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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Nashville is exposing James Neal, right on ice, in the expansion draft that the Vegas Golden Knights will use to fill their roster.

Monday, June 19, 2017 1:00 am

Plenty of talent available to stock Golden Knights

JOHN WAWROW and STEPHEN WHYNO | Associated Press

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee had difficulty containing his excitement in anticipation of the NHL's expansion draft list being released.

“The most fun I've ever had in hockey,” McPhee said in a video posted of him driving to the team's headquarters on Sunday.

And that was before McPhee learned of the high-profile group of players he'll have to choose from – limited to one from each of the 30 teams – in stocking the Golden Knights roster before submitting his list Wednesday.

There's a three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie in Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury available and several 20-plus-goal-scorers in Nashville's James Neal and Minnesota's Eric Staal. As there's a number of top defensemen exposed such as Anaheim's Sami Vatanen and Ottawa's Marc Methot.

“The issue for us isn't going to be, 'Can we fill out the roster?' ” McPhee told reporters after the list was released. “It would be, 'Do we have too many players?' There are a lot of good players there.”

Vegas is holding all the cards while the rest of the NHL awaits McPhee to determine his selections over a three-day stretch during which the Golden Knights are the only team allowed to make trades and sign pending free agents.

McPhee wasn't prepared to discuss individual players when specifically asked about Fleury but noted there were no surprises based on the numerous mock drafts the team conducted.

“We really like what we're looking at right now,” McPhee said. “We expect to put a good, entertaining club on the ice.”

Fleury was left unprotected by Pittsburgh after he agreed to waive the no-movement clause in his contract. The Penguins instead protected Matt Murray a week after the second-year goalie led them to win their second consecutive championship.

The Predators were put in a bind in being forced to expose Neal, because they elected to protect a fourth defenseman.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were Los Angeles' Dustin Brown, Montreal's Tomas Plekanec and Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz. As for defensemen, Minnesota exposed both Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella, while Buffalo's Zach Bogosian and Dallas' Dan Hamhuis are also available.