At 10AM today the NHL announced the list of the protected and unprotected players that the Vegas Golden Knights will be able to pick.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have decided to protect the following players in an 8 skater + 1 goalie layout. (The alternative would have been 7 forwards + 3 defensemen + 1 goalie).
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist
Defensemen: Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta
Goalie: Matt Murray
The choices of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Letang were automatic, given their no movement clauses, but those guys were all slam dunks to be retained anyways, so no big deal there.
Going 8 skaters was smart, because it keeps the team's top 4 defensemen are all safe. The only choice to make was whom to protect as the last forward spot between Hornqvist and Rust. Bryan Rust is a playoff hero and elevates his game at the right time, but his regular season stats are not all that great.
Among regular forwards from 2015-17 on the team, Rust is dead last, 13 out of 13 in Points/60. His regular season stats are not impressive. He's demonstrated little in the way of play making and passing ability. Rust is a useful and good player in his own right, and one well worth having, but his skillset is fairly replaceable in a setting like this.
Across the league, all rosters are frozen until Thursday, and only Vegas can talk to impending free agents.
The following Pens are exposed, and one will be selected by Vegas.
Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Nick Bonino*, Matt Cullen*, Chris Kunitz*, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Josh Archibald, Oskar Sundqvist, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Tom Sestito*, Kevin Porter*, Garrett Wilson*
Ian Cole, Trevor Daley*, Ron Hainsey*, Chad Ruhwedel*, Mark Streit*, Derrick Pouliot, Frank Corrado, Cameron Gaunce*, David Warsofsky*, Tim Erixon, Stuart Percy
Marc-Andre Fleury (waived no-movement clause for purpose of expansion draft)
*impending UFA on 7/1
Vegas will be able to begin negotiating with any pending RFAs/UFAs that are unprotected . If a player signs to a deal, that counts as the expansion selection. So, for instance, if Vegas offers Bonino 4 years, $4 million and he agrees to go there, he is signed to them with no questions asked, nothing the Pens can do to prevent it, and no compensation. But they wouldn't lose anyone else. This isn't really expected to happen for any of the Pens free agents, but is a possibility worth mentioning.
LVGK and their brain-trust has a few days to think strategy over, and on Wednesday morning they send their picks NHL for which player on every team they're taking. Their roster gets a public reveal Wednesday night at the NHL awards (also, as usual in Las Vegas) to announce the players that they have taken and all the trades that they are expected to make.
Most still expect that Fleury will be the player selected:
One name that is coming out as unprotected: DET G Petr Mrazek. With Marc-Andre Fleury going to LV, that's an interesting one.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 18, 2017
Chime in with who you think the Pens expansion sacrifice will be. Seems like it is pointing to Fleury, but now we'll be able to see Vegas's options across the rest of the league for the other options and different routes they could choose to go.