NHL mock expansion draft: Projecting Kraken’s 30 picks, including 1 from Blackhawks
The July 21 expansion draft is less than three weeks away. NHL general managers likely learned from Vegas four years ago, but Seattle will still be able to build a competitive team.
In the upcoming expansion draft, NHL general managers likely won’t repeat the strategic mistakes they made during the Golden Knights’ formation four years ago.
But that doesn’t mean the Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s 32nd franchise, won’t be able to assemble a competitive team this summer. The Kraken will pick one player from each of 30 other teams — with the Knights excluded — on July 21.
Teams can protect seven forwards and three defensemen (or eight total skaters in any combination) as well as one goalie. All players in the first two years of their first contract are exempt. The Kraken, meanwhile, must pick at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. Twenty of their picks must be under contract for next season, and they must fit within the NHL salary cap of $81.5 million.
The theory seems simple enough — pick the best player each team leaves unprotected — but the reality will be more complicated.
From some teams, the Kraken will select a notable player. From others, they won’t. They also will be active in the free-agent market. Side trades will be made, giving the Kraken picks and prospects for ignoring certain exposed players. And a handful of the Kraken’s selected players will be flipped quickly for more picks and prospects.
That’s because the Kraken will need to build a pool of 19- to 22-year-olds. They won’t be able to manage or afford a depth chart with 30 NHL players on one-way contracts.
Knights general manager George McPhee heavily exploited his GM comrades in the 2017 process, landing most of his eventual core players through lopsided trades rather than the expansion draft. Kraken GM Ron Francis will hope to do the same but might encounter a shrewder bunch.
With less than three weeks until decision day, here’s a rough projection of whom the Kraken might pick from each team:
Ducks: F Adam Henrique
Henrique doesn’t fit the Ducks’ youth movement, but he’s an older, expensive player worth gambling on for the Kraken.
Coyotes: G Adin Hill
Hill is only 24, boasts a .915 save percentage over the last two seasons and is hungry for a bigger role. The Coyotes have little else.
Bruins: D Jeremy Lauzon
The Bruins are likely to expose three relatively young and promising defensemen — Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Jakub Zboril — who would make sense for the Kraken.
Sabres: F Rasmus Asplund
There’s not much in the Sabres’ cupboard, but Asplund at least has a little value.
Flames: D Oliver Kylington
Milan Lucic waiving his no-movement clause rescued the Flames. The Kraken can pick between old, expensive and good defenseman Mark Giordano or the young, cheap and untested Kylington.
Hurricanes: D Jake Bean
Francis drafted Bean 13th overall with the Hurricanes. Bean still could grow into an impactful offensive defenseman.
Blackhawks: G Malcolm Subban
Alex Nylander’s exemption allows the Hawks to protect either Adam Gaudette or David Kampf among the forwards. They also will have to choose between Nikita Zadorov and Riley Stillman among the defensemen, leaving exposed two of those four plus Subban and Calvin de Haan as the Kraken’s viable options.
Subban isn’t more than a proven career backup, but his selection would give the Kraken three goalies and more flexibility with their selections from juicier lists.
Avalanche: D Ryan Graves
Erik Johnson waiving his NMC helps the Avs but won’t save Graves, a towering second-pair defenseman.
Blue Jackets: F Eric Robinson
Much like William Karlsson — the Knights’ 2017 selection from Columbus — Robinson, an underrated power forward, seems primed for a breakout in Seattle.
Stars: G Anton Khudobin
Khudobin is 35, but his .920 save percentage in Dallas the last three years (fifth in the NHL) is too good to pass up.
Red Wings: D Troy Stecher
The Red Wings will focus on protecting their young players rather than Stecher, who quietly had a decent season.
Oilers: F Jujhar Khaira
Re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pushes Khaira into the exposed category. If the Oilers also re-sign Adam Larsson or Tyson Barrie soon, Caleb Jones would become exposed and likely be the Kraken’s pick.
Panthers: D Gustav Forsling
The Kraken will have a number of interesting defensive options in Florida: Forsling, Radko Gudas, Anton Stralman and Markus Nutivaara.
Kings: F Blake Lizotte
Acquiring Viktor Arvidsson makes Lizotte and Lias Andersson, two raw but young forwards, available from the Kings.
Wild: D Matt Dumba
Unless Ryan Suter waives his NMC, the Wild will have to expose two of the best players in the draft: Dumba, who has averaged more than 22 minutes in four straight seasons, and goalie Cam Talbot, a stellar backup.
Canadiens: D Ben Chiarot
The Canadiens will have to expose two of three solid, prime-aged defensemen — Chiarot, Joel Edmundson and Brett Kulak.
Predators: F Matt Duchene
Will the Kraken be willing to absorb an
$8 million cap hit for either Duchene or Ryan Johansen and gamble on a not-long-removed star? Perhaps a sweetener side trade would convince them.
Devils: F Michael McLeod
The Devils will expose little of interest, but at least McLeod was a 12th overall pick.
Islanders: D Sebastian Aho
Aho, a depth defenseman not to be confused with the Hurricanes star, might improve with more opportunity.
Rangers: F Colin Blackwell
The Kraken might pick between three middle-six forwards — Blackwell, Kevin Rooney and Brett Howden — from the Rangers.
Senators: F Evgeni Dadonov
The Kraken will pick between Dadonov, who’s 32 with a $5 million cap hit but totaled 70 points two years ago, and Chris Tierney, who’s 27 with a $3.5 million cap hit and had 48 points two years ago.
Flyers: F James van Riemsdyk
One of the best players available, JVR is well into the second half of his career but remains a dynamic offensive talent.
Penguins: F Teddy Blueger
Blueger has been a quietly productive scorer the last two seasons and could be a 2021-22 breakout candidate. Brandon Tanev and Jason Zucker are more established alternatives.
Sharks: F Ryan Donato
The Sharks need to re-sign then expose Donato to meet a team exposure requirement. The Kraken can then pick up his contract.
Blues: D Vince Dunn
The Kraken will find numerous interesting options in St. Louis, but Dunn — a young, talented offensive defenseman with high trade value — is the best of all.
Lightning: F Yanni Gourde
Knowing they’ll lose one good player regardless, the Lightning might protect four defensemen (and thus only four forwards) to secure that position group. Gourde, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn would headline the exposed forwards.
Maple Leafs: F Alex Kerfoot
The Leafs also might protect four defensemen and four forwards for the same reason. Kerfoot is a consistent middle-six playmaker.
Canucks: F Zack MacEwen
The Canucks’ exposed list isn’t going to have anyone of value.
Capitals: D Brenden Dillon
The Capitals’ third protected defenseman will be either Dillon or Justin Schultz, two nearly identical players. The Kraken likely will pick the exposed one.
Jets: F Mason Appleton
Appleton, who broke out for 25 points this season, can’t fit into the Jets’ protection plan but looks tempting for the Kraken.