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Rangers’ expansion draft protected list released with no surprises

New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton and

New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton and Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile (R) attend round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Bruce Bennett

Unless there’s some arrangement made with the Vegas Golden Knights before Wednesday, the Rangers stand to lose one player to the NHL’s latest expansion franchise. The leading candidates are Michael Grabner, Antti Raanta, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast.

The league approved and revealed protection lists for all 30 teams Sunday, and judging by the collection of unprotected players available, the Knights have a solid group of goalies from which to choose from, and some quality defensemen to cover their blue line in their inaugural season.

But there aren’t a lot of scoring forwards on the market, which may make Grabner, 29, who netted 27 goals in 76 games last season and has a one-year, $1.65 million contract, appealing to Vegas general manager George McPhee.

Lindberg, 25, a restricted free agent center with upside, could be a longer-term fit for Vegas.

Depending on how many goaltenders the Knights want and what other deals they make, Raanta — with a year left on his contract before become an unrestricted free agent — could remain Henrik Lundqvist’s very capable backup.

Fast, a defense-first right-wing who underwent hip surgery earlier this month, isn’t expected to return until November.

Vegas must submit its selections by 10 a.m. Wednesday, and the roster will be unveiled later that day.

The Blueshirts opted for the 7-3-1 protection format. Besides Lundqvist, they held onto forwards Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello; and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Nick Holden. Players on entry-level contracts such as Brady Skjei, Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey were exempt from the draft.

Blueshirts defenseman Brendan Smith, an unrestricted free agent, also is on the unprotected list, but Vegas would have to choose and sign him to a new, long-term contract by Wednesday, or the Rangers will still have an opportunity to sign him.

Veteran defenseman Kevin Klein, forwards Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel, Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen, and defensemen Adam Clendening and Steven Kampfer were left unprotected, but are not likely to be chosen.

New York Sports