It’s been nearly 100 years since the Seattle Metropolitans folded.
For those who aren’t aware, the Metropolitans were a pro hockey team that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association for nine seasons from 1915-1924. Their home barn was called the ‘Seattle Ice Arena’ (torn down in 1963) and they had the most success of any PCHA franchise, winning five championships.
In 1917, Seattle also became the first American team to ever win the Stanley Cup. Back then, the National Hockey Association (NHA) was the main professional hockey league. In 1915, it was decided that the best regular season team from each league would compete for the Stanley Cup—giving the Metropolitans the opportunity to win hockey’s most coveted prize.
Now, over 100 years later, it’s time to unleash the Kraken as professional hockey is finally coming back to Seattle. But what kind of team will they build at the Expansion Draft? Perhaps they’ll predominantly focus on the future, although expectations are high following the immediate success of the Vegas Golden Knights—the first true expansion team to win their division during an inaugural season.
Only time will tell, but it’s always fun to hypothesize. Let’s take a look at who they might pick from each team, and why. This article is part one of two, and will feature the first 15 NHL teams (going in alphabetical order). Stay tuned for part two!
one week until the expansion draft pic.twitter.com/aeBCdvpOHL
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 14, 2021
Options are somewhat limited from this roster, given that the Ducks are in the midst of a rebuild. Some believe they may opt to protect eight skaters, as opposed to seven forwards and three defenseman. In this scenario, they’ve chosen to take the latter route—leaving rearguard Haydn Fleury exposed.
This is significant as Fleury was actually drafted by Kraken GM Ron Francis, back when he was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes‘ front office. Haydn is now 25 years old, and has yet to live up to the hype that saw him selected seventh overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. His status as a prospect is quickly dwindling, but if anyone may still believe in his potential, it’s likely Francis. Fleury will be an arbitration-eligible RFA next offseason, but his $1.3 million cap hit this season is pretty reasonable.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-pairing defenseman.
The Yotes have a handful of good young forwards who will be protected, and their defense corps won’t really feature any exposed players to get excited about. Luckily, they do have one tantalizing option in net—Adin Hill.
The 25-year-old’s numbers have been promising, despite the not-so-great team in front of him. His last two seasons have been especially optimistic, as he’s posted a 2.70 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage (despite an 11-13-4 record) through 32 games (26 starts). The only catch is that he’s an arbitration-eligible RFA, but signing him ahead of next season shouldn’t be difficult or expensive.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Platoon starter/solid backup
(Editor’s Note: On July 17, Hill was traded to the San Jose Sharks with a 2022 7th round draft pick for fellow netminder Josef Korenar and the Sharks’ 2022 2nd round draft pick.)
The Bruins don’t have too much protection list flexibility. They have four forwards with contracts including some form of no-trade or no-movement clause. The best available player from their lineup will likely be either Ondrej Kase or Connor Clifton. Craig Smith might be left exposed, since he’s six years older than Kase, but it’s also hard to see Boston protecting Ondrej since he only played three games last season (due to injury).
At the end of the day, Clifton seems to be the most likely selection candidate. He’s 26 years old and will be extremely easy to afford given that his cap hit is only $1 million, both this season and next. You can never really have too many good defensemen on your roster, either.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Second-pairing defenseman
There’s a couple of ways the Kraken could proceed here. Their best options will likely end up being Rasmus Asplund, Colin Miller, and Cody Eakin. Miller has one year left on his contract ($3.875 million) and is probably better than the numbers have indicated over the last couple of seasons. But is that really enough to take him over a younger, cheaper asset with a higher ceiling like Asplund?
At just 23 years old, there’s still room to grow. Rasmus profiles more as a winger right now, although he’s a natural center. Perhaps he will one day be able to make the switch. He doesn’t have a contract for next season, but that shouldn’t be too hard to sort out since he’s an RFA who isn’t arbitration eligible.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-six winger
In recent weeks, it’s been nearly impossible to talk about the Flames without mentioning the potential departure of team captain, and recent Norris Trophy winner, Mark Giordano. The rumors do make sense, as he’s 37 years old and has just one year left on his contract. Looking towards the future, Calgary is likely to prioritize the protection of Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and Chris Tanev.
