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Detroit — They know they’re going to lose a player.

The Red Wings know that, along with the 29 other NHL teams that will give up one player to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who join the league this season.

The question becomes, who do you protect, and who do you leave unprotected and let the Golden Knights choose from?

Teams must submit their protection lists by Saturday at 5 p.m. Those lists will be released to the public Sunday at 10 a.m.

Each team is allowed to protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie — or go another route of eight skaters and one goalie.

A trade freeze takes effect at 3 p.m. Saturday and continues until Thursday at 8 a.m. (though teams can deal with Vegas).

The Golden Knights will announce their picks during the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas Wednesday at 8 p.m.

From the outset, general manager Ken Holland said the Red Wings will go the 7-3-1 route.

“We know what we’re going to do from a protection standpoint,” Holland said. “Vegas will pick a player from our team, a player who was on our roster.”

Many teams will continue until Saturday to talk with Vegas general manager George McPhee about the possibility of making side trades — sending Vegas assets (players, draft picks) in return for the expansion team not selecting a certain player.

But Holland doesn't seem interested in those types of trades. Holland said he’s told McPhee the Red Wings are a team that needs to protect their picks.

Holland will continue to talk to general managers who appear squeezed by the protection lists and may want to trade an extra defenseman rather than lose him for nothing.

Anaheim, Minnesota, Nashville, Winnipeg and Carolina have been talked about as organizations that have more defensemen than can be protected.

Talks are expected to continue leading straight into next weekend's draft in Chicago.

“I’ve talked to general managers around the league and have a sense of what is out there,” Holland said. “If there’s something out there that can make us a stronger hockey team, we’ll listen.”

So, who do the Red Wings’ decide to protect?

Players with less than two years of pro experience are exempt, so a player like Dylan Larkin need not be protected.

But Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou have gone beyond the two-year threshold and need protection.

Using the 7-3-1 formula, the seven forwards, arguably, could be Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Mantha, Athanasiou, Frans Nielsen (who must be protected because of a no-movement clause in his contract) and Justin Abdelkader.

In that scenario, forwards such as Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening would be exposed, along with prospect Tomas Nosek, who was impressive during a late call-up with the Red Wings and in the AHL playoffs.

On defense, Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green and either Nick Jensen or Xavier Ouellet are expected to be protected.

That would leave either Ouellet or Jensen, along with Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, older, injury-riddled players with term on their contracts left, and Ryan Sproul, left exposed.

Perhaps the toughest decision the Red Wings have will be the goaltending, choosing who to protect between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek.

Mrazek is eight years younger (Howard 33, Mrazek 25) and Howard has two years left on his contract at a $5.29 million cap hit, while Mrazek has only one year left at $4 million.

But Howard outplayed Mrazek this past season, and Howard was more impressive at the recent world championships.

The Red Wings will likely not protect goaltender Jared Coreau, who had consistency issues during a three-month stay with the Red Wings when Howard was injured.

But Coreau was one of Grand Rapids’ best players during the Griffins’ recent Calder Cup-winning run.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

About the Expansion Draft

* Teams must submit their protection lists by Saturday at 5 p.m.

* Teams can protect either 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie or 8 skaters and 1 defensemen.

* The protected lists will be released publicly Sunday at 10 a.m.

* The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will announce their selections — all 30 teams will lose one player — Wednesday during the NHL Awards Show from Las Vegas.

Ted Kulfan’s Red Wings’ protected list

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard:

Defense: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterbeg.

Notables not protected:

Goaltenders: Petr Mrazek, Jared Coreau

Defense: Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul

Forwards: Martin Frk, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Tomas Nosek, Riley Sheahan 

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