Mock Expansion Draft: Predicting the Kraken's selections
Now that protected lists have been made public ahead of Wednesday's NHL expansion draft, it's time to predict the Seattle Kraken's 30 selections.
Plenty of stars are up for grabs, but this isn't solely a best-player-available exercise. We expect to hear a few household names, though numerous factors may persuade Seattle to select some lesser-known talents. After all, the front office is building a sustainable franchise, not a one-season wonder.
The Kraken need to select at least 20 players who are under contract for the 2021-22 season. They'll also need a cumulative salary-cap hit between $48.9 million and $81.5 million, or between 60% and 100% of the upper limit. Seattle must also pick at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.
Lastly, the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from the selection process after going through their own expansion draft only four years ago.
With that in mind, here's who we see Seattle taking later this week.
* Denotes pending unrestricted free agent
Notable players exposed: F Ryan Getzlaf*, F Derek Grant, F Danton Heinen, F Adam Henrique, F Sonny Milano, F Alexander Volkov, D Haydn Fleury, D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Anthony Stolarz
Prediction: Volkov. The Kraken will presumably give Shattenkirk a long look, but Volkov, a 23-year-old potential bottom-six winger, is a better monetary fit. He's set to earn just $925,000 in 2021-22, which is exactly the price tag Seattle needs to offset some of the heftier contracts the club will be inheriting.
Notable players exposed: F Derick Brassard*, F Michael Bunting*, F Christian Fischer, F Tyler Pitlick, D Jason Demers*, D Alex Goligoski*, D Niklas Hjalmarsson*, D Ilya Lyubushkin, D Jordan Oesterle*, G Antti Raanta*
Prediction: Fischer. Seattle could realistically tap Pitlick, or take a flier on Bunting, a pending unrestricted free agent. But Fischer is a perfectly justifiable pick. He has a big body with scoring touch, and there's one season remaining on his two-year, $2-million deal. The 24-year-old should find a spot on the fourth line.
Notable players exposed: F Taylor Hall*, F Ondrej Kase, F David Krejci*, F Sean Kuraly*, F Nick Ritchie, D Connor Clifton, D Mike Reilly*, G Jaroslav Halak*, G Tuukka Rask*
Prediction: Ritchie. With Hall, Krejci, Reilly, Halak, and Rask all pending UFAs, Ritchie is the surest bet. Kase is enticing, but his injury history should scare off Seattle. Clifton is a possibility, too. But Ritchie's combination of size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and scoring (15 goals over 56 games in 2020-21) is too hard to pass up.
Notable players exposed: F Cody Eakin, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Kyle Okposo, F Tobias Rieder*, F Riley Sheahan*, F Jeff Skinner, D William Borgen, D Jake McCabe, D Colin Miller, G Carter Hutton*
Prediction: Borgen. Despite his horrible 2020-21 season, Skinner is probably the most talented player available, but he's way too expensive. McCabe would be a tremendous piece for the Kraken, but he comes with risk as a UFA. Borgen, on the other hand, offers upside. He's the smartest pick here.
Notable players exposed: F Josh Leivo*, F Milan Lucic, F Derek Ryan*, D Mark Giordano, D Oliver Kylington, D Nikita Nesterov*
Prediction: Giordano. The 2019 Norris Trophy winner may turn 38 in October, but he's still a hell of a player. He would slot in on the first defensive pairing and could also man the point on a power-play unit. Plus, if he doesn't work out in Seattle, Giordano can be flipped at the trade deadline. There's one season left on a deal that pays him $6.75 million per year.
Notable players exposed: F Morgan Geekie, F Steven Lorentz, F Jordan Martinook*, F Brock McGinn*, F Nino Niederreiter, F Cedric Paquette*, D Jake Bean, D Jake Gardiner, D Dougie Hamilton*, G Petr Mrazek*, G James Reimer*
Prediction: Bean. There's untapped potential in the 23-year-old restricted free agent who has been stuck behind some really strong defensemen in Carolina. There's an interesting Seattle connection too, as Kraken GM Ron Francis selected Bean 13th overall in 2016 while running the Canes. This situation screams reunion.
Notable players exposed: F Ryan Carpenter, F Brett Connolly, F Adam Gaudette, F Vinnie Hinostroza*, D Calvin de Haan, D Nikita Zadorov, G Collin Delia, G Malcolm Subban
Prediction: Zadorov. As a 6-foot-6, 236-pound defenseman who can skate, "Big Z" is somewhat of an NHL unicorn, making him the obvious choice from Chicago's list. As a bonus, the RFA D-man can play both the left and right sides.
