New York Rangers' expansion plan revolves around Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein

The New York Rangers almost surely have seven forwards they want to protect in the expansion draft in June, which makes picking three defensemen to accompany them that much harder.

Let's assume the Blueshirts will go with the 7-3-1 protection format (seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie) rather than the 8-1 format (eight skaters and a goalie). Let's includeRick Nash (who must be protected because of his no-movement clause) plus Kevin Hayes, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller and Mika Zibanejad. Those are your seven, right?
Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevichare exempt as first-year pros. That leavesMichael Grabner, Brandon Pirri, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindbergavailable for the Vegas Golden Knights to select for their initial roster. Before the season started, you wouldn't have thought twice about exposing Grabner, but the reclamation project has scored 14 goals. Still, who would you remove from the seven forwards above to protect him?

Some people might try to convince Nash, who will have one year and $7.8 million left on his contract when this season ends, to waive his no-move clause and allow himself to be exposed in the expansion draft. But if I'm the Rangers, I'm going to focus my efforts on convincing a different player to waive his clause.

Veteran defensemanDan Girardi, 32, will have three years -- at a cap hit of $5.5 million per year -- left on his contract after this season. As it stands, the Rangers must protect Girardi because he's one of the four guys on the team who are on the list of players with no-move clauses who must be protected (unless the players agree to waive them). The league sent that list to all 31 teams last month. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Marc Staal join Girardi and Nash on that list for the Rangers.

But if you agree that the Rangers, as things stand, will opt for the 7-3-1 protection format, that leaves three defensemen whom the team can protect. Ryan McDonagh would obviously top the list, and New York will have to protect Staal and Girardi, thanks to their no-moves.

That leaves Kevin Klein and Nick Holden exposed. (Brady Skjei is exempt as a second-year pro.)

Now, if New York feels strongly that it needs to keep a guy such as Klein, for example, then the Rangers have to go to Girardi, a respected veteran, and try to convince him to waive his protection.

That's easier said than done, of course. But these are the type of uncomfortable conversations that teams will have with veteran players. Or at least they shouldhave them if they want to truly maximize the system because odds are Vegas isn't going to load up on veterans with big contracts. The Knights will take a few, yes, but I don't think it will take many. In most cases, teams will have to ask a veteran player to waive his no-movement clause just to expose him for expansion draft purposes -- but it's likely he'll end up staying put.

Either way, the Rangers are going to lose a decent player in the expansion draft, and they know it. There's really no way around it.

Heck, perhaps backup goalie Antti Raantawould appeal the most to the Golden Knights. He's been lights-out this season behind Lundqvist. He has one more year and $1 million left on his contract after this season. What a bargain. But I think the real decision for the Rangers will be between Girardi and Klein.

As for the organization's top prospects, the team's most notable kids are exempt. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts shouldn't have any issues coming up with the top other players to make available for Vegas (one goalie, one defenseman and two forwards).

Raanta would obviously be the goalie they would expose at this point, Holden could perhaps be the blueliner, and there are a few forward options as well (Grabner, Lindberg, Fast, Pirri et al.). It should be noted that pending restricted free agents (who have met the games-played requirement) simply need to be given qualifying offers to be eligible for expansion draft exposure.
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