Vatanen was the odd-man out in being left unprotected from a deep and talented group of Ducks defensemen. But he will not be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury.
Neal was not the only high-profile player left exposed by the Predators, who are coming off their first Stanley Cup finals appearance. Other notable Nashville players unprotected were the young forwards Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons, who combined to score eight goals in the playoffs.
Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer; the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown; and the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec. As for defensemen, Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian and Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis are available.
There is also a wealth of proven goaltenders available given that teams were required to expose at least one. Aside from Fleury, other goalies available are Florida’s Roberto Luongo, Detroit’s Peter Mrazek and Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth.
The unprotected list includes players eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, who the Golden Knights have the option to sign over the next three days. Any pending free agent signed would count as Vegas’s expansion-draft selection from that player’s team.
What is uncertain is how many trades the Golden Knights have negotiated with teams to influence which player Vegas selects or avoids.
McPhee has said he has had contact with all teams and was expected to have several trades in place. In exchange, McPhee was intent on stockpiling draft picks to help spur the franchise’s growth through youth.
Those deals will not be officially revealed until Wednesday.
There is also nothing barring Vegas from having a deal in place to select a player in order to trade him to another team.
The Islanders were the only team that protected five defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, leaving forwards Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome and defensemen Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey available.
Some players left unprotected, like Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, carry hefty contracts, which Vegas might shy away from so not to restrict the team’s payroll structure under the salary cap. Ryan has five years left on a seven-year $50.8 million contract and represents a cap hit of more than $7 million.
The Senators were handcuffed by the veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf’s decision to not waive his no-movement clause. That forced the team to also expose the top defenseman Marc Methot.
Among the available players with previous connections to McPhee are Stars center Cody Eakin, Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Neuvirth, whom McPhee drafted when he was general manager of the Capitals.
McPhee also previously signed Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt out of college and Sharks right winger Joel Ward in free agency and traded for Flames right winger Troy Brouwer.
The release of the teams’ protected lists kicks off a busy two-week stretch for the N.H.L. The league’s annual awards ceremonies will be held in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and teams will gather in Chicago for the two-day entry draft, which opens on Friday.
Then comes the start of free agency on July 1.
Several general managers, including Arizona’s John Chayka on Saturday, noted how the Golden Knights can corner the goalie market and use those assets as trade bait.
The Golden Knights are required to use up 26 of their 30 picks in filling 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalie spots.
The start of the expansion draft process means a trading freeze is in place through Thursday morning for the 30 other teams.
Here are the available players in the expansion draft:
Forwards: Spencer Abbott, Jared Boll, Sam Carrick, Patrick Eaves, Emerson Etem, Ryan Garbutt, Max Gortz, Nicolas Kerdiles, Andre Petersson, Logan Shaw, Nick Sorensen, Nate Thompson, Corey Tropp, Chris Wagner.
Defensemen: Nate Guenin, Korbinian Holzer, Josh Manson, Jaycob Megna, Jeff Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Sami Vatanen.
Goalies: Jonathan Bernier, Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Faragher, Matt Hackett, Dustin Tokarski.
Forwards: Alexander Burmistrov, Shane Doan, Tyler Gaudet, Peter Holland, Josh Jooris, Jamie McGinn, Jeremy Morin, Mitchell Moroz, Chris Mueller, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brad Richardson, Garret Ross, Branden Troock, Radim Vrbata, Joe Whitney.
Defensemen: Kevin Connauton, Jamie McBain, Zbynek Michalek, Jarred Tinordi.
Goalies: Louis Domingue.
Forwards: Matt Beleskey, Brian Ferlin, Jimmy Hayes, Alex Khokhlachev, Dominic Moore, Tyler Randell, Zac Rinaldo, Tim Schaller, Drew Stafford.
Defensemen: Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant, John-Michael Liles, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow.
Goalies: Anton Khudobin, Malcolm Subban.
Forwards: William Carrier, Nicolas Deslauriers, Brian Gionta, Derek Grant, Justin Kea, Matt Moulson, Cal O’Reilly, Cole Schneider.
Defensemen: Brady Austin, Mathew Bodie, Zach Bogosian, Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun, Cody Franson, Josh Gorges, Dmitry Kulikov.
