They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer and that’s exactly what the Kraken will look to do as they pick their players from their home Pacific division. It’s time to break down who will be moving to the new division rivals and who will be protected to prevent that from happening.
Edmonton Oilers: Zack Kassian, RW
F: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto
D: Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones
G: Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton is one of the few teams who would be best off looking at the eight skaters plus one goalie option in order to preserve a blueline that finally looks to be finding its groove. Protecting up-and-comer Caleb Jones over the older, and more expensive, Adam Larsson might raise some eyebrows, but this is a young team who are looking to be competitive for years to come, so it makes sense for them to preserve their youth. When it comes to making the pick, Seattle should be looking for their own version of Vegas’ Ryan Reaves and Zack Kassian fits that bill.
The 29-year-old is coming off of signing a four-year extension with an AAV of $3.2 million. The edge he brings with his gritty style of play is something that still has value in today’s NHL, especially in the Pacific division. While the Oilers will miss that element, they would be relieved at seeing that cap space free-up.
Calgary Flames: Travis Hamonic, D
F: Milan Lucic (NMC), Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monohan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Dylan Dubé
D: Noah Hanifin, Juuso Välimäki, Rasmus Andersson
G: David Rittich
*Exempt: Jakob Pelletier
Going with the 7-3-1 format allows the Flames to keep their top-six virtually intact with the added bonus of getting to hold on to youngster Dubé. And no, it’s no mistake to not see captain Giordano on that list of protected blueliners. The veteran leader has been on a decline in terms of point production which when combined with his age and his $6.75 million salary would encourage the Kraken to steer clear.
Instead, they’ll zero in on pending-UFA, Hamonic. They’ll have the ability to negotiate a deal with the Canadian in the expansion-draft window in attempts to get themselves a solid second-pairing defensemen.
Vancouver Canucks: Micheal Ferland, LW
F: Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Elias Pettersson, Tyler Toffoli
D: Tyler Myers, Olli Juolevi, Troy Stecher
G: Thatcher Demko
*Exempt: Quinn Hughes
If the Twitter banter is anything to go by, the Canucks-Kraken rivalry is shaping up to be one of the NHL’s best which in part explains why the Canadian side would protect Thatcher Demko over Jakob Markstrom. The young Demko was given 27 starts over the shortened season and he did not disappoint. His performance puts him in prime position to be the next franchise netminder, getting the rebuild one step closer to being completed.
Ferland gets left off the protection list as one of the few players the team can put up for the draft since he is on the short list of being signed past the 2020-21 season. The Canadian wouldn’t be a bad pickup, though consistency was never his strong point. There is always the threat of him heating up and going on a tear through opposing defences.
Arizona Coyotes: Derek Stepan, C
F: Phil Kessel (NMC), Taylor Hall, Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland, Christian Fischer
D: Oliver Ekman Larsson (NMC), Jakob Chychrun, Kyle Capobianco
G: Darcy Kuemper
The Coyotes will become conference rivals as they make the move to the Central Division to make room for Seattle. Derek Stepan would bring some valuable experience to an expansion franchise and is made expendable by Arizona because of the young depth down the middle. The 30-year-old has proven his worth, but this is a young team that isn’t exactly built to win right now. Capobianco may only have three NHL games under his belt, but his numbers in the AHL show that he has far too much upside to risk losing.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf, C
F: Sam Steel, Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rackell, Ondrej Kaše, Troy Terry, Max Jones
D: Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson
G: John Gibson
*Exempt: Maxime Comtois, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Ryan Kesler (Injury), Patrick Eaves (Injury)
Getzlaf’s tank is by no means empty, but something’s gotta give in Anaheim. Getzlaf is a pending-UFA, meaning the Kraken would have to get a deal done within the window, but they have ample motivation to do so. A proven winner and a seasoned veteran, Seattle would be hard pressed to find a better captain. While losing their captain might not sound ideal, it is a short-term loss that could turn into a long-term gain by kickstarting the rebuild and subsequent culture shift the franchise so desperately needs.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, G
F: Anze Kopitar, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Blake Lizotte
D: Drew Doughty (NMC), Sean Walker, Kale Clague, Matt Roy
G: Cal Petersen
*Exempt: Akil Thomas, Aidan Dundas, Sean Durzi
If the narrative of an expansion team taking an established goalie whose career appears to have reached an apex sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what the Vegas Golden Knights did when they pulled Fleury out of Pittsburgh. And there is nobody to argue that that move didn’t pay dividends and then some. The Kraken will look to the Kings for their franchise netminder as they hope a change of scenery can reignite Quick’s Stanley Cup champion form. L.A. is another franchise looking at a lengthy rebuild, hence the exposure of veterans like Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter and the heavy focus on preserving young stars, such as breakout blueliner Sean Walker.
San Jose Sharks: Brent Burns, D
F: Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Jonathan Dahlen, Marcus Sorensen
D: Erik Karlsson (NMC), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (NMC), Ryan Merkley
G: Martin Jones
When it comes to protecting Sharks forwards, it’s pretty obvious. The first five guys on that list are the same five names that appear at the top of their scoring sheet this season. The seven are rounded out by Jonathan Dahlen, who has become a force in Europe, and Marcus Sorensen who is a good bottom-six scorer. As if there weren’t enough surprises coming out of the Pacific, San Jose will get in on that, leaving Brent Burns exposed.
Theoretically, there is no logic to offering up a consistent Norris-caliber blueliner for free, but Burns isn’t immortal and certainly isn’t cheap. When the expansion draft rolls around, Burns will be 36 and carry an $8 million dollar price tag. While the four years that follow have a significantly lower rate, it isn’t out of the question that the Sharks would look to offload that cap space given Burns’ age and the reality of an impending rebuild.
UP NEXT: Central Division