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Protected list of 49ers players for hypothetical expansion draft

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The NHL expansion draft goes down on Wednesday. With their rules, what 49ers players would you protect?

The NHL welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights to the league this offseason, and as a Las Vegas native, I’m slowly figuring out hockey. I don’t know how passionate I’ll get about it, but it’s cool to have a pro team in my hometown.

The Golden Knights have signed a couple players, but on Wednesday, the expansion draft takes place. This past Saturday, the 30 other teams submitted protected lists, and the Golden Knights front office has until Wednesday to decide which players they want to pick. They have until 7 a.m. PT on Wednesday to submit their list of 30 names, and the full roster will be announced Wednesday night at the annual NHL Awards show.

Now that we’re in a slow period, the timing is perfect for a fun thought exercise, courtesy of our friends at Buffalo Rumblings. They took the NHL’s expansion draft rules and applied them to the Bills roster. So, why not do the same for the 49ers?

Here are the guidelines from NHL.com

Each team had the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. All players with continuing and effective no-movement clauses had to be protected. All first- and second-year professionals are exempt from selection, as are unsigned draft choices.

The NFL last had an expansion draft in 2002, and in that one, teams had to submit five names another team could pick. Rather than submit those five, BR followed the NHL’s rules and figured out a comparable percentage of players to protect. It resulted in their decision to protect 12 players from the Bills likely 53-man roster. We could do the 90-man roster and protect 21 players, but I like the idea of the smaller number providing a bit more of a challenge.

Here are the 12 players I selected. I used my post-minicamp 53-man roster projection. Everyone’s will be a little different, so you’re welcome to adjust as needed.

  • Brian Hoyer
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Kyle Juszczyk
  • Pierre Garçon
  • Marquise Goodwin
  • Jeremy Kerley
  • Joe Staley
  • Jeremy Zuttah
  • Earl Mitchell
  • NaVorro Bowman
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Eric Reid

Some teams will have tough choices, but the 49ers are not exactly looking at a ton of options. They would not have to protect anybody from their 2015, 2016, and 2017 draft classes, so that removes a lot of notable names. Some names I left off include Daniel Kilgore, Ahmad Brooks, Quinton Dial, and Aaron Lynch.

I might be tempted by Lynch over Mitchell, but he is not exactly getting much love this offseason in press coverage. It does not mean he won’t pan out this year, but I could see him being someone the team is comfortable leaving unprotected. Mitchell has a bigger contract, but with Lynch hitting free agency next year, I just don’t see him being a guy they would protect in this fake expansion draft.

Brian Hoyer is not the most exciting of options, but given the status of the 49ers quarterback position, it’s entirely unlikely they would leave him unprotected. He’s not a long-term answer, but he’s a capable option for the short term.

What 12 players would you protect, knowing that you would not use a spot on players drafted in 2015, 2016, or 2017?