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Jason Botterill on expansion draft talks with Vegas: 'You never know what can change'

Sabres' GM Jason Botterill is in ongoing talks with Vegas GM George McPhee, but the new man in charge in Buffalo still doesn't have a concrete idea regarding what will unfold during next week's expansion draft.

The Golden Knights, the NHL's newest team, will have plenty of options when it comes to building their roster next week. Outlined here are the rules of how Vegas can select players, including that other teams have two options regarding combinations of players to protect (seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters regardless of position and one goaltender) before Vegas plucks one player from each organization.

The rules for the expansion draft essentially give the Golden Knights the option to select a third-line forward, second-pair defenseman or backup goaltender from every team.

"I've had conversations with him and I think that's a two-step process. Obviously I think we feel comfortable where we're at right now, but you never know what can change in the next couple hours or a couple days here," Botterill said Thursday after the introductory press conference for new Sabres head coach Phil Housley. "But then there's the unknown. Once you hand your list over, there's a whole 'nother market that George is gonna have at with other teams now involved. We feel comfortable where we're at in that process and George has been very fair to us."

Inside the Sabres: Doubling down on expansion draft ideas

Former Buffalo GM Tim Murray had the framework of a deal sorted out with McPhee to protect one of the Sabres' players, as detailed here, but time will tell what Botterill has up his sleeve for the expansion draft. Part of the uncertainty with regards to what will unfold is that each team has its preferences of who to protect and who to unload. McPhee's standing with Botterill could change based on another team's move, which is out of Buffalo's control.

“We might like a particular player, but there’s another player on that roster we like, too, and is a better fit," McPhee said in early June at the NHL Scouting Combine. "Everything’s related to everything else. Doing one thing with one club may change how we approach another club."

Teams have until June 17 to submit their protection lists, and those lists will be released publicly the next day. Vegas has the next three days, June 18-21, to sign free agents and it will submit its picks at 10 a.m. June 21. The expansion draft results will be announced that night during the NHL Awards Ceremony.

Until then, seemingly anything is possible.

"I can't tell for sure," Botterill said regarding if he knows what will happen between Buffalo and Vegas "...we've talked about different parameters and different possibilities. It's also very difficult for Las Vegas. You have 30 other teams giving them lists. They can certainly make projections, but he's not gonna be able to give final answers to most teams until he has all the information in front of him."

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