Now that things have hopefully calmed down for today, I might actually be able to do this section without another big move shifting things around.
Needless to say, a lot has happened in the 48+ hours since my Western Conference expansion draft picks went up (check them out here.) Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner and Dallas’s Ben Bishop have agreed to waive their no-move clauses. Keith Yandle was bought out of his contract as Florida used the cap savings to extend Anthony Duclair and Gustav Forsling, likely ensuring they’re protected. Shea Weber will likely miss next season due to injury, opening the door for him to possibly be selected. There’s still a day before expansion draft lists are due, so we may not be quite done with the crazy moves just yet. (Update: And as I’m making this article, one of my selections (Ryan Graves from Colorado) was flipped to New Jersey. This is why I’m making another mock draft when lists go public.)
Also, I have had people reach out and ask me about what Vegas would do in the expansion draft, and my response is this: I’m intrigued. Vegas could move some money with expiring contracts (Reilly Smith, in particular, could be worth a decent sum), and they could afford some center depth. There are plenty of routes the Golden Knights could go through, and this article outlines a couple of interesting ideas. Another idea that’s not in that article? Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick, who checks off a lot of boxes the Knights look for in players and who has connections to current GM Kelly McCrimmon from their time together on the Brandon Wheat Kings. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vegas has their eyes on a couple of players here; whether their current teams or Seattle is the beneficiary of the deal is to be determined.
Before we begin, let’s refresh on the rules of the 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.
With all that out of the way, let’s get to the Eastern Conference selections.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Patrice Bergeron (NMC), Brad Marchand (NMC), Charlie Coyle (NMC), David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Craig Smith (D): Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk (G): Daniel Vladar
Selection: D Jeremy Lauzon
Alternate Choices: D Jakub Zboril, D Connor Clifton, F Nick Ritchie
While a few unrestricted free agents (Taylor Hall, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask) are floating around here, Boston does have a bit of young talent that can be had. Ritchie had a solid year this past season and could easily be the pick, but my choice is Lauzon, a talented and versatile defenseman who was starting to earn big minute with the Bruins towards the end of the season. Playing on the right side will be a huge boost to his value, as that will likely be where he plays in Seattle if he’s selected.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Anders Bjork, Tage Thompson, Rasmus Asplund (D): Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Henri Jokiharju (G): Linus UIlmark
Selection: D Colin Miller (Seattle also receives Montreal’s 2021 3rd Round pick)
Alternate Choices: D Will Borgen, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Cody Eakin
Whatever intrigue Buffalo might have had disappeared when Skinner waived his NMC, ensuring Asplund’s protection. The only other choice with upside is Borgen, and Buffalo would be willing to part with a pick to keep him. With our other potential choices being a center who missed last season due to injury and a likely buyout candidate, the pick is Miller, a defenseman who showed he could shine in a sheltered role on the third pairing in Vegas. With this pick being Miller’s second Expansion Draft selection, he could help the other guys through the process and be an early locker room leader as the Kraken search for an identity.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Jordan Staal (NMC), Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, Warren Foegele (D): Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin, Jake Bean (G): Alex Nedeljkovic
Selection: F Morgan Geekie (Seattle also receives Carolina’s 2022 3rd Round Pick)
Alternate Choices: D Brady Skjei, F Jesper Fast
While some lists flip-flop between protecting Bean and Skjei, I just don’t think Don Waddell would be too keen on potentially risking losing the younger Bean, especially with offensive dynamo Dougie Hamilton likely leaving. Of course, Skjei might be too important to lose for the Hurricanes as well, in order to take on Hamilton’s defensive responsibilites. A former draft pick of Ron Francis, Geekie would shoot up the Seattle GM’s choices if the Hurricanes were willing to send over a pick for added security. Fast would also be a nice pickup, but the pick might jump to a second for that to happen.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic, Boone Jenner, Max Domi, Gustav Nyquist (D): Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov (G): Joonas Korpisalo
Selection: F Eric Robinson
Alternate Choices: F Kevin Stenlund, D Gabriel Carlsson, D Dean Kukan
Columbus was one of the teams most burned by the Vegas Expansion Draft, letting go of William Karlsson and a couple sweeteners to take David Clarkson’s contract and protect a couple extra pieces. It’s unlikely they’ll make a mistake on that same level again, but that doesn’t mean there’s intrigue here. Robinson’s the pick due to his net-front presence and defensive acumen. Add a bit of scoring touch and he’s the quintessential fourth-liner and penalty killer. Stenlund could be an option if Seattle’s center depth is lacking, and Carlsson has potential as a stay-at-home defenseman.
