Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Atlantic Divisionby Carter LaCorte July 14, 2021 0 comments
The expansion previews roll on!
While the Wild may have ruined the Central edition with their announcement of buying out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Atlantic is still innocent for now. So, before Jack Eichel eventually gets traded, let’s grind through this division.
The Bruins have three easy forwards to protect right away, as their top line is still very effective and cheap. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have no-move clauses to force them to be protected anyways. David Pastrnak is no slouch, either. David Krejci and Taylor Hall are about to become free agents, meaning that they will not be protected. Charlie Coyle had a really rough 2020-21 season but must be on this list. Jake Debrusk also had a rough year. He could be traded this offseason but will first be protected to prevent Seattle from getting him for nothing. Craig Smith proved to be a great pickup this offseason and scored some huge playoff goals.
The real question here lies with the final forward spot. Do they go with young Trent Frederic, a grinder who still has a bunch of holes in his game? Probably. But net-front presence Nick Ritchie is also an option.
Charlie McAvoy has become one of the premier defensemen in the game. He and his partner, Matt Grzelcyk, are both signed this year with a low AAV. Brandon Carlo is a good second-pairing defenseman who requires an extension. Those three are easy choices to protect, but it does isolate Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon. Clifton has a longer contract than Lauzon but will be a UFA in two years. Clifton shoots right-handed, which could make him more favorable. With Tuukka Rask and Jeremy Swayman exempt, Dan Vladar will be protected. His future in Boston may be as a third goalie, but he is under contract for two more seasons.
Protected List: Forwards David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Jake Debrusk, Craig Smith, Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle, Defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Goalie Dan Vladar
Projected Pick: Defenseman Connor Clifton
Reports signal that the Sabres will trade Eichel in a matter of time. If he isn’t traded this week, Eichel will obviously be protected. The same could be said for Sam Reinhart, who was their best player last season and seems like a longshot to be dealt. Victor Olofsson is a great power-play scorer and still has a year left on his contract before becoming an RFA again. The Sabres would love to leave Jeff Skinner unprotected, but his no-move clause prevents that. Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson have been disappointing players; however, the team will still likely protect them. Rasmus Asplund, a pending RFA, had a nice 28 games this year playing small minutes. The casualties here are defensive forwards Zemgus Gergensons and Anders Bjork. Bjork is younger and will be an RFA still when his contract expires in two seasons.
Former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin and 21-year-old Henri Jokijarju are easy picks for general manager Kevyn Adams to protect. Is Rasmus Ristolainen? He has not handled top-pairing minutes well and, at $5.4 million, is very expensive. Still, he may have trade value. The best option is to try and deal him in the coming days. The options for Seattle if Ristolainen is protected are Colin Miller and Will Borgen. Miller was taken in the last expansion draft and is a solid player whom the Sabres should try to protect. The team must have one goalie under contract for next year exposed. Their only tender who fits that requirement is Dustin Tokarski, who is not exactly a threat to be taken. Starter Linus Ullmark is a UFA, but the team may protect him anyways in hopes of an extension.
Protected List: Forwards Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, Rasmus Asplund, Defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, Henri Jokijarju, Colin Miller, Goalie Linus Ullmark
Projected Pick: Forward Anders Bjork
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings are not a good team which means they do not have many good players to protect. Dylan Larkin may have fallen off of a cliff, but he is still one of those few good players. Jakub Vrana proved in his short time in Detroit that he can match Anthony Mantha‘s production and maybe even exceed it. Tyler Bertuzzi was good in 2019-20 but missed all but nine games last year, where he put up seven points. Adam Erne tied for the team lead in goals in 45 games last year with 11. Robby Fabbri played in just 30 games but scored 10 goals, giving him an 82-game pace of 27.
There is still work to be done with former ninth overall pick Michael Rasmussen, who has not adjusted to the NHL game well but still has potential and just turned 22. Evgeny Svechnikov has lost all of his potential and was waived during the season. Still, he is cheap and relatively young. Vladislav Namestnikov is the best option to be taken from the forwards. He is good defensively but had just 17 points in 53 games this past season.
