Every NHL team, minus the Vegas Golden Knights, submitted their protected list over the weekend in preparation for Wednesday’s Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. In doing so, teams made several big names available to be picked by Seattle.
It’s nearly impossible to predict who the Kraken will draft. But I acted as if I were general manager Ron Francis and built the best team possible while staying under the salary cap with all 30 players (in reality, they can exceed the NHL’s salary cap by 10-percent in the offseason).
Here’s what I came up with.
My pick: Haydn Fleury, D ($1.3 million – RFA 2022)
So to kick things off, Haydn Fleury is available on defense here. He comes cheap with team control and is from the Carolina Hurricanes school of pumping out quality NHL defensemen.
Overall, the Anaheim Ducks are a mess right now, which was exhibited by them protecting Nicolas Deslauriers – a fourth-line fighty dude. In doing so, they left the once highly-touted, cheap, and versatile winger with team control, Alexander Volkov, available. He may also be hard to pass up.
Adam Henrique in his prime was one of my favorite players in the NHL but he struggled mightily last season. He was even put on waivers at one point and has a big contract through 2024. Right-shot defensemen aren’t flying off the page at me in this draft so maybe Kevin Shattenkirk is considered. Derek Grant, Danton Heinen, and Sonny Milano all are depth pieces that I wouldn’t necessarily be shocked at Seattle selecting either.
My pick: Ilya Lyubushkin, D ($1.35 million – UFA 2022)
Look, I don’t want to be too mean but the Coyotes were one of the hardest teams for me to pick through because the pickings are slim, folks. I think the big upside pick would be to go with Christian Fischer and hope a change of scenery unlocks the potential he was once thought to have after being drafted very high in 2015’s second round.
Ilya Lyubushkin is a solid cheap, depth, defensive defenseman and is right-handed. He fits my proposed team better due to those attributes.
My pick: Jeremy Lauzon, D ($850k – RFA 2022)
The final protection spot for the Bruins came down to forwards Trent Frederic and Nick Ritchie. They went with Frederic as he plays center and left the big-bodied Ritchie as one of their more attractive options exposed. Seattle trying to see if they can unlock more from Ondrej Kase would be the only other play at forward from the Bruins.
The real value from Boston will come on the backend as that’s where most of the younger options are and Seattle just so happens to have Jay Leach as an assistant coach (he was an assistant and head coach of the Providence Bruins for four seasons). Leach saw a lot of the names I’m about to list up close and personal for a long time. Jeremy Lauzon is the clear choice for me as he’s the best of the three right now and I think will only get better with a bigger role, Jakub Zboril would be the sneaky potential pick, and Connor Clifton is signed for cheap for two seasons but comes third here.
My pick: Will Borgen, D ($864k – RFA 2021)
I’ll direct you to what I said in my Coyotes blurb before we get into this one. Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo in isolation are not “bad” NHL players, but their albatrosses of contracts make them horrid, negative assets.
Colin Miller could work, but I think he’s overpaid and Will Borgen played decently when he got a chance on a terrible Sabres team. His RFA status after this season makes it an easy choice and if he doesn’t play they can just flip him somewhere for a pick.
My pick: Mark Giordano, D ($6.75 million – UFA 2022)
The name that obviously everyone will be talking about from the Flames is Mark Giordano and I think the Kraken would be foolish to not start their franchise with him as their first “captain” and top minutes eater. In my opinion, he’s an instant grab even with his age and the perceived step that he has lost. He’ll have value at the deadline as well if that need arises.
Washington state native Derek Ryan via unrestricted free agency or Oliver Kylington are, I guess, the backup choices if Calgary makes an expensive deal to prevent the Kraken from taking Gio.
My pick: Jake Bean, D ($863k – RFA 2021)
This was a very tough one for me. I have zero idea why the Canes protected Warren Foegele and Jesper Fast over Nino Niederreiter but even with how good Nino is I do not think you can let the chance to grab Jake Bean pass you by. Peter has decreed him as the lesser Jake but his potential is undeniable and if the Canes were a less “win now” team, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell he’s left exposed over Brady Skjei.
There are only two choices here even if I think Morgan Geekie could be a bit of a sleeper.
