As many of you who follow the NHL know, next season will feature the first chapter in the new Las Vegas Golden Knights franchise history. But, before that can happen, the Golden Knights have to build themselves a roster, and as per NHL tradition, that means that Vegas will have the opportunity to select one player from each of the remaining 30 teams in the league.

In years past, the goal was to simply fill out the roster of the new expansion franchise, but this time around, the NHL has decided that it wants their newest club member to be competitive right out of the gate. So, certain rules were put in place to help speed up Vegas' competitive timetable.

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June 21 Golden Knights will make an announcement

On #June 21St, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Golden Knights will formally announce to the world, their list of selected players.

The NY #Rangers, are in the same boat as every other club in the NHL. They will lose one player to the new Sin City team. There has been much speculation over who this player might be, and one name that has been prevalent among the rumors is backup goalie Antti Raanta.

Having covered this team for the past season, here are my picks, as well as the reasoning behind them, for who the Rangers should protect, and who, unfortunately, will be leaving.

Picks and reasonings

Format: The Rangers will go with the 7-3-1 protection scheme. (7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie.)

Goaltending: Henrik Lundqvist.

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This is both an easy decision, and a gut-wrenching one. For starters, King Henrik has been the face of the franchise since 2005 and is the franchise leader in Wins, Shutouts, and Saves, to name a few.

The gut-wrenching aspect is that we now know that the King is in the back nine of his career, and he needs a capable backup to spell him roughly 20-25 times per season. Antti Raanta is that capable backup. In fact, Raanta would be the number one netminder on many teams throughout the league.

Due to his performance this past year, Raanta is a hot commodity and is sure to be amongst the three goaltenders selected by the Golden Knights.

An additional dilemma

To add to the dilemma, even if the Rangers did the unthinkable, and wanted to move on from Hank, they couldn't. His No-Trade Clause demands that he be protected in the expansion draft. Sorry Antti, but this looks like goodbye.

Defensemen: Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal. This is not quite as straightforward as it seems, so let me break it down for you.

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McDonagh is the team captain, and clear number one defenseman. In fact, he is one of the best defensemen in the league. Is he in the class of Erik Karlsson, PK Subban, and Brent Burns? No. But he's in the tier directly below them, and that in it of itself should be enough reason to want to keep him around. Another would be, his modified No-Trade Clause, which demands he be protected unless the Rangers want to buy him out. But don't worry Rangers' fans, he's not a buyout candidate. This is something I can't say about the other two defensemen I've selected.

Sharp falls from grace

Both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have experienced a rather sharp fall from grace over the past two seasons. You could say it's age catching up with them, especially Girardi, who is 33 and is definitely breaking down due to the wear and tear of being such a stalwart defenseman throughout his career. Staal, while three years Girardi's junior, is experiencing the same aftereffects of playing his position. And let's not forget, that while Girardi has had mostly minor injuries throughout his career, Staal has had at least one serious concussion, plus that gruesome eye injury a few years ago, and he hasn't been the same since.

At least one of these two blue liners is likely to be bought out in an attempt to free up some cap space, but without predicting what GM Jeff Gorton is planning financially, we don't know who it will be. But rumor has it, that Girardi is likely the one to go.

Keep in mind, the only reason that either of them would even need to be bought out is that they both contain No-Movement Clauses in their contracts and would, therefore, have to be protected sans a buyout.

The hardest decision

Forwards: Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Mika Zibanejad. This is by far the hardest decision that GM Jeff Gorton and his staff have to make.

The Rangers have a wealth of talent and depth at the forward positions, and unfortunately, they can't protect them all. Guys like Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich aren't eligible for the draft as they haven't accumulated enough playing time in the NHL at this point in their brief careers.

They won't be so lucky with some of their other young players. By rule, they have the right to protect any pending RFAs (Restricted Free Agents), and because of Vegas' ability to sign the unprotected RFAs, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, and Mika Zibanejad are all at risk. The Rangers will protect Zibanejad, but Lindberg and Fast are likely to be exposed to the draft. Players of their caliber will be intriguing to Vegas GM George McPhee and his staff. Don't be surprised if one of them gets signed by the Golden Knights if they don't first come to an agreement to stay in New York.

Rick Nash has to be protected as he has a No-Movement Clause, so, even though we've been hearing about Nash's potential exit from New York for several years now, unless he decides to waive the clause himself (fat chance of that happening), he has to be protected.

Mats Zuccarello is one of, if not the best overall playmaker on the team, and his being protected is as safe a bet as the sun rising tomorrow morning.

Miller, Hayes, and Kreider

Next -- for the much-maligned trio of Miller, Hayes, and Kreider. For several years now, we have been hearing about how these three will be the offense nucleus of the team, and that it was just a matter of time before they had that, "breakout," year. Well, guess what? It hasn't happened, and at this point, it probably won't. Kreider and Miller have been in the league long enough for us to know that what you see is what you're going to get. Yes, they are solid 20-25 goal scorers, with Kreider almost reaching 30 this past season, but that's all they will ever be, and don't expect any significant changes from them. Kreider disappears for long stretches of time, and while Miller is more consistent he also likes to play hide-and-seek every now and again, and that's not going to change. Hayes has played three seasons at this point, and while two have been good, while sandwiching around a dismal sophomore season, he likely will never be more than a 15-20 goal scorer at best, and has already accumulated a reputation for being a "soft" player.

An interesting case

Now for the interesting case. Derek Stepan does not have an automatic protection clause (NMC or NTC), so in theory he and his $6.5M per year salary could be left unprotected in favor of another forward. But, let's be honest, the only reason the fans wants Stepan to be let go is because of his dismal post-season this year. He is a fan favorite, a steady 55-60 point player, and team leader. Yes, he is often overexposed against the top line centers from other teams, but if the Rangers could ever acquire or develop a true top line center and slide Stepan down to the second line, his speed deficiency would be masked and nobody would complain about him at all.

With these selections, that means that guys like Michael Grabner and Nick Holden will be exposed. Grabner especially will be an enticing player to Vegas as he is coming off a 27-goal campaign and is only under contract for a paltry $1.65M. The Rangers will be betting on Vegas getting scared off by Grabner's hip issue from a season ago, and his maddening second half disappearing act.

Unfortunately, they can't all be protected and somebody has to go. That player will likely be Antti Raanta.

With Marc-Andre Fleury having once again lost his job to Matt Murray, the Penguins will not protect their former Stanley Cup winning goalie. This will give Vegas the opportunity to select Fleury as their starting netminder, and to then have Raanta backing him up. Their third goalie, (they have to select three), will likely be traded as a means to shore up some other weakness of the team.

Besides, with Fleury's penchant for losing his job to younger puck-stoppers, Raanta will be their starting goalie before you know it, and he deserves the chance to show just what he can do over the course of a full season worth of starts.