Goalies: Anders Nilsson, Linus Ullmark.
Forwards: Brandon Bollig, Lance Bouma, Troy Brouwer, Alex Chiasson, Freddie Hamilton, Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Matt Stajan, Kris Versteeg, Linden Vey.
Defensemen: Matt Bartkowski, Ryan Culkin, Deryk Engelland, Michael Kostka, Brett Kulak, Ladislav Smid, Michael Stone, Dennis Wideman, Tyler Wotherspoon.
Goalies: Brian Elliott, Tom McCollum.
Forwards: Bryan Bickell, Connor Brickley, Patrick Brown, Erik Karlsson, Danny Kristo, Jay McClement, Andrew Miller, Andrej Nestrasil, Joakim Nordstrom, Lee Stempniak, Brendan Woods.
Defensemen: Klas Dahlbeck, Dennis Robertson, Philip Samuelsson, Matt Tennyson.
Goalies: Daniel Altshuller, Eddie Lack, Michael Leighton, Cam Ward.
Forwards: Kyle Baun, Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Michael Latta, Brandon Mashinter, Dennis Rasmussen, Jordin Tootoo.
Defensemen: Brian Campbell, Dillon Fournier, Shawn Lalonde, Johnny Oduya, Ville Pokka, Michal Rozsival, Viktor Svedberg, Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Goalies: Mac Carruth, Jeff Glass.
Forwards: Troy Bourke, Gabriel Bourque, Rene Bourque, Joe Colborne, Turner Elson, Felix Girard, Mikhail Grigorenko, Samuel Henley, John Mitchell, Jim O’Brien, Brendan Ranford, Mike Sislo, Carl Soderberg.
Defensemen: Mark Barberio, Mat Clark, Eric Gelinas, Cody Goloubef, Duncan Siemens, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch.
Goalies: Joe Cannata, Calvin Pickard, Jeremy Smith.
Forwards: Josh Anderson, Alex Broadhurst, Matt Calvert, Zac Dalpe, Sam Gagner, Brett Gallant, William Karlsson, Lauri Korpikoski, Lukas Sedlak, T.J. Tynan, Daniel Zaar.
Defensemen: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Scott Harrington, Jack Johnson, Kyle Quincey, John Ramage, Jaime Sifers, Ryan Stanton.
Goalies: Oscar Dansk, Anton Forsberg, Joonas Korpisalo.
Forwards: Adam Cracknell, Justin Dowling, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler, Curtis McKenzie, Mark McNeill, Travis Morin, Patrick Sharp, Gemel Smith, Matej Stransky.
Defensemen: Mattias Backman, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Ludwig Bystrom, Nick Ebert, Justin Hache, Dan Hamhuis, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Greg Pateryn, Dustin Stevenson.
Goalies: Henri Kiviaho, Maxime Lagace, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, Justin Peters.
Forwards: Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Colin Campbell, Martin Frk, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Drew Miller, Tomas Nosek, Riley Sheahan, Ben Street, Eric Tangradi.
Defensemen: Adam Almquist, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul.
Goalies: Jared Coreau, Petr Mrazek, Edward Pasquale, Jake Paterson.
Forwards: David Desharnais, Justin Fontaine, Matt Hendricks, Roman Horak, Jujhar Khaira, Anton Lander, Iiro Pakarinen, Tyler Pitlick, Zach Pochiro, Benoit Pouliot, Henrik Samuelsson, Bogdan Yakimov.
Defensemen: Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Mark Fraser, Eric Gryba, David Musil, Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart, Kris Russell, Dillon Simpson.
Goalies: Laurent Brossoit, Jonas Gustavsson.
Forwards: Graham Black, Tim Bozon, Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, Jonathan Marchessault, Colton Sceviour, Michael Sgarbossa, Reilly Smith, Brody Sutter, Paul Thompson, Shawn Thornton, Thomas Vanek.
Defensemen: Jason Demers, Jakub Kindl, Brent Regner, Reece Scarlett, MacKenzie Weegar.
Goalies: Reto Berra, Sam Brittain, Roberto Luongo.