Notable players exposed: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare*, F J.T. Compher, F Joonas Donskoi, F Gabriel Landeskog*, F Brandon Saad*, F Carl Soderberg*, D Erik Johnson, G Devan Dubnyk*
Prediction: Donskoi. While Landeskog is a tantalizing option as a pending UFA, it feels like the Avalanche captain will eventually re-sign with Colorado. So, with that in mind and Saad heading for free agency, the decision is really between Donskoi or Compher. And Donskoi, who could play in Seattle's top-nine and help out the power play, is simply more desirable than Compher.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Notable players exposed: F Max Domi, F Mikhail Grigorenko, F Ryan MacInnis*, F Kevin Stenlund, D Gabriel Carlsson, D Michael Del Zotto*, D Scott Harrington, D Dean Kukan
Prediction: Domi. He's the no-brainer pick after proving he can be a point-producing top-six NHL forward. Domi is also in need of a scenery change, and he's by far the best option from Columbus' list. He's just 26 years old, too, but the Kraken would be his fourth team.
Notable players exposed: F Nicholas Caamano, F Andrew Cogliano*, F Blake Comeau, F Justin Dowling*, D Joel Hanley, D Jamie Oleksiak*, D Mark Pysyk*, D Andrej Sekera, D Sami Vatanen*, G Ben Bishop
Prediction: Hanley. It's not the sexiest pick, but Oleksiak would be risky as a UFA. Same goes for Bishop, who's 35 in November and isn't fully healthy. Hanley is a journeyman blue-liner who seems to have finally hit his stride at the NHL level. He could be a sixth or seventh defenseman for Seattle.
Detroit Red Wings
Notable players exposed: F Valtteri Filppula*, F Sam Gagner*, F Luke Glendening*, F Vladislav Namestnikov, F Frans Nielsen, F Bobby Ryan*, F Evgeny Svechnikov, D Christian Djoos, D Joe Hicketts*, D Marc Staal*, D Troy Stecher, G Jonathan Bernier*
Prediction: Stecher. Though Namestnikov could give the Kraken reliable forward depth, Stecher gets the edge as a defensively responsible right-handed blue-liner with one year left on a deal paying him $1.7 million. He also recently produced a strong showing at the men's world championship.
Notable players exposed: F Tyler Benson, F Alex Chiasson*, F Tyler Ennis*, F Dominik Kahun, F Jujhar Khaira, F James Neal, F Devin Shore, F Kyle Turris, D Tyson Barrie*, D Oscar Klefbom, D Slater Koekkoek*, D Dmitry Kulikov*, D Adam Larsson*, D Kris Russell, G Mikko Koskinen, G Mike Smith*
Prediction: Benson. It's slim pickings out of Edmonton after Benson played overseas during the 2020-21 season, and he's appeared in only seven career NHL games. But the 23-year-old winger has developed a nose for the net, which should be attractive to Seattle. It's potentially a low-risk, high-reward bet.
Notable players exposed: F Noel Acciari, F Ryan Lomberg, F Frank Vatrano, F Lucas Wallmark, F Alex Wennberg*, D Radko Gudas, D Brandon Montour*, D Markus Nutivaara, D Anton Stralman, G Chris Driedger*
Prediction: Driedger. There's a case to be made for scooping up Nutivaraa to help out on the Kraken's back end. However, Driedger is a fairly obvious pick. The 27-year-old UFA followed up a .938 save percentage over 12 games in 2019-20 with an impressive .927 save percentage over 23 games this past season.
Los Angeles Kings
Notable players exposed: F Andreas Athanasiou, F Martin Frk, F Carl Grundstrom, F Blake Lizotte, F Austin Wagner, D Kale Clague, D Olli Maatta, G Jonathan Quick
Prediction: Clague. It's a tossup between Wagner and Clague, two players in their early 20s trying to make a name for themselves. Wagner's calling card is breakneck speed, which the Kraken may find persuasive. Yet Clague's ceiling as a potential top-four defenseman is even more attractive.
Notable players exposed: F Nick Bjugstad, F Nick Bonino*, F Marcus Johansson*, F Victor Rask, D Ian Cole*, D Carson Soucy, G Kaapo Kahkonen
Prediction: Soucy. This is an easy decision, as Seattle can pencil in Soucy on the left side of its second (or third) defensive pairing. There are two years left on his deal at $2.75 million annually.
