Philadelphia Flyers

Marc-Andre Fleury among players exposed for Vegas NHL expansion draft

Marc-Andre Fleury among players exposed for Vegas NHL expansion draft

Three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Nashville forward James Neal and Anaheim defenseman Sami Vatanen were among the high-profile players made available on Sunday for the Vegas Golden Knights to select in the NHL expansion draft.

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.

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 by exposing Neal, a 10-time 20-goal-scorer, because they elected to protect a fourth defenseman.

Vatanen was the odd-man out in being left unprotected from a deep and talented group of Ducks defensemen. The fifth-year player, however, won't be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury.

Neal wasn't the only high-profile player left exposed by the Predators, who are coming off their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Other notable Nashville players unprotected were forwards Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons.

Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer, Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown and Montreal's Tomas Plekanec. As for defensemen, Buffalo's Zach Bogosian and Dallas' Dan Hamhuis are available.

There's also a wealth of proven goaltenders available given that teams were required to expose at least one. Aside from Fleury, other goalies exposed 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, which the Golden Knights have the option to sign over the next three days. Any pending free agent signed would count as Vegas' expansion-draft selection from that player's team.

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

McPhee has said he's 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 won't be formally revealed until Wednesday.

There's 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, such as 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 $7-plus-million cap hit.

The Senators were handcuffed by veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf's decision to not waive his no-movement clause. That forced the team to also expose top-pairing blueliner Marc Methot.

Among players with previous connections to McPhee available are Stars center Cody Eakin, Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Neuvirth, whom he drafted in Washington.

The former Capitals GM 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 NHL. The league's annual awards ceremonies will be held in Las Vegas on Wednesday and then teams will gather in Chicago for the two-day entry draft, which opens on Friday.

Then comes the start of free agency, which opens 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.

"Vegas doesn't need 10," said Chayka after making a proactive move to free up the Coyotes' protected list by trading veteran goalie Mike Smith to Calgary.

Chayka was exaggerating, but only slightly. 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.

The start of the expansion draft process means a trading freeze is in place through Thursday morning for the 30 other teams.

That doesn't mean the other GMs can't talk.

Said Chayka: "I think the league will kind of wait and see how the exposure lists comes out ... then hopefully re-engage and see if we can make a deal that makes our team better."

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).