The NHL will be getting a 32nd team for the 2021-22 season when the Seattle Kraken make their debut. With the NHL Expansion Draft just a few weeks away, we are going to take a look at what a potential Kraken roster might look like at the end of that expansion draft. Each team with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights (who are exempt from the expansion draft this year) will lose one player unless they make some sort of trade with Seattle and give up additional assets. Though as we saw in the Vegas expansion draft, that might be a foolish approach for some teams.
With our expansion draft here we focussed on two things: Avoiding bad contracts to maintain long-term salary cap flexibility beyond this season, and expiring contracts and assets that could be used as trade chips later this season.
This is the roster we decided to pick.
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The Ducks have some more established players that could be exposed (Adam Henrique, Kevin Shattenkirk) but their contracts are not something Seattle should want to tie themselves down to. Volkov is a pending restricted free agent, excelled in Tampa Bay’s farm system before being traded, and has yet to get a major opportunity to shine in the NHL. The talent is there and a bigger opportunity could lead to a breakout performance.
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The Coyotes do not have a lot of intriguing options available outside of Hill. He is a restricted free agent this offseason and has only played 49 games in the NHL, but he has shown some sign of being a solid NHL goalie the past two seasons with a .915 save percentage during that stretch. He may not be a goalie you build around, but he would provide some value as a platoon option or backup at a cheap price. And that salary cap flexibility is important.
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One of Boston’s three first-round picks from the 2015 draft, Zboril has not really established himself as a full-time NHLer. He got his first real look during the 2020-21 season by appearing in 42 games and posting decent possession numbers in a bottom-pairing role. Ideally, he is probably a depth defenseman, but there is still some potential there.
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Asplund showed some promise during the 2020-21 season Buffalo by scoring seven goals in 28 games. That comes out to a 20-goal pace over 82 games, and he did it while playing around 12 minutes per game. Granted, a lot of that was shooting percentage driven (20.8 percent) and that is likely to regress next season, but the Sabres’ likely list of available players will be thin on talent, and Asplund (assuming he is unprotected) would probably be the most intriguing potential option.
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This might seem outrageous to think Giordano would be exposed, but he is going to be 38 years old, on an expiring contract, and the Flames have a bit of a protection crunch. Noah Hanifan, Rasmus Andersson, and Chris Tanev all figured to be protected on defense, and if they want to protect Giordano as a fourth defender they will have to leave three forwards they want to protect exposed, virtually guaranteeing they would lose Mikael Backlund, Dillon Dube, or Andrew Mangiapane. And frankly, that just would not make sense. So Giordano is the pick and becomes a very interesting trade asset for Seattle in its first season.
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Another restricted free agent, but also a very useful player. Give him a full 82-game season and he is probably going to give you 15 goals and 35-40 points with solid defensive play and possession driving ability. A good second or third line player on any team, and another player that should be very affordable to keep that salary cap flexibility in place.
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The Blackhawks’ best young players are exempt, and once you get beyond the obvious protected players this just is not a very deep roster or organization to pick from. Stillman still has some upside, but it would be a surprise if the player Seattle takes from Chicago even makes the opening night roster.
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This could easily be Valeri Nichushkin or Tyson Jost, but both players have cheaper/smaller contracts than Donskoi and every extra dollar of salary cap space will help. That could put them on the protected list over a player like Donskoi. The Avalanche have to deal with Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad as pending unrestricted free agents, while superstar defenseman Cale Makar unsigned is a restricted free agent. Seattle would be crazy to pass on a player as good as Donskoi, while Colorado creates $4 million in salary-cap space in each of the next two seasons.
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This is expansion draft deal territory. I could see a scenario here where the Blue Jackets throw Seattle a sweetener to take Nyquist’s contract off their books and allow them to protect a younger, cheaper (and very good) forward in Eric Robinson. Columbus was in a similar spot in 2017 and traded a first-round pick and William Karlsson to Vegas in an expansion draft deal in order to protect Josh Anderson, among others. It was one of the trades that helped turn Vegas into an overnight superpower.
Nyquist did not play at all during the 2019-20 season, is 31 years old, and has two more years at $5.5 million per season remaining on his contract. When healthy he is a very good player.
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He is going to be 35 and coming off of a bit of a down year, but he is a solid veteran that can Seattle’s starter from day one and give it a chance on most nights. He is signed for two more years at $3.3 million per season.
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Seattle needs defense and Stecher is a solid, 4-6 defender that comes with a very cheap salary cap number. Not a game-changer by any means, but the type of player that will give 60 solid games before you flip him for a second-round draft pick at the trade deadline. He is the most intriguing of a thin group of Red Wings players to pick from.
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In terms of pure talent and potential impact taking a big swing on defenseman Oskar Klefbom (who will almost certainly be left unprotected) would be intriguing, but his contract (two more years at more than $4.3 million per season) and health (he has missed significant time throughout his career and just missed the entire 2020-21 season due to a shoulder injury) would be a substantial risk. So Seattle will have to pick over Edmonton’s scraps. A defenseman like Caleb Jones does not really do anything to warrant a spot, so Archibald might be an available option that Seattle could, again, dangle as a trade chip later on.
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Driedger is an unrestricted free agent but Seattle will have a 48-hour window to negotiate with pending UFA’s that are eligible for the expansion draft. Driedger will be one such player, and it would make a lot of sense to try and work out a deal. He would be the best goalie available and, assuming they took Khudobin from Dallas, would give Seattle a viable goaltending duo in its debut season. If Florida did not protect Anthony Duclair he would be an intriguing option here as well.