Notable players exposed: F Paul Byron, F Phillip Danault*, F Jonathan Drouin, F Corey Perry*, F Eric Staal*, F Tomas Tatar*, D Erik Gustafsson*, D Brett Kulak, D Jon Merrill*, D Shea Weber, G Carey Price
Prediction: Drouin. This would be a different conversation if Price weren't injured, and not attached to a bloated contract. The Kraken would be praying a change of scenery can do Drouin some good after he was the third overall pick in 2013. Taking him would merely be a shot in the dark. Montreal isn't providing many options, as the team's list also features an injured and expensive Shea Weber.
Notable players exposed: F Nick Cousins, F Matt Duchene, F Mikael Granlund*, F Rocco Grimaldi, F Erik Haula*, F Calle Jarnkrok, F Ryan Johansen, F Colton Sissons, D Matt Benning, D Mark Borowiecki
Prediction: Jarnkrok. The Predators surprisingly protected Tanner Jeannot over Jarnkrok, and they'll regret that decision. Jarnkrok tied for the team lead with 13 goals in 2020-21, and he's on a team-friendly $2-million contract through next season. He's a better option than either Duchene or Johansen, both of whom don't justify their $8-million cap hits.
New Jersey Devils
Notable players exposed: F Nathan Bastian, F Andreas Johnsson, D Will Butcher, D Connor Carrick*, D Ryan Murray*, D P.K. Subban
Prediction: Johnsson. Yes, Subban is available, but his decline as a marquee NHL defenseman has been steep, and the Kraken don't need the veteran's $9 million on the books, even if it's only for 2021-22. Johnsson, meanwhile, is a tenacious winger, and Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol knows him well from their time together in Toronto. He jumps off the page as a breakout candidate.
New York Islanders
Notable players exposed: F Josh Bailey, F Kieffer Bellows, F Casey Cizikas*, F Michael Dal Colle, F Jordan Eberle, F Ross Johnston, F Leo Komarov, F Kyle Palmieri*, F Richard Panik, F Travis Zajac*, D Sebastian Aho, D Braydon Coburn*, D Andy Greene, G Ken Appleby
Prediction: Bellows. There are more proven players available from the Islanders, and Bellows' cap hit is to be determined as an RFA. But the forward will surely be more affordable than Eberle, Bailey, and Co. Bellows is still only 23, and he was on pace to score 35 goals over 82 games in the AHL in 2019-20. The 2016 first-rounder could blossom in Seattle with a larger role.
New York Rangers
Notable players exposed: F Colin Blackwell, F Julien Gauthier, F Barclay Goodrow*, D Tony DeAngelo, D Brendan Smith*, G Keith Kinkaid
Prediction: Blackwell. The Rangers get lucky here because they wouldn't lose an impact player. The 28-year-old is the most appealing New York player available, largely because Blackwell showed last season he could be the third wheel on a line that Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome led. He's also under contract for next season at $725,000, which means Blackwell comes with little to no risk and decent upside.
Notable players exposed: F Vitaly Abramov, F Artem Anisimov*, F Evgenii Dadonov, F Ryan Dzingel*, F Derek Stepan*, F Chris Tierney, D Josh Brown, G Joey Daccord, G Matt Murray
Prediction: Tierney. Dadonov would be the right pick for pure short-term impact. However, the former Florida Panther is too pricey and already 32 years old. Tierney is 27, he's $1.5 million cheaper at $3.5 million on just a one-year deal, and he can easily find a spot in Seattle's middle six on opening night.
Notable players exposed: F James van Riemsdyk, F Jakub Voracek, D Justin Braun, D Shayne Gostisbehere, D Robert Hagg, G Brian Elliott*
Prediction: Van Riemsdyk. Yes, the goal-scoring winger's contract could be friendlier than $7 million annually for the next two seasons. He's also aging at 32. But Van Riemsdyk is still a highly effective NHLer. His 43 points over 56 games this past season tied him for the team lead on the Flyers.
Notable players exposed: F Zach Aston-Reese, F Mark Jankowski, F Sam Lafferty, F Evan Rodrigues*, F Colton Sceviour*, F Brandon Tanev, F Jason Zucker, D Marcus Pettersson, G Casey DeSmith
Prediction: Aston-Reese. The 26-year-old RFA forward isn't going to put up large point totals, but he'll shut the other team down. Aston-Reese's defensive metrics are off the charts, surely making him a favorite of the Kraken's analytics department. Tanev and Zucker could also be considered.
San Jose Sharks
Notable players exposed: F Ryan Donato, F Kurtis Gabriel*, F Dylan Gambrell, F Patrick Marleau*, F Matt Nieto, F Marcus Sorensen*, D Radim Simek, G Martin Jones
Prediction: Donato. The Sharks' list is arguably the league's leanest. However, Donato could become a useful depth piece for the Kraken. The 25-year-old is a pending RFA, but he shouldn't command much more than $1 million per season, even with arbitration rights.
