The NHL has awarded Las Vegas an expansion franchise beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Established teams in the league will have to offer up a large number of players in the expansion draft next summer.

Every team has the option to protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie -or- eight skaters and one goalie. Obviously we are a LONG way from the draft, but as of today who should the Wild keep?

One hindrance facing the Wild is the number of aging, expensive players with no-movement clauses whose contracts prevent them from being left unprotected.

That means Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu all MUST be protected under their current deals, meaning they are already locked in to three forwards and one defenseman.

The locks to be protected on the roster are Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba. That makes five forwards and three defensemen, or eight total skaters.

Borderline guys at this point (again, LOTS of time from now until the draft) would probably include Erik Haula, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Mikael Granlund and Justin Fontaine.

Another interesting decision will be which goaltender to protect. Devan Dubnyk's contract would likely allow the Wild to leave him vulnerable to the draft, with other, cheaper goalies likely to be available. This means Darcy Kuemper (provided he's still with the team) would be the guy to protect.