My pick: Adam Gaudette, C ($950k – RFA 2021)
This organization is in a bad place, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a couple of dudes that could help Seattle out. I toyed with the obvious idea of Calvin de Haan as I believe he’s one of the better defensive options available in the draft. Brett Connolly is a familiar name but he seems to be nosediving after leaving DC.
Adam Gaudette flashed a real offensive touch in 2019-20 with 33 points in 59 games for the Canucks. He did not come close to repeating that this past season but I think he’s worth taking a flyer on in a “prove it” type year. Nikita Zadorov on a big new deal is the “reported” pick, but that’s not how I am rolling.
My pick: Joonas Donskoi, W ($3.9 million – UFA 2023)
Unlike Alex Ovechkin, Gabriel Landeskog is an unrestricted free agent that was left unprotected and could very well leave to the Kraken in this Expansion Draft. I think it’s likely he signs somewhere else, but who knows. The exact same could be said for Brandon Saad.
Outside of those two, Erik Johnson has waived his NMC and would be a veteran start to the right side of Seattle’s blueline. Joonas Donskoi is a seemingly always effective, scoring winger, and JT Compher is basically a slightly worse, slightly more versatile, younger version of that.
Columbus Blue Jackets
My pick: Max Domi, C ($5.3 million – UFA 2022)
This is a spicy one as Jarmo Kekalainen never disappoints. Max Domi was left unprotected as Columbus is assuming his offseason shoulder surgery will be enough to divert the Kraken’s attention. Kevin Stenlund feels like a dude primed for a big uptick in production and would be a really solid, safe choice if Domi’s surgery and upcoming free agency are red flags.
Dean Kukan on the backend would be the third main option and Gabriel Carlsson is the sleeper, high upside pick but I don’t think you can pass up having Domi down the middle. Too talented to not have him eventually lead one of your top two lines…if he indeed actually plays a part this season.
My pick: Andrej Sekera, D ($1.5 million – UFA 2022)
The Stars were probably one of the teams who had the least trouble with their list. The big name is Ben Bishop who missed all of the 2020-21 season after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. I don’t think he’s the specific route the Kraken should go in net but we’ll get into that more later.
Andrej Sekera was underrated for a long time because he had the issue of playing the majority of his career on horrible teams. He could be a nice, veteran pickup and that’s my pick. Joel L’Esperance is a very cheap fourth liner with team control that can play both center and wing.
Detroit Red Wings
My pick: Troy Stecher, D ($1.7 million – UFA 2022)
I feel like this is another easy one. Troy Stetcher is an underrated right-sided defenseman who is fully established in the NHL. Danny DeKeyser makes too much money, it’s been eight seasons with five different teams and I still don’t exactly know what Vladislav Namestnikov is, and Evgeny Svechnikov went on waivers twice this past season and was unclaimed both times.
My pick: Tyler Benson, W ($808k – RFA 2021)
The fact of the matter is there ain’t much in Edmonton. It is unknown if Oscar Klefbom will ever play another NHL game. James Neal, Kyle Turris, and Kris Russell are just bad. Could Adam Larsson be an option for Seattle in free agency as he’s not returning to Edmonton?
I think the only option that makes sense is Tyler Benson. The 2016 second-round pick has lit up the AHL but only produced one assist in seven NHL games for the Oilers in 2019-20. I guess he’s a low-risk, maybe high upside selection here?
My pick: Chris Driedger, G ($850k – UFA 2021)
The Kraken will be signing goaltender Chris Driedger in free agency. I guess theoretically that could wait for after this whole process in “open” free agency and they could select another player from Florida but that is not what the reports we have say is going to happen.
The other names that I could have seen leave Florida are Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari, or Radko Gudas.
Los Angeles Kings
My pick: Kale Clague, D ($762k – RFA 2021)
Jonathan Quick is the second big-name goaltender we have seen left unprotected so far in this post. Don’t think he’s the direction Seattle should be headed for that position but a big name nonetheless.
The two, equally-talented youngsters Carl Grundstrom and Kale Clague are who I eventually zeroed in on. After picking through the Edmonton scrap heap and ending up with Benson I decided to go with the defender in Clague here although neither option would be bad. I made a note for myself to build a young left side on defense as that will be important if the earlier Giordano pick does indeed happen. The speedster Andreas Athanasiou, another youngster in Blake Lizotte, and cheap depth defender Christian Wolanin will be the other main options.
