NHL mock expansion draft: Projecting the Seattle Kraken’s 30 picks

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The 2021 Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft will take place on Wednesday night. Over the weekend, NHL teams sent in their protected/exposed lists, so now Ron Francis and his staff can spend the next few days trying to construct the first roster in franchise history.

Francis and the Kraken will be afforded the same rules that the Golden Knights had in 2017. The Kraken will make 30 total selections made up of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. Twenty of those players must be under contract for the 2021-22 season. Also, the total salary cap hits must be between 60% and 100% of the $81.5 million cap ceiling.

Thanks to the wonderful Cap Friendly, the Pro Hockey Talk team picked our Kraken rosters following the reveal of the protected/exposed lists. It wasn’t easy as there are some notable names available and tough decisions ahead.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Jordan Eberle, Islanders
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
Joonas Donskoi, Avalanche
Paul Byron, Canadiens
Rocco Grimaldi, Predators
Dylan Gambrell, Sharks
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Blake Lizotte, Kings
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes
Tanner Kero, Stars
Colin Blackwell, Rangers
Matthew Highmore, Canucks
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Jujhar Khaira, Oilers (RFA)
Evgeny Svechnikov, Red Wings (RFA)
Adam Gaudette, Blackhawks (RFA)
Nick Merkley, Devils (RFA)

DEFENSEMEN (9)
Mark Giordano, Flames
Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers
Brenden Dillon, Capitals
Dylan DeMelo, Jets
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Travis Dermott, Maple Leafs
Connor Clifton, Bruins
William Borgen, Sabres (RFA)
Vince Dunn, Blues (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Joey Daccord, Senators
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $57.9 million

It’s all about flexibility. Ron Francis’ job is to build a contender, one that can hopefully replicate Vegas’ success early on. You don’t need to be held back by weighty contracts for older players who are in the process of breaking. This is why Vladimir Tarasenko and Carey Price aren’t to be found on my list.

There will be enough cap space left over after signing Driedger and the RFAs to strengthen, especially up front where we could use a bit more scoring punch. The blue line is solid, led by Giordano, the first captain in Kraken history. It may only be for one season, but he’s a good one to have back there and in the room in the first season.

There’s lots of inexperience in goal for my Kraken, but you don’t need to overspend to get quality netminding in this league. Driedger was a breakout player for the Panthers this past season and Kähkönen shows positive signs in his rookie year in Minnesota. It’s an interesting tandem that could pay dividends with a split workload.

nhl expansion draft
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

James O’Brien, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers
Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes
Jared McCann, Maple Leafs
Calle Jarnkrok, Predators
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Carl Grundstrom, Kings
Ryan Carpenter, Blackhawks
Matthew Highmore, Canucks
Julien Gauthier, Rangers
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Tyler Benson, Oilers (RFA)
Nick Merkley, Devils (RFA)
Kieffer Bellows, Islanders (RFA)
Ryan Donato, Sharks (RFA)
Vitaly Abramov, Senators (RFA)

DEFENSEMEN (9)
Mark Giordano, Flames
Dylan DeMelo, Jets
Troy Stecher, Red Wings
Nick Jensen, Capitals
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Jacob MacDonald, Avalanche
Jake McCabe, Sabres (UFA)
Mike Reilly, Bruins (UFA)
Vince Dunn, Blues (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Ben Bishop, Stars
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $54.97 million

While it manifests itself in different ways, my entire plan was to strike at value. Ben Bishop’s injury issues worry me, but let’s face it: that’s been the case much of his career. When he’s played, he’s honestly been pretty incredible.

With Bishop and some of the other more costly players, my motto with risk-taking was simple: if these players don’t pan out, at least their contracts are short. Yanni Gourde (four years) and Dylan DeMelo (three) represent the longest contracts on the books, free agents pending. Not every pick is meant to be a long-term Kraken. Giordano, Drouin, Niederreiter, and others were selected as much for trade potential as anything they could do on the ice.

So, mix one part trade bait that could also translate to on-ice results. Then mix in some swipes at hopefully unearthing a promising young talent. Would someone like Tyler Benson and Carl Grundstrom become a difference-maker? Worth a low-risk shot, and sure beats … I mean, basically everything else available from Edmonton, for one. No doubt about it, there are a few “lesser evils” on this roster, too. (Sorry, Ryan Carpenter.)

Ideally, there could be some fair free-agent value from someone like Vince Dunn, Chris Driedger, and Mike Reilly. Or maybe their rights could fetch a little something in a trade? That last part cements a funny thing even about this exercise: we don’t totally know if there are side deals set up between the Kraken and someone else. There are plenty of “meh” options that could be replaced by bad (ideally short) contracts for a premium price of picks and/or prospects.

Overall, the goal should be clear. Find value wherever you can, while not boxing yourself into corners. The best moves the Kraken make might end up being the ones they don’t make.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers
Jordan Eberle, Islanders
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
Joonas Donskoi, Avalanche
Jared McCann, Maple Leafs
Carl Hagelin, Capitals
Rocco Grimaldi, Predators
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Ryan Carpenter, Blackhawks
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Mason Appleton, Jets
Zack MacEwan, Canucks
Blake Lizotte, Kings
Colin Blackwell, Rangers
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Dominik Kahun, Oilers (RFA)
Ryan Donato, Sharks (RFA)

DEFENSE (9)
P.K. Subban, Devils
Mark Giordano, Flames
Colin Miller, Sabres
Brett Kulak, Canadiens
Troy Stecher, Red Wings
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Joshua Brown, Senators
Jakub Zboril, Bruins
Jake Bean, Hurricanes (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Ben Bishop, Stars
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $75.3 million

My goal here again was to limit long-term contracts as much as possible to keep my salary cap flexibility open for the future. So I resisted the urge to take too many of those big contracts that are sitting out there, so I avoided Carey Price, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and players like that. Any big money contract that I did take I tried to make sure it was short-term and tradeable. I figure Mark Giordano or P.K. Subban could be flipped with some salary retained to collect more assets.

Vladimir Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk, and Jordan Eberle are the exceptions on the big money deals, but they were far too intriguing to pass on and could help me be competitive in year one, especially in that division.

In goal, I stuck with Ben Bishop because, well, I just think if he is healthy the upside there in the short-term is substantial, and with him, Driedger, and Kähkönen I should have a good collection of goalies to keep me in games.