But is one year of an aging Giordano really worth a pick? Why not take a chance on 24-year-old rearguard Oliver Kylington instead? It was a season to forget for the Swede, who only dressed for eight games with the Flames thanks to healthy scratches and injuries. On the bright side, defenseman have a longer development curve, so there’s still some time for him to prove himself. A change of scenery sometimes does wonders for young players.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-pairing defenseman who could start in the American Hockey League (AHL).
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In this scenario, the Kraken have done a nice job of stockpiling defensemen so far. Surely they’ll opt to grab a forward from Carolina? Jesper Fast is a decent player on reasonable money, but he’s nearly 30. Seattle would be smart to focus on the best, youngest player available. In this case, their man is Jake Bean. At 23 years old, Bean is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
Wait, who drafted him again? Oh that’s right, Ron Francis. Bean was a rookie this season, and more than held his own over 42 games for the Canes. He’s an RFA, but doesn’t have arbitration rights. More importantly, he looks primed to take the next step, and could easily become a way-too-cheap top-four defenseman.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Second-pairing defenseman.
Times are changing in Chicago. In the last two seasons, three key pieces from their dynasty days have left the roster in one way or another. Much to the chagrin of Patrick Kane, a rebuild is likely on the horizon. If Seattle wanted to take a gamble on a young player who projects to have some solid offensive upside, they could potentially go after the likes of Henrik Borgstrom.
There are a lot of qualities to like about the 23-year-old Swede. He’s 6’3, weighs 200 pounds, and has both great hands and a hard shot. In essence, he fits the mold of a power-forward with high-end skill, which is an extremely valuable commodity in the modern-day NHL. He’s also cheap as he signed a two-year, $2 million deal this past May. Not bad for a player who was a first-round pick in 2016, and an AHL all-star in 2018-19.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-six forward.
It’s been another year of disappointment for the Avs. Their roster is naturally full of intriguing players, meaning a couple of exciting names will likely be available. A defenseman like Ryan Graves would be a solid bet. He’s 26 years old, can log big minutes, and will only make a hair over $3 million in each of the next two seasons. With that being said, there’s a chance Colorado opts to protect four defensemen in order to retain him.
If they do, and it seems somewhat likely, JT Compher would be a solid choice as well. He’s also 26 years old and signed to a reasonable deal for the next two seasons ($3.5 million AAV). More importantly, he can play center in the middle-six. His faceoff percentage is kind of abysmal, but his possession stats are great despite the fact that he’s constantly overloaded with defensive zone starts.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Middle-six center.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets don’t really have anyone significant to lose, which will make this a tough pick for Seattle. They could opt to go the cheap, efficient route by selecting 28-year-old defenseman Dean Kukan. Unfortunately, he can’t really handle being anything but a bottom-pairing defenseman. When it comes to protected forwards, it would appear that one of Max Domi/Gustav Nyquist will be available. Both are decent middle-six forwards who can excel on the power play, but each has also had shoulder problems requiring surgery. Nyquist missed all of last season because of it, and Domi projects to miss at least the first 1-2 months of next season.
They both have cap hits north of $5 million as well. Domi is signed for one more season, while Nyquist is signed for the next two. Domi is five years younger, and some have argued that the best is yet to come. He may be worth taking a flyer on, regardless of whether or not the optimistic predictions come true. If he comes back around December, and doesn’t perform for the rest of the year, the Kraken can walk away next summer. If he plays well, they can start talking extension. Either way, it seems like a low-risk move seeing as it’s just one season.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Middle-six forward.
The Stars are another team that are pretty well protected from losing someone important. Anton Khudobin will likely be left exposed and Seattle will probably take a long look, despite his age and an abysmal 2020-21 season. After all, competent goaltending is hard to find, and he’s only one year removed from carrying Dallas to the Stanley Cup Final.
