The Seattle Kraken will have their turn to build a team for their inaugural season at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign. While the next chapter of the NHL expansion draft is still well over a year away, it’s still fun to speculate about what the NHL’s newest franchise could look like when they take to the ice.
In the second instalment of this four-part series, we break down how the expansion draft could affect teams in the Metropolitan Division.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Bean, LD
F: Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Staal (NMC), Teuvo Teräväinen, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel, Warren Foegele
D: Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin
G: Petr Mrázek
*Exempt: Ryan Suzuki, Martin Necas
Yet another team protecting their young core, the Hurricanes will have the difficult task of leaving many players unprotected. With breakout stars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov all but certainly earning themselves expansion protection and assuming that Norris-calibre defensemen Dougie Hamilton earns himself a hefty pay raise, the Kraken will have an abundance of talent to choose from. Looking at Carolina’s youth on the backend, I think Seattle should go with 2016 first-round pick Jake Bean. While Hadyn Fleury would also be a fabulous choice, giving the younger, more consistent Bean a legitimate shot in the NHL should pay dividends for the young defensemen who has often been the odd one out on the Carolina blueline.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Alexander Wennberg, C
F: Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno (NMC), Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Gustav Nyquist
D: Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray
G: Joonas Korpisalo
*Exempt: Liam Foudy, Elvis Merzlikins
After magically making the playoffs a year ago and upsetting the number one seed Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets are left in a challenging predicament; do you keep your core together and that “win now” mentality? Or do you clean house and move towards the future? These questions will be answered by who the Kraken take in the expansion draft.
The way I see it, Jarmo Kekäläinen and company will opt to lock down their core, instead of investing in younger talent. While the decision to keep veterans like Foligno and Nyquist bring their slew of benefits, this gives Seattle a wide variety of talent to choose from. Nacka-native Alex Wennberg is a perfect fit for the Kraken’s top six; putting up solid numbers in a depth role with Columbus. Being a consistent playmaker, Wennberg would thrive with additional ice time and would greatly improve Seattle’s power play as well.
New Jersey Devils: P.K. Subban, RD
F: Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod, Jesper Bratt
D: Will Butcher, Damon Severson, David Quenneville
G: Mackenzie Blackwood
*Exempt: Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, Nolan Foote, Jesper Boqvist
This did not age very well. When the Predators shipped Subban off to clear cap space, I don’t think he realized how quickly the Devils would fall off. With the likes of Taylor Hall, Andy Greene, Wayne Simmonds, Blake Coleman, and Sami Vatanen all being shipped off to different teams, the core of the Devils are left in the hands of their unproven prospects who one day could return New Jersey to its former glory.
With the majority of the Devils’ protection going towards its youth, it leaves the door wide open for Seattle to take on Subban and his $9 million dollar contract. In all honesty, an aging Travis Zajac and an unproven Nick Merkeley are much larger gambles than betting on Subban to regain his Norris-calibre form. In a high risk, high reward move, this has the potential of being the Kraken’s biggest gamble in the expansion draft.
New York Islanders: Kieffer Bellows, LW
F: Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, Casey Cizikas
D: Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech
G: Semyon Varlamov (NMC)
*Exempt: Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson
Having one of the most well-rounded lineups in the league, the Islanders are in an almost ideal position when it comes to the expansion draft.With an almost perfect amount of players to protect, New York would be more than happy to leave their overpaid veterans unprotected as Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk (waive NMC) and Derek Brassard should all find themselves dangling before Seattle. After acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the deadline, I think the Islanders will risk exposing his hefty price tag in an attempt to sway Seattle towards a much more unproven player in Kieffer Bellows.
Being just 22 years of age, Bellows has tremendous upside; putting up sparkling numbers with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Not being able to work himself into an NHL lineup on a consistent basis, Bellows, like so many others, would have a fantastic opportunity to prove his worth with an expansion team.
New York Rangers: Marc Staal, LD
F: Artemi Panarin (NMC), Mika Zibanejad (NMC), Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson
D: Jacob Trouba, Tony DeAngelo, Libor Hájek
G: Alexandar Georgiev
*Exempt: Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox
Presuming that the Rangers use their protection abilities to preserve their notable names, the situation could not be more ideal for Marc Staal to waive his no-movement clause. Being outplayed by up and coming defensemen with the likes of Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox already cementing themselves as the future of the Rangers blueline, what better time than now for Staal to seek other opportunities? Much like Deryk Engelland did in Vegas, bringing a much needed leadership presence to a newly formed team, not to mention his affordable AAV of $4 million, should be more than enough for Seattle to give the veteran a new home.
Longtime Ranger Henrik Lundqvist could also waive his no-movement clause (as New York is moving forward with its younger goalies), but I don’t think Seattle would break the hearts of Ranger fans and pry away the king from his kingdom. Then again, if their new Twitter bio is any indication, they are more than capable of sending shockwaves through fanbases.
Philadelphia Flyers: James Van Riemsdyk, LW
F: Claude Giroux (NMC), Kevin Hayes (NMC), Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick
D: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim
G: Carter Hart
*Exempt: Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee
This would be a big splash for Seattle, grabbing a former 30 goal scorer in Van Riemsdyk. JVR checks off a lot of boxes for the Kraken, being a veteran presence, versatile and the perfect addition to compliment a younger group of forwards. Having put up consistent numbers for the past seven seasons, Van Riemsdyk would fill a much needed mentorship role alongside other veteran players, not to mention aiding in the offensive effort. With the Flyers running out of slots to protect players, JVR should be an obvious candidate for Seattle, despite having missed time this season due to injury.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Zach Aston-Reese, C
F: Sidney Crosby (NMC), Evgeni Malkin (NMC), Jason Zucker, Brandon Tanev, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann
D: Kris Letang (NMC), Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson
G: Matt Murray
*Exempt: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, John Marino, Samuel Poulin
Penguins fans don’t need to panic when it comes to the expansion draft as Crosby, Malkin and Letang are all locked up under no-movement clauses. Following the protection of other key pieces like Jason Zucker, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, there isn’t much leftover for Seattle to choose from. Taking on an aging Jack Johnson wouldn’t be wise and the same could be said for Justin Schultz.
Getting Nick Bjugstad at a decent price would be acceptable, but he’s been prone to injury and his production hasn’t been the same since his days in the Sunshine State. Who’s left? A great value pick in Zach Aston-Reese. Playing alongside the likes of Crosby and Malkin have allowed Reese’s numbers to increase ever since he entered the league and getting a chance in the spotlight on a new team will only further his development.
Washington Capitals: Brenden Dillon, LD
F: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Bäckström, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana
D: John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny
G: Braden Holtby
The Capitals are another team that have the perfect amount of players to protect. Brian MacLellan and his team have relatively easy decisions to make in regards to protecting their top seven highest paid players. Leaving their depth pieces exposed is best case scenario for any team and the Capitals will have that luxury in 2021.
As for the Kraken, I’d opt for reliable defensemen Brenden Dillon. Overlooking an older Radko Gudas and an unproven Nick Jensen, Dillon should provide much needed experience and veteran leadership on the blueline.
UP NEXT: Pacific Division