St. Louis Blues
Notable players exposed: F Sammy Blais, F Tyler Bozak*, F Kyle Clifford, F Mike Hoffman*, F Zach Sanford, F Jaden Schwartz*, F Vladimir Tarasenko, D Robert Bortuzzo, D Vince Dunn, D Marco Scandella, G Ville Husso
Prediction: Tarasenko. The Kraken can make a splash here, and they absolutely should. Sure, there are injury concerns following the disgruntled sniper's multiple shoulder surgeries. But if he's healthy next season, Tarasenko could thrive when given a fresh start. Imagine Seattle boasting a 40-goal scorer. And if Tarasenko doesn't mesh for some reason, his contract expires after Year 2.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable players exposed: F Alex Barre-Boulet, F Blake Coleman*, F Ross Colton, F Yanni Gourde, F Tyler Johnson, F Mathieu Joseph, F Alex Killorn, F Pat Maroon, F Ondrej Palat, F Mitchell Stephens, D Cal Foote, D Jan Rutta, D David Savard*, D Luke Schenn*, G Curtis McElhinney*
Prediction: Gourde. Seattle could justify picking Barre-Boulet, Colton, Johnson, Joseph, Killorn, Palat, or Foote, but Gourde is the big prize. He might really pop in a new setting after being buried on a stacked Lightning squad for years, perhaps nabbing the Kraken's second-line center role. The forward is younger than Palat, Killorn, and Johnson, who all hold comparable cap hits, and Gourde is locked in for longer at $5.2 million over the next four years. Huge get.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Notable players exposed: F Adam Brooks, F Pierre Engvall, F Nick Foligno*, F Alex Galchenyuk*, F Zach Hyman*, F Alexander Kerfoot, F Jared McCann, F Riley Nash*, F Wayne Simmonds, F Jason Spezza, F Joe Thornton*, D Zach Bogosian*, D Travis Dermott, G Frederik Andersen*
Prediction: Kerfoot. Leaving the likes of McCann and Dermott on the table certainly won't be easy, but Kerfoot checks off more boxes for the Kraken. He can play both center and wing, his contract is manageable, and Kerfoot is coming off a strong playoff performance with six points over seven games for the Leafs.
Notable players exposed: F Justin Bailey*, F Jay Beagle, F Travis Boyd*, F Loui Eriksson, F Jonah Gadjovich, F Matthew Highmore, F Kole Lind, F Zack MacEwen, F Antoine Roussel, F Brandon Sutter*, F Jake Virtanen, D Alex Edler*, D Travis Hamonic*, G Braden Holtby
Prediction: Holtby. The Kraken are reportedly interested in him, and while he hasn't been consistently good for some time, the fit makes too much sense. Holtby is already playing in the Pacific Northwest, and he could serve as a mentor for Seattle's other goalies. His $4.3-million cap hit isn't ideal for a third-stringer, so Holtby could be dealt later, or he could grab the No. 2 role if Seattle trades one of its other goalies. He's essentially insurance.
Notable players exposed: F Nic Dowd, F Carl Hagelin, F Garnet Hathaway, F Alex Ovechkin*, F Conor Sheary, D Zdeno Chara*, D Brenden Dillon, D Nick Jensen, D Michal Kempny, D Justin Schultz, G Vitek Vanecek
Prediction: Vanecek. The Kraken will give serious thought to choosing Dillon, a potential second-pairing defenseman. But nabbing a netminder is the wiser move. Vanecek cooled off after bursting onto the scene last season, but he's a solid backup with upside as a 25-year-old NHL sophomore.
Notable players exposed: F Mason Appleton, F Mathieu Perreault*, F Paul Stastny*, F Nate Thompson*, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Jordie Benn*, D Dylan DeMelo, D Derek Forbort*, D Sami Niku, D Tucker Poolman
Prediction: DeMelo. Appleton is worth a long look up front. However, DeMelo is a reliable right-shooting defenseman under contract through 2023-24 at a team-friendly $3-million cap hit. Appleton is also younger and cheaper, but DeMelo is more proven, carries more value considering his position, and he's still only 28.
The 30-man roster includes 18 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.
Of the 30 players, 20 are under contract for 2021-22, nine are RFAs, and one is a UFA. The cumulative cap hit for 2021-22 is roughly $70.4 million.
(Salary source: CapFriendly)