Building the Kraken: Western Conference

Credit: Aaron Doster, USA Today Sports

We’re nearly a week away from one of the most exciting occurrences of this offseason: the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.

It’ll be the first time that we get to see Ron Francis’s vision for the Kraken play out, with his picks in the Expansion Draft being the first real proof of how he wants his team to play on the ice. There’s more expectation in the air, however, given the success of Vegas in the franchise’s first few years. This, however, should not be an excuse for Seattle to “go for it” and play too hard, too fast. Building a team from the ground up requires careful effort, balancing between respectability in the present and a strong foundation for the future. Remember, Vegas did catch lightning in a bottle and caught a few teams napping (hi, Florida, Columbus, and Anaheim). This year, however, instead of Seattle taking advantage of roster configurations that didn’t bode well for the Expansion Draft, they will have the flat cap to allow them to take specific players that can have a huge impact.

Before we get too far, however, let’s examine the rules of the Seattle Expansion Draft:

  • Current NHL teams (except Vegas) must choose to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goaltender, or 8 skaters and 1 goaltender.
  • The Kraken have an exclusive window from July 18-21 to interview and sign pending free agents exposed by their teams. Any players signed will count as the Kraken’s selection in the Expansion Draft from the player’s former team.
  • All players with no-movement clauses that do not choose to waive them will count towards their team’s protection lists.
  • All unsigned draft choices and first and second-year professionals are ineligible to be selected by the Kraken.
  • All NHL teams must expose two forwards and one defenseman who is under contract for 2021-22 and has either played 40 games this past season or 70 games in the past two seasons. They must also expose one goaltender who is under contract for 2021-22 or is a restricted free agent who has received his qualifying offer.
  • Players with career-ending injuries or potentially career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games are not eligible for selection or exposure, unless the latter has been approved by the NHL.

In this article, I will go over my protection lists, selections, and rationale for each choice from the 14 Western Conference teams that will lose a player in the Expansion Draft. The 16 Eastern Conference Teams will come before protection lists are due Saturday, and a final mock draft will come when the lists are made public. And I, personally, am excited to see just what I get right.

Let the Expansion Draft (sort of) begin!

Anaheim Ducks

Protection (8-1): (F): Rickard Rakell, Troy Terry, Isac Lundestrom, Alexander Volkov (D): Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Haydn Fleury (G): John Gibson

Selection: D Josh Mahura

Alternate Choices: F Sam Steel, F Adam Henrique, F Jakob Silfverberg, F Max Jones, D Kevin Shattenkirk

The Ducks don’t necessarily have a straightforward path to the Expansion Draft. There have been protection lists that have seen Fleury exposed, but it feels like poor asset management to expose a player who Anaheim just got at the trade deadline, especially when the player has strong ties to Francis. Young forwards like Steel and Jones could pique some interest, but I’ve become a big Josh Mahura fan in recent years. He finished fifth in scoring among defensemen in the AHL this season, and he has 13 points in 41 NHL games. Losing Mahura won’t be a Shea Theodore-esque mistake from Anaheim, but it would still be a tough loss. Now the question is whether he would come attached to a contract like Henrique.

Arizona Coyotes

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Phil Kessel (NMC), Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland, Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse, Michael Bunting (D): Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NMC), Jakob Chychrun, Kyle Capobianco (G): Darcy Kuemper

Selection: G Adin Hill

Alternate Choices: F Christian Fischer, F Johan Larsson, F Tyler Pitlick, D Ilya Lyubushkin

It’ll be slim pickings from Arizona this season. Even making this list was a bit difficult towards the end, with Bunting being an unrestricted free agent that the Coyotes should extend and Capobianco having the most upside out of the defensemen past OEL and Chychrun. It makes this one of the more straightforward selections in the Expansion Draft, as Hill has shown promise as a spot starter over the last couple of seasons. The Coyotes might be aware of this, however, and could strike up a deal for a proven fourth-line forward like Larsson to keep their higher-upside options protected.

Calgary Flames

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Mikael Backlund (D): Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev (G): Jakob Markstrom (NMC)

Selection: D Mark Giordano (Seattle also receives Calgary’s 2023 2nd Round Pick)

Alternate Choices: F Glenn Gawdin, D Oliver Kylington

Milan Lucic earned himself some fans in the Calgary front office by waiving his no-movement clause, allowing the Flames to protect Mangiapane and Dube instead of having to choose between the young forwards. With Calgary facing a rebuild, Giordano might be in line to take the Marc-Andre Fleury role of franchise legend that gets left out due to a change in direction. The 2023 pick is more for security in case Giordano is traded at the deadline or bolts back to Calgary or to a Cup contender in free agency next offseason. For now, though, Giordano provides stability, leadership, and legitimacy to a team that needs all of those intangibles. A good choice as one half of Seattle’s top defensive pairing.