Detroit Red Wings
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Dylan Larkin, Jakub Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Adam Erne, Givani Smith (D): Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski, Troy Stecher (G): Thomas Greiss
Selection: F Evgeny Svechnikov
Alternate Choices: F Vladislav Namestnikov, D Gustav Lindstrom, F Richard Panik, G Kaden Fulcher
Detroit doesn’t have the depth of options as other teams, but they aren’t as barren as they were for Vegas. Namestnikov has carved out a role as a solid middle-six forward and Lindstrom has promise as a right-side defenseman, but the Kraken elect to go for Svechnikov. The older brother of Andrei, Evgeny was able to start producing at the NHL level, but wasn’t quite able to get it done consistently. There’s upside for him as a middle-six option, so the Kraken can do much worse than take a flier on him. No risk, medium reward.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Sam Bennett, Frank Vatrano (D): Aaron Ekblad, Mackenzie Weegar, Gustav Forsling (G): Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)
Selection: G Chris Driedger (Kraken sign him to a four-year contract worth $4.5 million AAV)
Alternate Choices: D Radko Gudas, D Lucas Carlsson, F Alexander Wennberg, F Noel Acciari
There’s almost no chance the Panthers can do worse than the Vegas Expansion Draft, when then-GM Dale Tallon inexplicably gifted the Golden Knights Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Driedger stands out as a quality option, with Bobrovsky’s NMC staying in place and Spencer Knight emerging as a legitimate option. My guess is that he’ll approach Jakob Markstrom’s deal (six years for $6 million AAV) as a benchmark, but he’ll likely get a deal similar to Robin Lehner (five years for $5 million AAV). Still, Seattle would give Driedger a legitimate path to starting the majority of games, which is more than a lot of teams could offer. If a deal for Driedger falls through, the Kraken could take a swing on another free agent in Wennberg, or solidify the back end with Gudas or Carlsson.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Brendan Gallagher (NMC), Tyler Toffoli, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Josh Anderson, Artturi Lehkonen, Jake Evans, Phillip Danault (D): Jeff Petry (NMC), Joel Edmundson, Cale Fleury (G): Carey Price (NMC)
Selection: G Jake Allen
Alternate Choices: F Jonathan Drouin, D Ben Chiarot, D Shea Weber, Fleury (if exposed)
Yes, picking Danault for protection is a risk, but Weber’s salary moving to LTIR gives Montreal some room to extend the two-way center while working out a way to deal Weber. I doubt Seattle goes after him without serious sweeteners going the other way, and Weber could choose to retire instead of play a game for the Kraken. Allen has been a stable backup for Price last season and Jordan Binnington the season before, so Seattle could certainly pick him up to fill the same role for them. If Montreal wants to keep Allen around to give Price rest and Cayden Primeau more development time, Drouin is a player that stands out as one who could benefit from a change in scenery.
New Jersey Devils
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Miles Wood (D): Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Jonas Siegenthaler (G): Mackenzie Blackwood
Selection: F Andreas Johnsson
Alternate Choices: F Nathan Bastian, D Will Butcher, D Ryan Murray, D P.K. Subban, Wood (if exposed)
New Jersey would love to be able to get out from the final year of Subban’s deal, which…makes a little sense for the Kraken, at least from an off-ice perspective. That said, the selection likely boils down to Bastian and whoever the Devils don’t protect between Johnsson and Wood. My guess is the Devils expose Johnsson, a former 20-goal scorer who just hasn’t found his footing in New Jersey. His contract’s not bad for the Kraken to pick up, and there’s a chance the Devils throw a mid-round pick in to guarantee the selection. They have to make room for Graves, somehow.
New York Islanders
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey (D): Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield (G): Semyon Varlamov
Selection: F Kieffer Bellows (Seattle also receives F Andrew Ladd, D Bode Wilde, and Colorado’s 2022 2nd Round pick)
Alternate Choices: D Nick Leddy, F Cal Clutterbuck
It’s hard to see the Islander rocking the boat too badly, especially after making their second straight trip to the semifinals. Leddy and Clutterbuck are replaceable pieces, but someone the Kraken should have their eye on is Bellows, a former top prospect who doesn’t appear to have earned the trust of Barry Trotz. The Islanders could throw in Andrew Ladd’s contract, which would go into LTIR, as well as Wilde and the 2nd. There’s a chance that the Islanders convince the Kraken to go towards Robin Salo, but a couple of rough seasons for Wilde at the AHL level might have some in the Islanders’ front office souring on him enough to make this deal happen.
New York Rangers
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Artemi Panarin (NMC), Mika Zibanejad (NMC), Chris Kreider (NMC), Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, Colin Blackwell (D): Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek (G): Alexandar Georgiev
Selection: F Julien Gauthier
Alternate Choices: F Brett Howden, D Mason Geertsen, Blackwell (if exposed)
The Rangers might be an interesting rebuild job, especially with Gerard Gallant now behind the bench, but their Expansion Draft offerings are relatively light. The edge has to go to Gauthier, a former Ron Francis pick who still has offensive upside. While he hasn’t quite found the net consistently at the NHL level, he absolutely lit up the AHL with 69 goals in 184 games. There’s talent there; perhaps Seattle can give him an ideal role to showcase his skill set.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Brady Tkachuk, Connor Brown, Drake Batherson, Colin White, Nick Paul, Logan Brown, Evgenii Dadonov (D): Thomas Chabot, Victor Mete, Nikita Zaitsev (G): Filip Gustavsson
Selection: F Chris Tierney
Alternate Choices: F Austin Watson, G Joey Daccord, F Vitaly Abramov, G Matt Murray, Dadonov (if exposed)
There isn’t much going on with Ottawa, so there’s no real reason to get too fancy with this. Abramov would have been a good developmental choice, but a two-year KHL deal he signed likely complicates things too much for Seattle’s liking. Tierney underwent a down year as his ice time and numbers dropped, so a change in scenery would be the best-case scenario for all parties involved. Tierney would fit in as a middle-six faceoff specialist and penalty killer, and his expiring contract could make him a valuable deadline asset if Tierney improves and Seattle struggles early in the season.
