Here is a good explanation I got from the league on the protected lists that were turned in today and what it means. (It's a learning process for all of us.)
Teams have the exclusive negotiating rights with these players until June 15, when the Season-Ending Rosters are due. The Season-Ending Roster can only contain 20 players, and only players who signed an ECHL contract for the 2012-13 season. Teams hold the rights to players on the Season-Ending Roster until July 1, when the eight Qualifying Offers are due. Of the eight Qualifying Offers, no more than four can be veterans for the 2013-14 season. Players who sign a contract between June 16 and July 1 do not need to receive a Qualifying Offer.
Non-veteran players who receive a Qualifying Offer have their ECHL rights maintained by that team through the 2013-14 season. Teams hold the rights to veteran players who receive a Qualifying Offer until Aug. 1, at which time the player becomes a restricted free agent. On Sept. 1, if a veteran has not signed a contract or his Qualifying Offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Again, the players protected today by Fort Wayne were Charlie Effinger, Daniel Maggio, Scott Kishel, Nick Wheeler, Mathieu Gagnon, Jeremy Gates, Tyler Butler, Jamie Milam, Eric Giosa, Matt Firman, Jean-Michel Rizk, John Dunbar, Chris Auger, Mike Hoban, Brandon Marino, Matt Syroczynski, Thomas Beauregard, Kaleigh Schrock, Brett Smith and the recently retired Colin Chaulk.