

A roster freeze is in place for all non-Vegas trades until Thursday morning.

Mike Smith went from Arizona to Calgary and a couple of defensemen traded places as National Hockey League teams made last-minute moves before the Vegas expansion draft roster freeze.

2000 - Rick Tabaracci, Columbus Blue Jackets; 1999 - Trevor Kidd, Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets); 1998 - Frederic Chabot, Nashville Predators; 1993 - John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida Panthers; 1992 - Peter Sidorkiewicz, Ottawa Senators; and 1991 - Jeff Hackett, San Jose Sharks. Well, McPhee is clearly going to listen, but if another team were interested in the draft-and-trade, it could drive up the price of protection, landing Vegas a higher draft pick.

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"It had all the feelings of a trade deadline, but there was conditions", Flames GM Brad Treliving said by phone. There was speculation that Killorn, who also had a less-than-stellar season, would've been a target for Vegas to select, but that's no longer a possibility because he's on the protected list.

"It certainly relieved a lot of the pressure thinking that I had to get him moved so we wouldn't get in a jam here for our list", Rutherford said.

The first-ever pick in an National Hockey League expansion draft, going to the Los Angeles Kings in 1967, was Hall-of-Fame puckstopper Terry Sawchuk. That puts those teams and the Anaheim Ducks in position to work out a deal with Vegas, which could prove costly.

Only players with more than two years of pro experience needed to be protected, so the Bruins didn't have to protect young defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Keep in mind that just because a player has been left unprotected doesn't mean he's necessarily going to be snapped up by Vegas.

His appeal: As they build their roster, the Knights could opt for veterans on defence such as Dan Hamhuis or Adam McQuaid or opt for younger types on cheap contracts with room to grow.

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