Chicago Blackhawks

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Patrick Kane (NMC), Jonathan Toews (NMC), Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Adam Gaudette, Brandon Hagel, Henrik Borgstrom (D): Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman, Caleb Jones (G): Kevin Lankinen

Selection: D Calvin de Haan

Alternate Choices: D Nikita Zadorov, G Malcolm Subban, F David Kampf

Duncan Keith moving to Edmonton changes a few things but, most importantly, losing his NMC means Chicago can protect his replacement in Jones. The pick remains pretty clear though. de Haan has established himself as a solid top-four option who can shine in both zones, play on both sides, and his expiring contract and reasonable cap hit will make him a good bargaining chip. Regardless of who Seattle gets from Chicago, there’s a chance that the pick ends up being flipped before the season begins. More on that in a later article, however.

Colorado Avalanche

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Tyson Jost, Valeri Nichushkin (D): Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard (G): Jonas Johansson

Selection: D Ryan Graves

Alternate Choices: F J.T. Compher, F Nazem Kadri, Jost/Nichuskin (if exposed)

Not protecting Grubauer may be a bit controversial, but it’s grounded in the reasoning that I doubt Grubauer signs with Seattle over Colorado or most other teams. Graves is coming off a poor showing in the second round against Vegas, but he gives Seattle a minute-munching defensemen and a legitimate penalty killer. He’s also another expiring contract that can get some decent value if Seattle falls apart in their first year. Compher might also work, if Francis isn’t confident about Seattle’s forward depth.

Dallas Stars

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Jamie Benn (NMC), Tyler Seguin (NMC), Alexander Radulov (NMC), Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, Radek Faksa, Joe Pavelski (D): John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell (G): Ben Bishop (NMC)

Selection: G Anton Khudobin (Seattle also receives Dallas’s 2022 4th Round Pick)

Alternate Choices: F Jason Dickinson, D Jamie Oleksiak, F Joel L’Esperance, F Adam Mascherin

Pavelski would have initially been exposed, but his strong offensive season has altered plans a bit. Dickinson and Oleksiak would be helpful players to build with, but Khudobin provides Seattle with stability at the back end. He had a down year after being a playoff bubble hero for Dallas in 2019-20, but that shouldn’t deter Seattle from going after him as either part of a goalie tandem or a trade chip for a team desperate for goaltending. If Dallas isn’t interested in losing a draft pick, a mid-level prospect like L’Esperance or Mascherin would also work as a sweetener.

Edmonton Oilers

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, Dominik Kahun, Zack Kassian (D): Duncan Keith (NMC), Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear (G): Stuart Skinner

Selection: D Oscar Klefbom (Seattle also receives F Tyler Benson)

Alternate Choices: D William Lagesson, F Josh Archibald, F James Neal, G Mikko Koskinen

Adding Keith (full salary and everything) indicates a couple things to me: talks with Adam Larsson might have broken down and Klefbom will not be playing this upcoming season. The latter has been confirmed by GM Ken Holland, which gives the Oilers an excuse to give top prospects Evan Bouchard and Phillip Broberg a longer look. It gives Seattle an excuse to select Klefbom, stash him on LTIR this season, and let him get healthy for the upcoming season. Francis should also push for a sweetener and, while the best-case scenario would be a young prospect like Raphael Lavoie or Carter Savoie, it’s more likely they’ll land Benson, a talented winger who didn’t reach Edmonton’s roster this season but tied for the scoring lead for their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.

Los Angeles Kings

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo, Viktor Arvidsson, Trevor Moore, Brendan Lemieux, Carl Grundstrom (D): Drew Doughty (NMC), Matt Roy, Kale Clague (G): Cal Petersen

Selection: F Lias Andersson

Alternate Choices: Grundstrom (if exposed), F Blake Lizotte, D Sean Walker, D Olli Maatta, F Dustin Brown, G Jonathan Quick

The Kings will be doing everything in their power to convince Seattle to take Brown or Quick off their hands, but can they really afford losing a young NHL-caliber player like Alex Turcotte or Tobias Bjornfot plus a high draft pick? Even Walker or Maatta might require a sweetener to be taken. Expect Francis to choose between whoever Seattle doesn’t protect between Andersson and Grundstrom. Grundstrom picked up 11 points despite limited ice time in the NHL, while Andersson put up 17 points in 15 AHL games for the Ontario Reign. Either would be a high-upside selection, which is exactly what Seattle should be aiming for.

Minnesota Wild

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Mats Zuccarello (NMC), Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno, Nico Sturm (D): Jared Spurgeon (NMC), Jonas Brodin (NMC), Matt Dumba (G): Kaapo Kahkonen

Selection: D Carson Soucy (Seattle also receives Minnesota’s 2021 3rd Round pick)

Alternate Choices: G Cam Talbot

The joint buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter may hold massive implications later down the road, but it does makes their Expansion Draft plans much easier. Instead of choosing between Dumba and their young forwards, they can now protect both and keep more prized assets under their control. Minnesota may have to flip a mid-round pick to protect Talbot and keep a strong tandem, but Soucy is still a good selection for the Kraken. Soucy could be Seattle’s answer to Nate Schmidt: a younger defenseman who did well in limited minutes that can shine in an expanded role.