The only real defensive lock is Filip Hronek, whose 26 points led the team this past season. Is he the No. 1 defenseman the Red Wings are trying to make him into? Not really. But he can be a solid bottom-four guy on a good team. The same could be said for Troy Stecher, who is questionable to be protected. Stecher has one more year left on his contract and would block a young defenseman (Gustav Lindstrom, for example) from being on the list. Lindstrom was a second-rounder in 2017 but has proved little in the NHL. Dennis Cholowski, a first-rounder from 2016, is in the same boat. Thomas Greiss shall be the protected goaltender as Jonathan Bernier hits free agency.
Protected List: Forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne, Evgeny Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen, Defensemen Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski, Troy Stecher, Goalie Thomas Greiss
Projected Pick: Defenseman Gustav Lindstrom
Franchise icons Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are one and two years away from free agency, respectively. That is a bit terrifying. For now, they have matching $5.9 million cap hits and will not be a part of the expansion draft. Patric Hornqvist is still signed for two more seasons with a $5.3 million cap hit and is still an elite power-play specialist. Frank Vatrano‘s peak may be a third-liner, but he still scored at a 20-goal pace last season, which is a valuable guy to have around.
No one really saw Sam Bennett‘s performance in Florida coming. He struggled in Calgary and after the Panthers gave up a second-rounder and a prospect for him at the deadline, Bennett exploded, notching six goals with nine assists over 10 games. Another surprise for the Panthers last year was Carter Verhaeghe, who came from the rival Lightning and scored 18 goals with 18 assists in 43 games. General manager Bill Zito had a great first year on the job, and Verhaeghe was his best pickup. Another good addition was Anthony Duclair, who improved defensively and had 32 points in 43 games. The best forward available for Seattle is Noel Acciari, who had a career-best shooting percentage in 2019-20 and a career-worst in 2020-21.
The Panthers really missed Aaron Ekblad at the end of the season and the playoffs. Ekblad was playing out of his mind before a bad injury, scoring 11 goals in 35 games. The question for the team’s defense is who is better out of Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar. Weegar was tied for third on the team in points this past season and is a star defensively.
The Panthers may look to move on from Keith Yandle this offseason. However, he has a no-move clause so the team must protect him. This exposes Markus Nutivaara, a solid third-pairing defenseman. The first two seasons of Sergei Bobrovsky‘s contract have been a disaster. He, too, will receive protection. Luckily, Spencer Knight is exempt. Do the Kraken take UFA goalie Chris Driedger after a successful season and try to sign him? Driedger is on his way out of town, so the Panthers would love it.
Protected List: Forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, Frank Vatrano, Anthony Duclair, Sam Bennett, Defensemen MacKenzie Weegar, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
Projected Pick: Defenseman Markus Nutivaara
The reigning Stanley Cup finalists will give the Kraken a good player. Tyler Toffoli had an amazing first season with the team and Brendan Gallagher was extended midseason, giving him a no-move clause to utilize here. Josh Anderson started hot but fizzled out a bit; he is under contract for many more seasons. Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Jake Evans are young forwards who are solid pieces. The question is if the team protects Jonathan Drouin. He was not a part of their team in the playoffs and has scored just nine goals over the past two seasons. Another option is protecting Phillip Danault, a pending UFA whom the team still hopes to re-sign in the coming weeks.
The Canadiens have to protect Jeff Petry, but they don’t have to keep Shea Weber. Would the team really leave him unavailable? He can still play but has a deal through 2026 for a smidge under $8 million per season. It’s hard to imagine that the Habs would decide to not protect Weber. It may not change much, as the final spot is between Joel Edmundson, Ben Chiarot, and Brett Kulak. They are similar players. Chiarot will be protected for playing the best minutes, while Kulak will be the pick for being the cheapest. Carey Price showed in the playoffs that he has something left in the tank. That leaves Jake Allen as an attractive goalie option for Seattle.
