Neal left off Preds protection list

James Neal (AP Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Nashville Predators are going lose one of their better players and James Neal is the prime candidate after being left off the Preds protection list for the upcoming National Hockey League expansion draft.

The list reads as everyone might expect with Pekka Rinne, the protected goalie, followed by the Preds four key defenseman, PK Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis.

The entire first line is nicknamed the JOFA line, for Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson. They are also under protection with young, up-and-coming center, Calle Jarnkrok, the eighth and final skater to fall under the protected domain.

While James Neal scored six goals during the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, he has one year left on his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If the Vegas Golden Knights decide to take him, he could wind up being a one-year rental.

The other side to this coin is that Predators General Manager, David Poile, can still make a deal with Las Vegas to keep Neal with the team. However, the Golden Knights could also pick Neal and trade him to another team for an even better bargain if one is on the table.

The Golden Knights have until 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to finalize all their roster decisions and James Neal is not the only Predators player available.

Pontus Aberg, Colton Sissons, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Yannick Weber, Anthony Bitetto and Matt Irwin are all available to Vegas if they like one of them, or if Poile can somehow throw in a draft pick to sweeten the deal.

The two names among the seven players, other than James Neal, that could be enticing are forward Pontus Aberg who had five points in 16 playoff games this season and is still a budding young prospect, as well as Colton Sissons who had 12 points in 22 games during the Preds Stanley Cup Final run.

The Golden Knights roster will be announced Wednesday night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.