My pick: Kaapo Kahkonen, G ($725k – RFA 2022)
There are two young, viable goaltenders available in this draft and I think the Kraken need to grab one of them. The first is Kaapo Kakhonen of the Wild and the second is Vitek Vanecek of the Caps. In their rookie campaigns, Kahkonen had the higher highs, winning nine games in a row at one point but Vanecek was a lot more consistent over the course of the full season.
Carson Soucy is probably the other option here as an upcoming defenseman but I think with the other goaltending options in this draft that swinging for the fences with Kahkonen will be worthwhile.
My pick: Jonathan Drouin, W ($5.5 million – UFA 2023)
Carey Price was left unprotected by Montreal and has waived his no-movement clause in preparation for a potential move to Seattle. I don’t think his contract is worth the price of admission when you consider there are cheaper, veteran goaltenders of “similar” quality available in Bishop and Quick as well as another goaltender we’ll talk about towards the end of this post.
However, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Seattle brass to deny the Pacific Northwest a free Price who is a Vancouver native that played all of his junior hockey in the state of Washington. I would not blame them at all if that pulls at them as a spectacle. Him suiting up in that home net would be ridiculously awesome.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t have that connection and I’m trying to build the best team. So, I’m going with Jonathan Drouin. Drouin is an uber-talented, top-six winger that really needs a fresh start in a better environment which I think Seattle will be.
My pick: Yakov Trenin, W ($725k – RFA 2022)
Unless Nashville is paying Seattle to take them, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are not going anywhere due to their contracts and how badly they have regressed as scorers.
Even with that being said, there are still multiple attractive options from Nashville in this draft. Calle Jarnkrok was third on the Preds in scoring last season, Nick Cousins has very good underlying numbers in like fourteen different systems over the past few years, and Yakov Trenin can plug in all over the lineup and may have some untapped offensive potential.
New Jersey Devils
My pick: Nathan Bastian, W ($825k – RFA 2023)
PK Subban is still good-ish despite what some people may say, it’s just that his contract has become a non-negotiable. I don’t think he’s going anywhere unless some sort of deal comes up where the Kraken are saving money on that pick, but even with that, I don’t think New Jersey even wants him gone.
Andreas Johnsson is an option and it’s not like you’d need to force Seattle’s hand to take him because he’s not a bad player at all. He’s a talented third-line winger that will have the chance to bounce back to more of his 43-point, 2018-19 form. I like Nathan Bastian as a bottom-six option more though as there are better players available in this draft at Johnsson’s price point.
New York Islanders
My pick: Josh Bailey, W ($5 million – UFA 2024)
I’m shocked that Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey are even available so maybe the Islanders already have a deal in place that protects them from being selected but if they don’t, Seattle needs to obviously take one of them.
Bailey fits my proposed team better so I’m going with him but Eberle is just as good. If there is indeed a deal already made, lesser options like Richard Panik, Thomas Hickey, Kieffer Bellows, or Otto Koivula could make sense.
New York Rangers
My pick: Colin Blackwell, C ($725k – UFA 2022)
No one is touching Tony Deangelo, which leaves Colin Blackwell as who I think Seattle should take here. The Rangers were between him and Kevin Rooney for their last protected forward spot. Blackwell impressed me in the games he played against the Caps last season and will fit nicely on a fourth line. Chris Drury doesn’t think Blackwell fits at center. I disagree.
My pick: Chris Tierney, C ($3.5 million – UFA 2022)
Matt Murray was horrendous last season and has a horrendous contract. No thanks. Evgeni Dadonov signed a big deal and it did not look good for Ottawa last season. No thanks, part two.
That leaves Chris Tierney who has also struggled in recent seasons but is still youngish and will be looking to prove himself before entering free agency. I think he’s a great fit for an energy bug third line as the center and would do nicely with a change of scenery. Easy.
My pick: James van Riemsdyk, W ($7 million – UFA 2023)
The Flyers are one of the teams that Seattle has to be loving in this draft. I see more than a few quality players here that could help the Kraken immediately next season. Jakub Voracek has the most expensive contract of the bunch but he’s still a very capable offensive threat. James van Riemsdyk also has a pretty expensive contract but you aren’t going to find many goal scorers like him for free. Shayne Gostisbehere had a bounce-back season offensively and I think there’s a great player in there if his knees hold up but his contract may prove a little too heavy for a guy you likely need to shelter on a third pairing. Robert Hagg is the least attractive name but he’s a solid defender who still has room to grow.