The more likely option, however, is 26-year-old Jason Dickinson. He’s a natural center with decent possession stats, despite being buried in defensive zone starts. Moving him to the wing might not be a bad idea, as his career faceoff win percentage is awful. He’ll likely never live up to the hype of being a first-round pick, but he can definitely be a serviceable, defense-first player.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-six forward.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have too many valuable offensive pieces and absolutely need to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, as opposed to eight total skaters. Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek will undoubtedly be kept safe, meaning one of Troy Stecher/Gustav Lindstrom will likely be Seattle’s choice.
In this scenario, Detroit has prioritized the long-term future (as they should) and Stecher was the one available. With one year left on his deal ($1.7 million), the 27-year-old can help fill out the defense. The Wings didn’t use him on special teams like the Vancouver Canucks had in years past, but he can penalty kill if necessary.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-pairing defenseman on PK2.
The Oilers don’t really have any assets of interest on defense or in goal. At least, none that will be left unprotected. The only one who may be is Oscar Klefbom, although any previous interest has undoubtedly dissipated as he’s apparently set to miss his second full season in a row. The first handful of protected forwards go without saying, but the last couple of spots are still up for debate. When all is said and done, Seattle’s choice will likely come down to either Tyler Benson or William Lagesson. Other potential options, like Josh Archibald or Jujhar Khaira, just aren’t as interesting. If the Oilers end up trying to strike a pre-draft deal, perhaps the Kraken can be swayed towards grabbing Kris Russell.
In this scenario, Seattle has once again opted to stay as young as possible by selecting Benson. The 23-year-old split last season between the Bakersfield Condors (AHL) and GCKüsnacht (Swiss League), racking up 12 goals and 55 points over 51 games. He’s an RFA without a contract, but a deal should get done quickly given his lack of arbitration rights.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-six winger who could start in the AHL.
The Panthers are a team with an embarrassment of riches up front, meaning the Kraken will very likely be ecstatic with whomever they select. There are some interesting upside options on the blue line, such as Noah Juulsen and Markus Nutivaara, but that seems far-fetched when the likes of Anthony Duclair are up for grabs. Some believe Sam Bennett will be left unprotected, but that seems unlikely given his age and RFA status.
Duclair, who is also an unsigned RFA, seems to be the odd man out. The 25-year-old has experienced high highs and low lows throughout his career so far, but last year was certainly something to build off of. As a good, young player who possibly hasn’t maxed out his potential, the Kraken should be all over him.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Top-six winger.
Los Angeles Kings
There’s a couple of different directions Seattle could go here. Up front, the most likely temptations are Trevor Moore and Carl Grundstrom. Both have a year left on their deals and will become RFAs next summer, as well as a cap hit under $1 million heading into this season. On the blue line, one of Olli Maatta/Sean Walker will be left exposed. On the off chance both are protected, 23-year-old Kale Clague is another potential choice.
In this instance, the needle has stopped on Grundstrom. He’s also 23 and has a great all-around game as well as a fantastic work ethic. He didn’t exactly pile up the points at the NHL or AHL level last season, but his utility as a player is far more than that. He’s a Swiss Army knife of sorts, which every successful team needs.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Bottom-six winger who can move up the lineup in a pinch.
The Wild shocked the hockey world this past week, buying out both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise just hours before the deadline to do so. Minnesota is getting younger, and this dual-move truly signifies the end of an era in the north star state. There are a pair of interesting forwards worth looking at in Nick Bjugstad and Ryan Hartman, and rearguard Carson Soucy looks tempting as well. The Wild are very interested in keeping Soucy, who is just entering his prime, so a trade to retain his services may be in the works. If it is, this may not be a bad time for Seattle to re-visit their situation in goal.
In this scenario, they do just that and select Cam Talbot. Since he’s 34 years old, picking Talbot would be the complete opposite of following the ‘best young player available’ mantra. At the same time, you can’t just have a team full of kids, and this is a worthwhile vet to say the least. After all, these past two seasons are the best he’s had since the 2016-17 campaign. He could absolutely function as their starter for at least a couple of years.
2021-22 Lineup Projection: Starting goaltender.
Thank you for tuning into part one of ‘Building Seattle’. Be sure to stay tuned for part two!