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With protected list release looming, what might Sabres do?

Happy Father's Day and Happy Expansion Draft Protected List Day!

The NHL will release the names of all players protected by their 30 clubs for this week's expansion draft at 10:30 a.m. The Vegas Golden Knights will then spend the next 72 hours poring over the lists and then make their choices -- one from each team -- that will be announced Wednesday night as part of the NHL's Awards Show.

So how might this impact the Sabres?

The Sabres are expected to use the 7-3-1 format for protection (seven forwards, three defenseman and one goalie). The only player the Sabres must protect because of no-move clauses is Kyle Okposo. Their likely protections up front will be Okposo, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, William Carrier and Zemgus Girgensons.

On defense, they'll certainly protect Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe. The third choice is interesting. Will it be Nathan Beaulieu, acquired yesterday from Montreal? Or was he acquired simply to let Vegas take him and does Buffalo protect the much more expensive Zach Bogosian?

Beaulieu is a puck-mover who would seemingly mesh well with new coach Phil Housley's attacking style. But his acquisition could have been a way to get Vegas to steer clear of someone like backup goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was just signed a few days ago to a team-friendly, two-year deal for $1.5 million

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In goal, it seems likely the Sabres protect starter Robin Lehner and hope to arrange something as mentioned above so they don't lose Ullmark.

As first- or second-year players, the Sabres don't have to protect any of the names on this list: Forwards Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Alex Nylander, Justin Bailey, Evan Rodrigues, Hudson Fasching, Nick Baptiste, C.J. Smith, Sean Malone, Eric Cornel, Vaclav Karabacek and Jean Dupuy; defensemen Victor Antipin, Brendan Guhle, Casey Nelson, Devante Stephens and Brycen Martin; or goalies Jonas Johansson and Jason Kasdorf.

That's a relief and things would have quite a bit different had expansion been next year, because Eichel and Reinhart would have required protection.

Who does that leave for Vegas? Bogosian, if he's not on the Sabres' list. At roughly $5.14 million per season for the next three seasons, Buffalo could certainly use the cap relief.

There's Matt Moulson ($5 million for two seasons) or Tyler Ennis ($4.6 million for two seasons).  And don't forget how Moulson has family ties to Vegas GM George McPhee. Or maybe the Golden Knights go for Josh Gorges ($3.9 million for next season). A lesser choice by Vegas -- and a hugely disappointing one for Buffalo in terms of cap relief -- would be forward Nicolas Deslauriers ($775,000 for next season) or defenseman Brady Austin (pending restricted free agent).

Stay tuned.

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