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There is not going to be a lot to pick from in Los Angeles unless you want to take a bad contract for an aging player (Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick) and Seattle should not be in the market for that. At all. Lizotte is a depth player that is still fairly young and a restricted free agent that should sign on the cheap.
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Unless the Wild can convince Ryan Suter to waive his no-move clause or work out a deal with Seattle (they worked out a deal with Vegas, resulting in Erik Haula and Alex Tuch going to the Golden Knights) Dumba would seem to be an easy pick for the Kraken. At 27 he still has some good years in front of him, is a legit top-pairing defenseman, and would still be under contract for two more seasons.
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Montreal could have a couple of intriguing forward options available in Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron. But Drouin’s availability next season is not yet known (he stepped away from the Canadiens for personal reasons) and Byron’s contract is hefty for what he provides and his age. Kulak has strong possession numbers as a depth defenseman and could do well in a bigger role.
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The Predators will almost certainly want to protect four defenders (Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro) which will leave a couple of really good (and expensive) forwards on the unprotected list. Matt Duchene and Arvidsson could be two of them. And while the Predators might love to see Seattle take Duchene’s contract off their hands, that would be a terrible idea for Seattle.
Arvidsson, though, has a much more manageable contract and could be a better bet to bounce back. He is still a great possession driver and is coming off a really bad shooting percentage year. If he is healthy he could be a big-time player again.
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For one year Subban becomes the face of the Seattle Kraken. Is he still an elite player? No. But he did have a little bit of a rebound in 2020-21 and can still be very productive. Just not $9 million against the cap productive.
He is far from a guarantee to be protected by the Devils, and while the price tag is significant it is only a one-year thing and comes off the books after Seattle’s first season. He could also be another attractive trade chip later in the year with Seattle having the ability to retain some of that cap hit in a trade.
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Bellows has quickly gone from prospect to suspect with the Islanders, but there is still some potential here. He has never really had a chance to find a steady role on a deep team that has been in two consecutive semifinals, but he could find a place in a new setting with a bigger opportunity. There is almost no chance he gets protected given the number of key players the Islanders will need to keep unless they make some sort of a trade.
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The Rangers are loaded with young talent but their most significant pieces are all exempt, meaning they can protect even more of their top veterans. That leaves Seattle with a thin group to pick from. Blackwell could be a solid depth forward. Nothing terribly exciting here.
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Colin White could be an option, but given his contract, you need to be certain he is going to develop more than he has and score more than he has. That is far from a guarantee. Tierney is a solid middle-six forward that can help Seattle in the short-term, while also being an expiring contract that should have some potential trade value.
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Okay, let’s get bold here. For a number of reasons, Patrick has not developed in Philadelphia the way anybody expected or hoped. He has dealt with health issues, missed an entire season, and was a complete non-factor in his return this year. It seems his time with the Flyers is running out one way or another.
They could protect him in an effort to trade him, but what is his value? And why risk losing another significant contributor to protect a trade asset that will not bring you a huge return? For Seattle, it is all about hoping a chance of scenery and a fresh start for a 23-year-old that was a No. 2 overall pick just a few years ago can spark something.
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Forwards Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese could be options here, but for as good as they are as fourth-liners, they are still just that: Fourth liners. Pettersson isn’t a star by any means, and his contract is a little pricey at $4 million for another couple of years, but he is a fine second-pair defenseman. The Penguins could use the extra salary cap space so leaving him exposed could be a viable option to create that space.
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The Sharks expected available list is another one that looks like it should be on the thin side in terms of talent, but Donato could be a quietly solid pickup for a middle-six forward role. He should score close to 15 goals over an 82-game season and be a solid all-around player away from the puck. His underlying numbers are strong, and with a bigger role, he might still have a little more to give offensively.
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Dunn’s name has been mentioned in trade speculation for a while now, and he is finally going to make his way out of St. Louis. Just via the expansion draft. He is a restricted free agent (we have a lot of those on this team) but he would easily be the best of the available Blues unless they left someone truly shocking exposed. Great underlying numbers, good puck move, some offensive ability from the blue line. Good player that deserves a bigger role. He would get that role in Seattle.
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Whether they protect seven forwards and three defenders or four forwards and four defenders the Lightning are going to lose a really good player. That is just the price of having one of the best and deepest teams in the league. Gourde has a significant contract ($5 million per year for another four years and he does turn 30 next season, but he is also a really good player. Well worth the pick and instantly one of Seattle’s top players.
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Dermott is a good player that still seems to have some upside and could be turned into a viable top-four defender. Not a guarantee, but possible. Maybe Seattle wants to negotiate with potential unrestricted free agent Zach Hyman to see if they can work something out. But that seems like it would be awfully expensive and maybe not a path Seattle wants to take. Dermott seems like a safe pick with some upside.
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Assuming Vancouver doesn’t do anything outrageous here and leave a core player exposed, this figures to be the worst list for Seattle to pick from.
Vancouver’s organization is simply lacking in quality depth, and its best players are either going to be protected or are exempt.
This does, however, seem like a really strong trade possibility. Why? Vancouver has a ton of contracts it should want to get rid of and, quite frankly, needs to get rid of so it can re-sign core players Elias Pettersson or Quinn Hughes. Could Seattle use this as an opportunity to acquire somebody like J.T. Miller? Or take on a bad contract like Jay Beagle, or Loui Eriksson, or Michael Ferland in return for also getting a draft pick or another top prospect? That is what I would be exploring if I am Seattle.
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Not a complete player by any means, but he has a ton of talent and finishing ability thanks to a rocket of a shot. He has 20-25 goal ability over an 82-game season and is still dirt cheap against the salary cap for the 2021-22 season while also being a restricted free agent after that. If he is available, Seattle should snag him.