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Claude Giroux (NMC), Kevin Hayes (NMC), Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Nicolas Aube-Kubel (D): Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Phillippe Myers (G): Carter Hart
Selection: F James van Rimesdyk (Seattle also receives F Nolan Patrick, F Jay O’Brien, Philadelphia’s 2021 1st Round pick, and Philadelphia’s 2022 4th Round pick)
Alternate Choices: F Jakub Voracek, Patrick, D Shayne Gostisbehere, D Robert Hagg, D Justin Braun
It seems strange to let van Riemsdyk go, but the flat cap requires some sacrifices. With Voracek having a year longer and a million more than JvR per year, he’d be the bigger salary to shed as Philadelphia rebuilds their defense, but his game is more likely to age better. Along with van Riemsdyk, the Kraken get Patrick to either as a trade chip or reclamation project, and a talented forward in O’Brien that’s working his way through the college ranks. The first-round pick might be a bit extreme to some people, but Philadelphia’s history of late-round gems and the thinness of this year’s class makes it a little easier to part with. Could the salary Philadelphia sheds here be weaponized to acquire Dougie Hamilton?
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Sidney Crosby (NMC), Evgeni Malkin (NMC), Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Kasperi Kapanen, Jared McCann, Teddy Blueger (D): Kris Letang (NMC), Brian Dumoulin, Mark Friedman (G): Tristan Jarry
Selection: F Zach Aston-Reese (Seattle also receives F Jason Zucker)
Alternate Choices: F Brandon Tanev, D Marcus Pettersson, Zucker, G Casey DeSmith
Meet the Florida deal done partially right. Ron Hextall inherited a mess left behind from predecessor Jim Rutherford, and Pittsburgh’s draft capital and prospect system are among the worst in the league due to deals for the likes of Zucker. A return out west for Zucker would make sense, as Seattle can afford to swallow the remaining years of his deal. The Kraken would likely get another player due to Pittsburgh’s lack of future assets, so someone like Aston-Reese, who would be a fourth-line fixture for Seattle, would make sense.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Protection (8-1): (F): Steven Stamkos (NMC), Nikita Kucherov (NMC), Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli (D): Victor Hedman (NMC), Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Cal Foote (G): Andrei Vasilevskiy
Selection: F Tyler Johnson (Seattle also receives F Mathieu Joseph, G Hugo Alnefelt, and Tampa Bay’s 2023 3rd Round Pick)
Alternate Choices: Joseph, D Ryan McDonagh, F Ondrej Palat, F Yanni Gourde, F Alex Barre-Boulet, F Taylor Raddysh
The local boy comes home. With an impressive Cup Final performance to cap off his season, Spokane native Johnson will likely face a return to his home state. A side deal would likely be in play, and Joseph stands out a good option for a young NHL player, as he stands out as a good fit for Seattle both on and off the ice. Alnefelt stands out as a strong goaltender prospect, but an uneven season and Vasilevskiy being locked up long-term puts him in a strange spot. If Seattle could somehow convince Tampa Bay to add him, it gives them a talented prospect to groom for the future.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Protection (8-1): (F): John Tavares (NMC), Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander (D): Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie, Justin Holl (G): Jack Campbell
Selection: D Travis Dermott
Alternate Choices: F Alexander Kerfoot, F Adam Brooks, F Pierre Engvall
With prospects Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren coming up to the NHL level, Dermott stands out as a potential option. A third-pairing defenseman in Toronto, Dermott has suffered from bouts of inconsistency. While Kerfoot would be a good option, the deals on forwards at the moment allows Seattle to go a different route. Brooks and Engvall could be solid developmental answers, but Dermott’s NHL experience gives him an edge. Could a change in scenery push Dermott’s development along, and does Toronto think a Sandin-Liljegren pairing is viable for next season?
Protection (7-3-1): (F): Nicklas Backstrom (NMC), Tom Wilson, Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Daniel Sprong (D): John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Justin Schultz (G): Ilya Samsonov
Selection: D Trevor van Riemsdyk (Seattle also receives Washington’s 2022 2nd Round pick)
Alternate Choices: G Vitek Vanecek, D Brenden Dillon, D Nick Jensen, F Nic Dowd, F Garrett Pilon
Vanecek would be Seattle’s first choice, and could still be in play if the goaltender options here are either traded off before the Expansion Draft or deals fall through. If things go smoothly, Washington would prefer to keep Vanecek and throw an extra pick for Seattle to take an excess defenseman. Dillon and Jensen could both serve a purpose, but we go with James’s brother Trevor in this case. A veteran defenseman on a cheap expiring deal, TvR could succeed in a sheltered role or as a seventh defenseman.