When the complete protection lists for the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft were issued by the NHL earlier today, all eyes were on the Nashville Predators. Fans and analysts have been speculating for months just exactly how the team would go about protecting its top defensemen without jeopardizing their forward lines. Well, today they got their answer: you sacrifice former 40 goal scorer and 10 time 20 goal scorer James Neal.
The 29 year-old Neal was among those left unprotected by Nashville GM David Poile today, leading to speculation that the player will either be selected or that a deal is in place to keep him in Smashville. The team elected to protect four defensemen and just four forwards from being selected including its entire top forward line and its top two defense pairings.
It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for Neal. He’s inarguably the top player available to the Golden Knights from Nashville’s roster, but he’s also a valuable part of the Preds offense. Poile is no shrinking violet and will likely show little hesitation in moving an asset it he feels Neal is worth keeping around. Until the Expansion Draft next Wednesday however, Neal’s future will be the subject of much speculation.