I don’t think you can pass up instant goal scoring at the end of the day, which will be relevant again in this post very soon.
My pick: Marcus Pettersson, D ($4.025 million – UFA 2025)
I think the decision to protect Jeff Carter was bizarre but maybe there are some doubts about Evgeni Malkin’s status healthwise for next season. It felt like Carter was either a Pens player this season or he was retiring. That leaves forwards like Jason Zucker, Brandon Tanev, and Zach Aston-Reese available although I think Seattle should avoid all three. Zucker because he has clearly lost a step, Tanev because he’s not good enough for his contract, and ZAR because the guy they should pick is more valuable.
And that guy is Marcus Pettersson who the Pens inexplicably protected Mike Matheson over. Pettersson immediately slots into Seattle’s top four. Ron Francis should dap up Ron Hextall for that one.
San Jose Sharks
My pick: Matt Nieto, W ($850k – UFA 2023)
The Sharks are not giving their fellow Pacific Division dweller much to choose from. I guess Dylan Gambrell is from Washington but he’s also not very good. Matt Nieto could be a decent fourth line, penalty-killer type. Radim Simek is probably the best of the bunch but he brings me over the cap in my draft. This one is a throwaway for me.
St. Louis Blues
My pick: Vladimir Tarasenko, W ($7.5 million – UFA 2023)
Remember the whole “you cant pass up instant goal-scoring” thing? Yeah, that’s here. Vladimir Tarasenko is your new top-line right wing, Seattle.
Sure, many will point to Vince Dunn, but even if they don’t plan on using Tarasenko, he’ll have plenty of trade value. This was an easy pick for me.
Tampa Bay Lightning
My pick: Yanni Gourde, C ($5.16 million – UFA 2025)
Everybody’s favorite salary cap cirumventors are now gonna suffer for that strapped cap. There are four options you cant go wrong with here in Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn.
I’m going with Gourde due to the term on his contract and his ability to play center. He’ll be leading my hypothetical first line. Dude is a fantastic hockey player that will be excellent in a much bigger role.
Toronto Maple Leafs
My pick: Jared McCann, W ($2.94 million – RFA 2022)
The Maple Leafs went out and got Jared McCann to ensure that they would at least keep him or Alex Kerfoot heading into next season. Well, good thing that they did because I don’t think McCann should play a single game in a Leafs sweater.
McCann is a young player with team control that just put up 32 points in 43 games for the Pens.
My pick: Braden Holtby, G ($4.3 million – UFA 2022)
The starting goaltender for the first game in Seattle Kraken history…Braden Holtby. Holts doesn’t know what the word pressure means, will be a great, calming presence for a franchise in its first year, and just really fits the whole Seattle aesthetic.
I think the fans will fall in love with the Holtbeast just as we did here in DC. Do it, Ron.
My pick: Nick Jensen, D ($2.5 million – UFA 2023)
We’ve gone over this in the past on the site. The real options for Seattle here are on the backend. I think Brenden Dillon type players are more desired in the league than most realize so he could easily be heading west on Wednesday.
Nick Jensen is the best Washington has unprotected and I can’t not take who I think the best Caps player available is.
My pick: Dylan DeMelo, D ($3 million – UFA 2024)
This is another easy one. I’m a big fan of Dylan DeMelo and he’s really the only player the Jets left out there that makes sense on my team. I’m immediately slotting him into the top four of my defense.
Jonathan Drouin – Yanni Gourde – Vladimir Tarasenko
James van Riemsdyk – Max Domi – Josh Bailey
Jared McCann – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Yakov Trenin – Colin Blackwell – Nathan Bastian
Extras: Tyler Benson, Adam Gaudette, Matt Nieto
Mark Giordano – Dylan DeMelo
Marcus Pettersson – Jeremy Lauzon
Jake Bean – Nick Jensen
Extras: Haydn Fleury, Troy Stecher, Kale Clague, Ilya Lyubushkin, Andrej Sekera, Will Borgen
CapFriendly has a very dope, easy-to-use tool that you can use to come up with your own team! Post yours in the comments.
Headline photo via KP8
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