With the newly formed Seattle Kraken releasing their official team name (and corresponding logos) on July 23rd, what better time than now to take a look at the next NHL expansion draft, set to take place at the conclusion of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The expansion draft will have the same rules as when the Vegas Golden Knights had their turn just three short years ago. Seattle will have the luxury of selecting one player from the other 30 teams (excluding Vegas) and will have to accumulate a total of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. NHL clubs have two options when protecting roster players in which they can choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters total (between F/D) and one goalie.
While many incentive-based trades, roster moves and management decisions will undoubtedly occur in the months to come, I break down what the Seattle Kraken could look like when they hit the ice in 2021 in this four-part, collaborative series.
Boston Bruins: Matt Grzelcyk, LD
F: Practice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly
D: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug
G: Tuuka Rask
The first projection on this list is not an easy one. Boston has had one of the deepest and most talented teams in recent years which provides a challenge when choosing who to protect. Ultimately, I have full confidence that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will opt to protect the Bruins youth as opposed to their veteran leadership. With that being said, Matt Grzelcyk seems like an appropriate choice.
I highly doubt Seattle will risk taking an older player like David Krejci who will be a free agent at the end of 2020-21, or Zdeno Chara who will most likely play only a couple more years and ultimately retire a Bruin. Investing in one of Boston’s failed prospects like Zach Senyshyn or Jakub Zboril doesn’t seem too enticing for a new franchise either. Grzelcyk is an up and coming defensemen who isn’t just a steady presence on the backend, but also brings a wealth of playoff experience to a new team.
Buffalo Sabres: Tage Thompson, RW
F: Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt, Victor Oloffson, Wayne Simmonds
D: Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Henri Jokiharju
G: Linus Ullmark
*Exempt: Dylan Cozens
This was between Thompson or Zemgus Girgensons, both of whom are free agents at the end of 2020 and the case can be made for the both of them. However, I elected to go with the younger of the two, simply taking into account the future of the Seattle franchise. While the Kraken will definitely have a lot of choices when it comes to the Sabres team, you can’t go wrong when taking a young, physical 22 year-old who has NHL experience and has put up promising numbers in the AHL.
While both Girgensons and Marcus Johanssen would be acceptable fits as well, I feel the Kraken would be wise to give the former first-round pick a legitimate chance on an NHL roster.
Detroit Red Wings: Madison Bowey, RD
F: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Sam Gagner, Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose
D: Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, Trevor Daley
G: Jonathan Bernier
*Exempt: Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, Moritz Seider
There’s nowhere to go but up for Detroit sports right now. After finishing dead last in the league this year, the Red Wings have relatively easy decisions to make when protecting roster players. Ultimately keeping their young core together, Madison Bowey seems like an appropriate pick for Seattle’s blueline.
The Kraken will more than likely pass on the absurd contracts handed out to the likes of Justin Abdelkader and Frans Neilsen and (hopefully) leave an aging Jimmy Howard to retire a Red Wing. Bowey was a mainstay on the Capital’s blueline, having won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2018 before being traded to the Motor City.
Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari, C/RW
F: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman, Frank Vatrano, Henrik Borgström
D: Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson, Keith Yandle
G: Sergei Bobrovsky
*Exempt: Owen Tippet, Grigori Denisenko
Seattle doesn’t have the luxury of a wide variety of players when it comes to the Panthers. Since Florida can protect almost the entirety of its core from expansion consideration, Seattle will have to choose between depth pieces. Both Noel Acciari and Mackenzie Weegar could be effective selections here.
Both bring similar production, value and are under contract for around the same amount. However, despite Weegar’s versatility, Acciari has been a consistent producer with Florida and should continue his depth production should he join Seattle.
Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Tatar, RW
F: Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joel Armia
D: Shea Weber, Ben Chairot, Cale Fleury
G: Carey Price
*Exempt: Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling, Cole Caufield
This is, without a doubt, an incredibly tough decision for Canadiens brass. Here’s what we know for sure; the likes of Drouin, Domi, Kotkaniemi and Price are staying no matter what. However, with five pending free agents at the end of 2020 (being Tatar, Gallagher, Danault, Lehkonen and Armia), Montreal has some tough decisions to make on who to protect. Barring some unforeseen contract extensions, I see Tatar and Armia being the odd ones out for various reasons.
Gallagher, Danault and Lehkonen, being the younger of the bunch, will more than likely earn themselves contract extensions on production alone. Armia will most likely stay on a cheaper deal, which would leave Tatar to walk free. Tatar was in the middle of having a career year before play was suspended, averaging almost a point-per-game which will only lead to a high price tag to keep him around.
Bergevin will probably not want to take the risk of locking down Tatar (who would be 30 at the time) long-term which would allow Seattle to make a great addition to their team.
Ottawa Senators: Christian Jaros, RD
F: Anthony Duclair, Brady Tkachuk, Connor Brown, Colin White, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Matthew Peca
D: Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev, Maxime Lajoie
G: Marcus Högberg
*Exempt: Josh Norris, Erik Brännström
During the painstaking process of rebuilding, the Ottawa Senators are in surprisingly good position in regards to the expansion draft. With promising stars Brady Tkachuk, Anthony Duclair and Thomas Chabot needing protection, the Senators can leave their aging pieces exposed to Seattle. The lucrative contracts of Ron Hainsey and Bobby Ryan would deter the Kraken from choosing them which would force them into taking a depth piece, thus allowing Ottawa to keep their core together and continue the rebuilding process.
Seattle should look to take an up and coming player, such as the budding defenseman Christian Jaros; who has shown some upside when playing at the NHL level.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Tyler Johnson, C/RW/LW
F: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde
D: Victor Hedman, Cal Foote, Mikhail Sergachev
G: Andrei Vasilevsky
On paper, this looked like a tough decision. With Tampa Bay being one of the best teams in the league, you’d think it would be hard to choose who to protect and who to leave exposed to the expansion draft. However, once you give it some thought, the decision isn’t actually that hard.
Like everyone else, you can expect Lightning GM Julien BriseBois to protect the Lightning’s young core with Point, Cirelli and Kucherov. On the impression that the resurgence of Kevin Shattenkirk earns him a fresh contract at the end of the year and the Kraken pass on McDonagh’s big price tag, that would leave Tyler Johnson as a viable option for their first line. Being a consistent producer and under contract until 2024, the Washington native (who also played for the Spokane Chiefs) would be a great fit in Seattle.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Kyle Clifford, RW
F: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen
D: Morgan Reilly, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott
G: Frederik Andersen
*Exempt: Rasmus Sandin
Seattle does not have a lot of options here. Aside from the obvious protection of Matthews, Marner, Nylander along with Tavares’ no-move clause, there isn’t a lot leftover for Seattle. The Leafs would be crazy not to extend an asset in Zach Hyman and on the assumption that both Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie find new homes in the offseason, the Kraken is left with a veteran presence in Kyle Clifford.
It’s no doubt that the Leafs are extremely deep offensively, and with Nick Robertson ready to make the jump to the NHL, the Leafs are more than comfortable with losing a winger in the upcoming expansion draft.
UP NEXT: Metropolitan Division