Protected List: Forwards Brendan Gallagher, Tyler Toffoli, Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Josh Anderson, Jake Evans, Phillip Danault, Defensemen Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot, Goalie Carey Price
Projected Pick: Defenseman Brett Kulak
Like the Red Wings, the Senators do not have many good players to protect, especially on defense. Brady Tkachuk‘s main worry this offseason is not being protected. Another promising player is Drake Batherson, who scored 17 goals, tied for second on the team with Tkachuk and the exempt Joshua Norris. First on the team was Connor Brown, who scored 21 times. Nick Paul could also be protected. He is not a good player offensively but was great on his own end.
Evgeny Dadonov is a good player, though his 13 goals last year were not enough. He just did not shoot as many times as he should have. Colin White is a good player but is signed for far too long. Chris Tierney has slumped over the past two seasons, which could leave him unprotected. That would open a spot for 2016 first-rounder Logan Brown, who has not earned a ton of NHL playing time. Does that leave best guy remaining as Vitaly Abramov? He has decent AHL numbers but not a lot of NHL experience here.
Thomas Chabot has proven to be an elite No. 1 defenseman for the Senators. There’s not much left behind him. Victor Mete was a good waiver claim at the end of the year. The other defenseman to be protected will be either Nikita Zaitsev or Josh Brown. Neither are particularly good, but Brown has a better contract. Speaking of contracts, Matt Murray looks really bad right now. Instead of protecting him, look at Filip Gustavsson, who had a .933 save percentage in nine games this year. Joey Daccord and Anton Forsberg would give the Kraken some goalie depth.
Protected List: Forwards Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Connor Brown, Nick Paul, Evgeny Dadonov, Colin White, Logan Brown, Defensemen Thomas Chabot, Victor Mete, Josh Brown, Goalie Filip Gustavsson
Projected Pick: Joey Daccord
Tampa Bay Lightning
The back-to-back champs may need to utilize a bribe to keep the gang together. Let’s start on defense because that is the important part. Andrei Vasilevskiy is an obvious guy to protect as there really isn’t another option. Victor Hedman has a no-move clause and, deserved or not, was a Norris finalist this year. Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak are both young and have made massive strides over the past few seasons. It would be a shame to lose either. That is where Ryan McDonagh comes in. McDonagh, 32, has a deal in place through 2026 with a $6.75 million cap hit. He is a quality player, though age will soon be a factor. McDonagh could be the captain of the Kraken.
The chances of the Lightning actually trading Steven Stamkos are slim-to-none. It’s not happening. Both he and Nikita Kucherov have no-move clauses. Brayden Point had an amazing playoff goal streak. Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde have tremendous value while Alex Killorn is a pest and, despite a down year, Anthony Cirelli is a great two-way center. As much as the Lightning would want Seattle to take Tyler Johnson, it looks like McDonagh has to be the pick.
Protected List: Forwards Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Defensemen Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev, Goalie Andrei Vasilesvkiy
Projected Pick: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh
Toronto Maple Leafs
Everyone’s favorite team to hate is the last one in the Atlantic Division. They also could very well be the only ones in the division to go with the eight-skater strategy. The top-four forwards on the team are easy to identify. Regardless of how you feel about their playoff performances, they are Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. The drop-off after them is big. The next best forwards are Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall.
The Leafs actually have a lot of good defensemen now. Jake Muzzin and TJ Brodie are the shutdown players they need. Morgan Rielly is a really good offensive defenseman. Justin Holl is a fine second-pairing, right-handed shot. Those four leave Travis Dermott unprotected. Jack Campbell is also the only goaltending option with Frederik Andersen and David Rittich hitting free agency. So, Seattle’s decision comes down to Kerfoot versus Dermott and who they prefer more. There will be a lot of good defensemen available; you can’t say the same for forwards.
Protected List: Forwards Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Defensemen T.J. Brodie, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Justin Holl, Goalie Jack Campbell
Projected Pick: Alexander Kerfoot
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