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Ten names to watch during the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft

Nashville’s James Neal, seen crashing the Pittsburgh goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, is one of the more intriguing names available for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

What might the Vegas Golden Knights look like this fall?

General manager George McPhee can contemplate that for real now, after lists of players available to the NHL's 31st franchise were released on Sunday morning.

The Knights will pick one from each of the other 30 teams in the so-called expansion draft – for a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders due for submission to NHL head office Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET.

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Vegas has made its willingness to negotiate known, meaning it might just stay away from certain players if the price is right.

1. James Neal, winger

Age: 29

Contract status: unrestricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $5-million (U.S.)

His appeal: Neal has scored at least 21 goals in every season of his NHL career. The Whitby, Ont., native hit for 23 with the Predators last year, adding six more in Nashville's run to the Stanley Cup final.

Vegas may be challenged to score in the early going and Neal would help those efforts as a one-year stop-gap.

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2. Josh Manson, defenceman

Age: 25

Contract status: restricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $825,000

His appeal: He's 6 foot 3 and 215 pounds, mobile for someone that size, and a punishing force physically. Manson has also posted stellar puck possession numbers in his short NHL tenure and makes next to nothing on the cap.

The Ducks may have swung a deal with the Knights to keep hands off Manson for precisely those reasons.

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3. Matt Dumba, defenceman

Age: 22

Contract status: restricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $2.55-million

His appeal: Like Manson, Dumba could be a nice long-term piece for the Vegas core, a former top-10 pick (seventh over all in 2012) coming off his finest NHL season.

The Regina native has a bomb of a shot, throws a nasty open-ice hit and looks to be ready for more opportunity after soaking up 20 minutes a game for the Wild last year.

4. Trevor van Riemsdyk, defenceman

Age: 25

Contract status: restricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $825,000

His appeal: As they build their roster, the Knights could opt for veterans on defence such as Dan Hamhuis or Adam McQuaid or opt for younger types on cheap contracts with room to grow. Van Riemsdyk fits that bill.

The 25-year-old has played effectively in a depth role with Chicago for the past two seasons, boosting up veterans such as Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell. He might be worthy of a bigger role in Vegas.

5. Philipp Grubauer, goaltender

Age: 25

Contract status: restricted free agent

Cap hit: N/A

His appeal: Grubauer posted numbers this past season in Washington that were actually slightly better (in far fewer starts, mind you) than teammate Braden Holtby, a Vézina trophy nominee. The netminder, who needs a new contract, might just be the next Cam Talbot or Martin Jones, a backup ready for a starting opportunity.

6. Sami Vatanen, defenceman

Age: 26

Contract status: unrestricted free agent in 2021

Cap hit: $4.875-million

His appeal: Though he fell off offensively with a dip in luck this past year (24 points) and underlying numbers suggest he's slightly overexposed in a top pairing role, Vatanen remains an effective puck mover and transporter and helpful power play asset. He's also under control at a reasonable annual number for three more seasons.

7. Eric Staal, centre

Age: 32

Contract status: unrestricted free agent in 2019

Cap hit: $3.5-million

His appeal: Turns out Staal still might have more to give as a top-two NHL centre – rebounding from a meek finish in Carolina with 28 goals and 65 points in his first season for the Wild. The Thunder Bay product would be a strong option down the middle for the Knights for the next two seasons.

8. Petr Mrazek, goaltender

Age: 25

Contract status: restricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $4-million

His appeal: Mrazek is coming off a rough season in Detroit, one that saw him post the league's worst save percentage (.901) among those that played at least 40 games. Still, he's young and only slightly removed from a stellar 2015-16 season (.921 save percentage). Detroit oddly chose to protect 33-year-old Jimmy Howard in his place.

9. Jonathan Marchessault, winger

Age: 26

Contract status: unrestricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $750,000

His appeal: Marchessault was among the NHL's best bargains last season, potting 30 goals and 51 points for Florida on the first year of a two-year deal worth $1.5-million. Another 30 goal-campaign is unlikely next year but the Quebec native showed he could produce with an opportunity.

10. Brock Nelson, centre

Age: 25

Contract status: restricted free agent in 2018

Cap hit: $2.5-million

His appeal: Nelson has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons – and a large bunch of them at even strength. A former first-round pick with good size and youth on his side, Nelson would offer the Knights depth down the middle.

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