Forwards: Andy Andreoff, Justin Auger, Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford, Andrew Crescenzi, Nic Dowd, Marian Gaborik, Jarome Iginla, Trevor Lewis, Michael Mersch, Jordan Nolan, Teddy Purcell, Devin Setoguchi, Nick Shore.
Defensemen: Matt Greene, Vincent Loverde, Brayden McNabb, Cameron Schilling, Rob Scuderi, Zach Trotman.
Goalies: Jack Campbell, Jeff Zatkoff.
Forwards: Brady Brassart, Patrick Cannone, Ryan Carter, Kurtis Gabriel, Martin Hanzal, Erik Haula, Zack Mitchell, Jordan Schroeder, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Ryan White.
Defensemen: Victor Bartley, Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Guillaume Gelinas, Alexander Gudbranson, Gustav Olofsson, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella, Mike Weber.
Goalies: Johan Gustafsson, Darcy Kuemper, Alex Stalock.
Forwards: Daniel Carr, Connor Crisp, Jacob De La Rose, Bobby Farnham, Brian Flynn, Max Friberg, Charles Hudon, Dwight King, Stefan Matteau, Torrey Mitchell, Joonas Nattinen, Steve Ott, Tomas Plekanec, Alexander Radulov, Chris Terry.
Defensemen: Brandon Davidson, Alexei Emelin, Keegan Lowe, Andrei Markov, Nikita Nesterov, Zach Redmond, Dalton Thrower.
Goalies: Al Montoya.
Forwards: Pontus Aberg, Cody Bass, Vernon Fiddler, Mike Fisher, Cody McLeod, James Neal, PA Parenteau, Adam Payerl, Mike Ribeiro, Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons, Craig Smith, Trevor Smith, Austin Watson, Colin Wilson, Harry Zolnierczyk.
Defensemen: Taylor Aronson, Anthony Bitetto, Stefan Elliott, Petter Granberg, Brad Hunt, Matt Irwin, Andrew O’Brien, Adam Pardy, Jaynen Rissling, Scott Valentine, Yannick Weber.
Goalies: Marek Mazanec.
Forwards: Beau Bennett, Michael Cammalleri, Carter Camper, Luke Gazdic, Shane Harper, Jacob Josefson, Ivan Khomutov, Stefan Noesen, Marc Savard, Devante Smith-Pelly, Petr Straka, Mattias Tedenby, Ben Thomson, David Wohlberg.
Defensemen: Seth Helgeson, Viktor Loov, Ben Lovejoy, Andrew MacWilliam, Jon Merrill, Dalton Prout, Karl Stollery, Alexander Urbom.
Goalies: Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood.
Forwards: Josh Bailey, Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Jason Chimera, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Stephen Gionta, Ben Holmstrom, Bracken Kearns, Nikolay Kulemin, Brock Nelson, Shane Prince, Alan Quine, Ryan Strome, Johan Sundstrom.
Defensemen: Calvin de Haan, Matthew Finn, Jesse Graham, Thomas Hickey, Loic Leduc, Scott Mayfield, Dennis Seidenberg.
Goalies: Jean-Francois Berube, Christopher Gibson, Jaroslav Halak.
Forwards: Taylor Beck, Chris Brown, Daniel Catenacci, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Michael Grabner, Marek Hrivik, Nicklas Jensen, Carl Klingberg, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel.
Defensemen: Adam Clendening, Tommy Hughes, Steven Kampfer, Kevin Klein, Michael Paliotta, Brendan Smith, Chris Summers.
Goalies: Magnus Hellberg, Antti Raanta, Mackenzie Skapski.
Forwards: Casey Bailey, Mike Blunden, Alexandre Burrows, Stephane Da Costa, Christopher DiDomenico, Nikita Filatov, Chris Kelly, Clarke MacArthur, Max McCormick, Chris Neil, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Rupert, Bobby Ryan, Viktor Stalberg, Phil Varone, Tommy Wingels.
Defensemen: Mark Borowiecki, Fredrik Claesson, Brandon Gormley, Jyrki Jokipakka, Marc Methot, Patrick Sieloff, Chris Wideman, Mikael Wikstrand.
Goalies: Mike Condon, Chris Driedger, Andrew Hammond.
