The other half of the West also won’t be keen on giving their new conference rivals any help, but such is the way the cookie crumbles. A significant number of no-move clauses live in the Central division, leaving some teams with little wiggle room as to who they expose for selection. Let’s finally break down who in the Central needs to prepare to get Kraken.
Chicago Blackhawks: Malcolm Subban, G
F: Jonathan Toews (NMC), Patrick Kane (NMC), Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini, Alexander Nylander, Brandon Saad
D: Duncan Keith (NMC), Brent Seabrook (NMC), Connor Murphy
G: Collin Delia
The 7-3-1 format is a no brainer for Chicago. Connor Murphy’s numbers (he’s their third highest scoring blueliner), DeBrincat’s career so far and the young core of forwards has proven that they can play. It’s not hard to see that this is a team that needs a retooling phase, hence the protection of the young guns over gritty vets like Andrew Shaw.
The net presented the most interesting debate for this club when deciding who to protect between Delia and Subban. In the end, the Blackhawks should look to protect the younger Delia, who despite his inexperience in the pros, has posted impeccable numbers in the AHL. Subban would be a valuable asset to the Kraken where he could be a backup from the get-go. The young Canadian gets left exposed due to the lack of confidence in his ability to be a starter, something Chicago needs with the dropoff of Corey Crawford’s play.
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves, D
F: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher
D: Erik Johnsson (NMC), Cale Makar, Samuel Girard
G: Philipp Grubauer
*Exempt: Bowen Byram, Connor Timmins
Much like Chicago, the strength of the young core leaves the Avalanche no choice but to employ the 7-3-1 method of protection. This will leave some mouthwatering talent available on the blueline, including the likes of Ryan Graves. The former fourth-round pick might not post the most staggering stats, but the 6’5, 220 pound late-bloomer can kill penalties and block shots with the best of them. His well-rounded, gritty game would be a welcome addition to the new team playing out of the physical Pacific Division.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak, D
F: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz, Radek Faska, Jason Dickinson, Denis Gurianov
D: John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen
G: Ben Bishop (NMC)
*Exempt: Tye Felhaber, Ty Dellandrea
Barring a clerical error, the Stars protecting those three blueliners is as much of a guarantee as the day is long. Not only were they the top three point scorers from the back end, they offer a strong, young foundation for the team to build off of. When looking up top, there’s the obvious big names in Benn, Seguin and Radulov, but the emergence of Hintz and Gurianov as future top six guys gives the team the luxury of adding young depth scoring.
They should opt to leave veteran Pavelski exposed since his high salary and the potential of him returning to San Jose to finish out his career should be enough to encourage the Kraken to steer clear. Oleksiak is a solid defensemen who can fill out their second pairing. What he may lack in innate skill, he makes up for in sheer size that would make any opponent think twice about taking him on directly.
Minnesota Wild: Victor Rask, C
F: Zach Parise (NMC), Mats Zuccarello (NMC), Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, Luke Kunin, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson-Ek
D: Ryan Sutter (NMC), Jarred Spurgeon (NMC), Matt Dumba
G: Devan Dubnyk
It’s not hard to see the future pieces of a top-six in Greenway, Donato and Kunin, not to mention Fiala who is having a career year. Dumba is the default third name next to the two no-move clauses. Being that the team is going through a retool and not a rebuild, the veteran Dubnyk gets protected between the pipes over the untested Kahkonen.
The Wild won’t lose sleep over letting Rask walk after the forward’s abysmal three-goal season. If he doesn’t turn it around back to his assumed top-line form, then he’ll be a nice trade piece in the Kraken’s back pocket.
Nashville Predators: Calle Jarnkrok, C
F: Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson
D: Roman Josi (NMC), Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro
G: Juuse Saros
The unmatched strength of the Preds’ D-core forces their hand in going with the 8-1 format. Between Ellis, Josi and Ekholm they have the foundation for a perennial playoff powerhouse and Fabbro’s progression is why they were able to move on from P.K. Subban without so much as a second thought. Unfortunately, this does leave a sizable amount of talent exposed up front.
With names like Turris, Scissons and Jarnkrok left vulnerable, it’s no doubt that Nashville will feel the impact of whoever they lose. Seattle would be best to stay away from Turris whose $6 million/year until 2023-24 is just far too much for the inconsistency Turris has shown. Instead, the Kraken will take the solid secondary scoring provided by Jarnkrok at the incredible price of under a million dollars.
St-Louis Blues: David Perron, LW
F: Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas, Samuel Blais
D: Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn
G: Jordan Binnington
In no way would St. Louis be happy about losing David Perron, the player. They might, however, breathe a little easier if the $4 million AAV was being allotted to some younger talent on a team that looks to be contenders for a while. When the expansion draft rolls around, the Quebecer will be 33 and who knows where his production will be.
What the hockey world does know is that the last time Perron went to an expansion team, he seemed to have been given a whole new tank of gas. The Kraken will be hoping to get that iteration of Perron as they look to establish themselves.
Winnipeg Jets: Bryan Little, C
F: Blake Wheeler (NMC), Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Roslovic, Adam Lowry
D: Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Sami Niku
G: Connor Hellebuyck
*Exempt: David Gustafsson
Leaving Little exposed is almost a no-brainer for the Jets. Yes, he was sidelined early this year due to an injury, but even before that, his production wasn’t at the level the Jets would have hoped for for the money they’re dishing out. He is a logical pick for the Kraken who will need to take on some bigger contracts as part of the expansion rules. He would also give the new club some valuable veteran leadership and whatever talent he has left in the tank.