Nashville Predators

Protection (8-1): (F): Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin, Calle Jarnkrok (D): Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Alexandre Carrier (G): Juuse Saros

Selection: F Ryan Johansen (Seattle also receives Nashville’s 2021 1st Round pick, Nashville’s 2021 4th Round pick, G Connor Ingram, and F Rem Pitlick)

Alternate Choices: F Matt Duchene, F Colton Sissons, F Yakov Trenin, F Rocco Grimaldi, F Tanner Jeannot, D Matthew Benning

Let’s face it: the only way Nashville comes out a winner in the Expansion Draft is if one of their big contracts comes off the book. With Johansen being two years younger than Duchene and having one less year on his contract, he would be the more favorable of the two. The first-round pick isn’t as serious of a loss in a thinner draft class, and Ingram is in a strange place with Saros in net now and Askarov set as the franchise goaltender of the future. Pitlick and the mid-round pick are further security to keep Seattle off of the likes of Jeannot and Trenin. It’s a lot, but it’s well worth the financial flexibility it provides Nashville.

San Jose Sharks

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Evander Kane, Kevin LaBanc, Rudolfs Balcers, Ryan Donato (D): Erik Karlsson (NMC), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (NMC), Radim Simek (G): Josef Korenar

Selection: F Dylan Gambrell

Alternate Choices: F Alexander True, D Brent Burns, G Martin Jones

The Sharks might be willing to throw out some sweeteners for the Kraken to take Burns or Jones off their hands, but their contracts are hardly worth justifying. The selection comes out to former Seattle Thunderbird True and Gambrell, a native of Bonney Lake, just an hour away from Seattle. While Gambrell hasn’t quite put it together at the NHL level yet, he did put up strong showing in the AHL and could benefit with more talent around him. He’s worth a flier.

St. Louis Blues

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, David Perron, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Oskar Sundqvist, Sammy Blais (D): Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko (G): Jordan Binnington

Selection: D Vince Dunn

Alternate Choices: F Ivan Barbashev, F Zach Sanford, F Mike Hoffman, F Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko could be an intriguing side-deal option, but it’s too risky to bank on a forward with a large cap hit and who has been more injured than not the last couple of years. St. Louis’s cap situation means Dunn will likely not be returning next season, so Seattle would be smart to scoop him up now. Dunn, coming off a strong offensive year with 20 points in 43 games, could be seen as a breakout candidate with more ice time, and there’s a good chance he even is paired with Mark Giordano on the top pairing.

Vancouver Canucks

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Motte, Zack MacEwen (D): Olli Juolevi, Nate Schmidt, Tyler Myers (G): Thatcher Demko

Selection: F Kole Lind

Alternate Choices: F Jonah Gadjovich, F Matthew Highmore, D Brogan Rafferty, G Braden Holtby, F Antoine Roussel, F Jay Beagle

Roussel or Beagle would definitely require side deals for Seattle to take them, and Holtby would have to arrive with a sweetener as well. Lind and Gadjovich both standout as high-upside options for Seattle to take from their natural rivals. Lind has scored 52 points in 69 AHL games, with 19 of those points being goals. He does need more seasoning at the AHL level, but a potential question about forward depth makes him a prospect worth snatching up. Rafferty is an unrestricted free agent that Vancouver might not be able to sign, so keep an eye out for him when Seattle signs free agents to fill out their AHL team.

Winnipeg Jets

Protection (7-3-1): (F): Blake Wheeler (NMC), Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp (D): Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Dylan DeMelo (G): Connor Hellebuyck

Selection: F Mason Appleton

Alternate Choices: D Logan Stanley, D Sami Niku, G Mikhail Berdin

Winnipeg is surprisingly filled with some intriguing choices for draft selections. Stanley’s strong postseason might convince Winnipeg to protect him over DeMelo, but not doing so makes this a bit more of a challenging decision. Appleton has managed to be one of the league’s more reliable third-line forwards, serving as a net-front presence and putting up 12 goals and 25 points this past season. He’d be a welcome addition to the Kraken. Keep an eye out for Niku and Berdin’s names, however, if Seattle’s looking to continue doing business with the Jets after the Expansion Draft.


3 thoughts on “Building the Kraken: Western Conference

  1. Derek,

    Maybe I am not understanding, but why is Vegas exempt from this and are they not included in the draft at all? I do not see them on the final draft notice you sent.

    Will they be drafting players and letting players go?

    Thanks Betty

    On Tue, Jul 13, 2021 at 4:36 PM The Sports Nerd Speaks wrote:

    > Derek Hegna posted: ” Credit: Aaron Doster, USA Today Sports We’re nearly > a week away from one of the most exciting occurrences of this offseason: > the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. It’ll be the first time that we get to > see Ron Francis’s vision for the Kraken play out” >


    1. The reason why Vegas was exempt is because, when Seattle entered the league, a deal was struck between the team and the NHL that Vegas would be allowed to be exempt if they did not receive a cut of the expansion fee Seattle had to pay to enter the league. However, they were active in the window before rosters froze for the expansion draft, making trades for Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden, who would have likely been exposed by their original teams.


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