Forwards: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Greg Carey, Chris Conner, Boyd Gordon, Taylor Leier, Colin McDonald, Andy Miele, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Chris VandeVelde, Jordan Weal, Dale Weise, Eric Wellwood.
Defensemen: Mark Alt, TJ Brennan, Michael Del Zotto, Andrew MacDonald, Will O’Neill, Jesper Pettersson, Nick Schultz.
Goalies: Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth.
Forwards: Josh Archibald, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Carl Hagelin, Tom Kuhnhackl, Chris Kunitz, Kevin Porter, Bryan Rust, Tom Sestito, Oskar Sundqvist, Dominik Uher, Garrett Wilson, Scott Wilson.
Defensemen: Ian Cole, Frank Corrado, Trevor Daley, Tim Erixon, Cameron Gaunce, Ron Hainsey, Stuart Percy, Derrick Pouliot, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Streit, David Warsofsky.
Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury.
Forwards: Kenny Agostino, Andrew Agozzino, Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Caron, Jacob Doty, Landon Ferraro, Alex Friesen, Evgeny Grachev, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jori Lehtera, Brad Malone, Magnus Paajarvi, David Perron, Ty Rattie, Scottie Upshall, Nail Yakupov.
Defensemen: Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Butler, Morgan Ellis, Carl Gunnarsson, Jani Hakanpaa, Petteri Lindbohm, Reid McNeill.
Goalies: Jordan Binnington, Carter Hutton.
Forwards: Mikkel Boedker, Barclay Goodrow, Micheal Haley, Patrick Marleau, Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, Joe Thornton, Joel Ward.
Defensemen: Dylan DeMelo, Brenden Dillon, Dan Kelly, Paul Martin, David Schlemko.
Goalies: Aaron Dell, Troy Grosenick, Harri Sateri.
Forwards: Carter Ashton, Michael Bournival, J.T. Brown, Cory Conacher, Erik Condra, Gabriel Dumont, Stefan Fournier, Byron Froese, Yanni Gourde, Mike Halmo, Henri Ikonen, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Tye McGinn, Greg McKegg, Cedric Paquette, Tanner Richard, Joel Vermin.
Defensemen: Dylan Blujus, Jake Dotchin, Jason Garrison, Slater Koekkoek, Jonathan Racine, Andrej Sustr, Matt Taormina, Luke Witkowski.
Goalies: Peter Budaj, Kristers Gudlevskis, Jaroslav Janus, Mike McKenna.
Forwards: Brian Boyle, Eric Fehr, Colin Greening, Seth Griffith, Teemu Hartikainen, Brooks Laich, Brendan Leipsic, Joffrey Lupul, Milan Michalek, Kerby Rychel, Ben Smith.
Defensemen: Andrew Campbell, Matt Hunwick, Alexey Marchenko, Martin Marincin, Steve Oleksy, Roman Polak.
Goalies: Antoine Bibeau, Curtis McElhinney, Garret Sparks.
Forwards: Reid Boucher, Michael Chaput, Joseph Cramarossa, Derek Dorsett, Brendan Gaunce, Alexandre Grenier, Jayson Megna, Borna Rendulic, Anton Rodin, Drew Shore, Jack Skille, Michael Zalewski.
Defensemen: Alex Biega, Philip Larsen, Tom Nilsson, Andrey Pedan, Luca Sbisa.
Goalies: Richard Bachman, Ryan Miller.
Forwards: Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Paul Carey, Brett Connolly, Stanislav Galiev, Tyler Graovac, Garrett Mitchell, Liam O’Brien, T.J. Oshie, Zach Sill, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Thomas, Nathan Walker, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik.
Defensemen: Karl Alzner, Taylor Chorney, Cody Corbett, Darren Dietz, Christian Djoos, Tom Gilbert, Aaron Ness, Brooks Orpik, Nate Schmidt, Kevin Shattenkirk.
Goalies: Pheonix Copley, Philipp Grubauer.
Forwards: Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Scott Kosmachuk, Tomas Kubalik, JC Lipon, Shawn Matthias, Ryan Olsen, Anthony Peluso, Chris Thorburn.
Defensemen: Ben Chiarot, Toby Enstrom, Brenden Kichton, Julian Melchiori, Paul Postma, Brian Strait, Mark Stuart.
Goalies: Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec