Early NHL Expansion Draft Predictions for the Seattle Kraken

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2021

Early NHL Expansion Draft Predictions for the Seattle Kraken

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    With the NHL calendar flipped to January 2021, the Seattle Kraken are closer to becoming an on-ice reality. The club's expansion draft will be held July 21. Many of the players selected will be part of the Kraken's roster when they begin their inaugural season in the fall.

    Seattle's expansion draft will operate under the same rules as the Vegas Golden Knights one did in 2017. They will be allowed to select one player from each team (excluding the Golden Knights) for a total of 30 players.

    Those teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) and one goalie from being drafted. A number of conditions apply. For example, players with no-movement clauses cannot be exposed in the draft unless they waive their clauses. First- and second-year players and unsigned draft picks are exempt.

    Not all the 30 players selected by the Kraken will be on their roster when the puck drops for 2021-22. Some could head to the minors, while others could become offseason trade chips.

    Here are our way-too-early predictions on which players they could select in July. We excluded players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer as the Kraken can sign them once they achieve UFA status July 28.

Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Shattenkirk

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Anaheim Ducks could protect defensemen Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson in order to ensure they can protect seven forwards. That would leave Kevin Shattenkirk available for the Kraken.

    Shattenkirk, who turns 32 on Jan. 29, enjoyed a bounce-back performance last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning following a contract buyout by the New York Rangers in 2019. He tallied 34 points in 70 games and 13 points in 25 playoff contests (including two game-winning goals), helping the Lightning win the 2020 Stanley Cup. He signed a three-year, $11.7 million contract with the Ducks in October.

    A veteran puck-moving defenseman, Shattenkirk would help bring experience and leadership to the Kraken defense corps. He's also signed to the end of 2022-23 with an affordable $3.9 million annual average value.

Arizona Coyotes: Tyler Pitlick

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Right winger Tyler Pitlick should be available as the Arizona Coyotes protect young forwards such as Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak.

    The 29-year-old is a reliable depth winger. At 6'2" and 200 pounds, he has decent size and brings a hard-working attitude to his game. He should be a good addition to the Kraken's checking lines.

    Pitlick is on his fourth NHL club, having signed a two-year contract in October with the Coyotes. He carries a cost-effective $1.75 million annual average value.

Boston Bruins: Anders Bjork

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Left winger Anders Bjork has encountered difficulty establishing himself within the Boston Bruins forward ranks. He could be snapped up by the Kraken if left exposed in the expansion draft.

    The 24-year-old was considered one of the Bruins' prime prospects. He has good two-way skills and was projected as a potential top-six forward. He might stand a better chance of reaching that goal with the Kraken.

    A solid performance by Bjork this season could make the Bruins consider protecting him. At this stage, however, he seems a prime expansion-draft candidate. He signed a three-year contract last July. His $1.6 million annual average value wouldn't put a big dent into the Kraken's cap space.

Buffalo Sabres: Colin Miller

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was the topic of trade speculation over the past couple of seasons. However, fellow blueliner Colin Miller appears more likely to be left unprotected in the expansion draft.

    Selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 following two seasons with the Boston Bruins, Miller had two good campaigns in Vegas, including a 41-point performance in 2017-18. Traded to the Sabres in June 2019, the puck-moving D-man struggled in Buffalo last season, with just 11 points in 51 contests.

    Joining another expansion club could be what the 28-year-old needs to get back on track. He carries an annual average value of $3.875 million to the end of 2021-22. He also lacks no-trade protection, making it easy for the Kraken to shop him next season if things don't work out.

Calgary Flames: Dillon Dube

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Calgary Flames could face a difficult decision protecting forwards such as Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett or Dillon Dube. If they opt to protect Bennett over Backlund, the Swede's $5.35 million annual average value could prove too expensive for the Kraken. Seattle could instead go for Dube, who scored 16 points in 45 regular-season games last term.

    A speedy two-way forward who can skate at center or either wing, Dube played well in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, tallying four goals and one assist in 10 games. The 22-year-old is in the final season of his entry-level contract and will become a restricted free agent this summer without arbitration rights.

    The Kraken could be on the lookout not just for established NHL veterans but also promising youngsters with cost-effective contracts. Dube's speed, versatility and affordability could make him a tempting option in the expansion draft.

Carolina Hurricanes: Brady Skjei

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Carolina Hurricanes will protect top defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, as well as Dougie Hamilton if they sign the pending UFA to a contract extension. Unless they opt to protect four blueliners, Brady Skjei could be left exposed.

    The 26-year-old Skjei was acquired by the Hurricanes before last season's trade deadline. A good all-around defenseman, the 6'3", 210-pounder can log more than 20 minutes per game. He's exceeded 20 points in each of the past four seasons, including a career-best 39 points with the Rangers in 2016-17.

    Skjei is signed to the end of 2023-24 with an annual average value of $5.25 million. His modified no-trade clause kicks in next season. The Kraken could be leery of Skjei's contract, but his size and skills could make him too tempting to pass up.

Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Murphy

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The no-movement clauses in the contracts of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook mean the Chicago Blackhawks must protect both in the expansion draft. It's unlikely they will leave Nikita Zadorov unprotected after acquiring him in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche in October. With Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy likely left exposed, it could be the latter chosen by the Kraken.

    A big-bodied defenseman at 6'4" and 212 pounds, Murphy is a good skater who plays a stay-at-home shutdown role. The 27-year-old can log more than 20 minutes per game and can be useful as a second- or third-pairing blueliner.

    Murphy carries an annual average value of $3.85 million and becomes eligible in 2022 for unrestricted free-agent status. He also lacks no-trade protection, making it possible for the Kraken to shop him for a draft pick or prospect next season if he doesn't fit into their long-term plans.

Colorado Avalanche: Devon Toews

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Colorado Avalanche could lose a good defenseman in the expansion draft. Erik Johnson's no-movement clause assures his protection, while 2020 Calder Memorial Trophy winner Cale Makar and the underrated Samuel Girard will also be protected. That could leave Ryan Graves and Devon Toews exposed, with the latter likely to be selected by the Kraken.

    Traded by the New York Islanders last fall in a cost-cutting move, the 26-year-old Toews signed a four-year, $16.4 million contract with the Avalanche soon afterward. He has just two NHL seasons under his belt, but his skills resemble those of a more experienced defenseman. Toews moves the puck well, logs big minutes and can line up on either side of the blue line.

    Losing Toews after just one season would sting, but the Avalanche can afford it because of promising Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins likely to crack the roster soon. The Avs' loss will be the Kraken's gain. His contract, with its $4.1 million annual average value, will fit nicely within their salary-cap payroll.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Dean Kukan

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Columbus Blue Jackets will protect top-pairing defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski and sophomore blueliner Vladislav Gavrikov. That leaves Dean Kukan as a promising blue-line option for the Kraken.

    Kukan, 27, could be a solid depth addition to the Kraken's defense corps. He has good size at 6'2" and 192 pounds and plays well within his own zone.

    Signed through 2021-22 with an annual salary-cap hit of $1.65 million, Kukan's contract wouldn't put a big dent into the Kraken's cap payroll. He could also become a useful trade chip next season.

Dallas Stars: Anton Khudobin

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    Goaltender Ben Bishop's no-movement clause means the Dallas Stars must protect him in the expansion draft. Unless Bishop waives it, the Stars will likely lose Anton Khudobin to the Kraken.

    A reliable veteran backup, the 34-year-old spent the past two seasons as Bishop's understudy. Thrust into the starter's job during the 2020 playoffs when Bishop was sidelined, he backstopped the Stars to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

    Khudobin's playoff heroics earned him a three-year, $10 million contract with the Stars. His $3.33 million annual average value, combined with his durability and consistency, could make him a key component of the Kraken's goaltending tandem next season.

Detroit Red Wings: Adam Erne

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Detroit Red Wings will protect young core forwards such as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Pending unrestricted free agents Bobby Ryan and Valtteri Filppula will also be exposed, but the Kraken won't waste an expansion pick on them. Their focus instead could be on Adam Erne.

    Acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019, Erne signed a one-year contract worth $997,500 in October. He'll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.

    Erne is a grinding forward who can skate on either wing. The 6'1", 212-pounder would be a short-term cost-effective addition to the Kraken's checking lines.

Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    The Edmonton Oilers could opt to protect defensemen Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones in the expansion draft. That would only allow them to protect four forwards, potentially exposing Jesse Puljujarvi.

    Selected fourth overall by the Oilers in the 2016 NHL draft. Puljujarvi struggled to establish himself as a scoring NHL right winger. After spending three seasons bouncing between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, he spent 2019-20 in Finland awaiting a trade that never came. He's returned to the Oilers on a two-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $1.175 million.

    Puljujarvi could be an intriguing reclamation project for the Kraken. He would be an affordable short-term gamble that might pay off. Perhaps a change of scenery will help the 22-year-old learn to score at the NHL level.

Florida Panthers: Markus Nutivaara

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Defenseman Markus Nutivaara is likely to be left exposed by the Florida Panthers. Keith Yandle's no-movement clause ensures he'll be protected. They won't leave Aaron Ekblad exposed and will probably protect MacKenzie Weegar after signing him to a three-year contract in November.

    Nutivaara spent his three previous NHL seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had two seasons with 20-plus points but was limited by injuries to just 37 games in 2019-20. Acquired via trade by the Panthers in October, he's signed to the end of 2021-22 with a reasonable annual cap hit of $2.7 million.

    A left-shot defenseman, the 26-year-old has good puck-moving skills and is well-poised in his own zone. He'd be a good addition to the Kraken's blue line for next season and perhaps beyond.

Los Angeles Kings: Lias Andersson

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The New York Rangers' first-round pick (seventh overall) in the 2017 NHL draft, Lias Andersson was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings in October. While the 22-year-old forward hopes for a fresh start with the Kings, he could be left exposed in the expansion draft.

    Andersson's skill as a versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing was what made him enticing to the Rangers in the 2017 draft. However, he struggled to adjust at the NHL level and departed the Blueshirts for Sweden midway through last season. He's in the final season of his entry-level contract.

    A strong effort by Andersson in 2020-21 could make the Kings reluctant to leave him unprotected in the draft. However, they might not have much choice given the promising NHL-ready youngsters in their system.

Minnesota Wild: Jordan Greenway

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Wild must protect defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin as they all have no-movement clauses. They could also be unwilling to leave blueliner Matt Dumba exposed in the draft. That could leave a young forward such as Jordan Greenway available.

    At 6'6" and 225 pounds, Greenway is an imposing forward. The 23-year-old left winger tallied 24 points as a rookie in 2018-19 and 28 points in 68 games last season. He skates well, can play all three forward positions and has power-forward potential.

    Under contract through 2021-22 at a reasonable annual average value of $2.1 million, Greenway could be an attractive option for the Kraken. He could become a key part of their long-term future the way Alex Tuch (another former Wild forward) did with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Montreal Canadiens: Jake Allen

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Montreal Canadiens acquired goaltender Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues in September to back up long-star starter Carey Price. The 30-year-old Allen's tenure in Montreal could be short. Teams can only protect one goaltender, and the Canadiens aren't exposing Price. Allen will be enticing for a Kraken team seeking experience between the pipes.

    Before getting shipped to Montreal, Allen spent his entire seven-year NHL career with the Blues. He was their starting goaltender until losing the job midway through 2018-19 to Jordan Binnington. Allen seemed to slip comfortably into the backup role last season in St. Louis and will fill the same job in Montreal.

    The Kraken could select Allen with the intent of having him as their full-time backup. From 2021-22, he will carry an affordable $2.875 million cap hit on the two-year contract extension he signed after joining the Canadiens. Depending on the other goalies the Kraken select, they could also use him as a trade chip for another player or to add a draft pick or a prospect.

Nashville Predators: Luke Kunin

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    With the Nashville Predators expected to protect defensemen Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro, the Kraken could pry a decent forward. Luke Kunin, who recently signed a two-year, $4.6 million contract with the Predators, could be in their sights.

    Acquired by the Predators from the Minnesota Wild in October, Kunin has developed into a reliable all-around forward who can play right or center. The 23-year-old forward enjoyed a career-best 15 goals and 31 points in 63 games with the Wild last season.

    Kunin could skate as a second-line winger with the Predators this season. A solid performance could make him and his cost-effective $2.3 million annual average value a bargain pick for the Kraken.

New Jersey Devils: Miles Wood

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    The New Jersey Devils could leave defenseman P.K. Subban exposed, but his $9 million annual average value through 2021-22 and declining production could scare off the Kraken. The expansion club could turn to a more affordable option such as Miles Wood.

    An energetic two-way left wing, the 25-year-old has become a reliable performer for the Devils. He tallied a career-best 19 goals and 32 points in 2017-18 and netted more than 20 points in each of the past two seasons on a depth-depleted roster.

    Wood's speed and rugged play could make him a good character addition to the Kraken's checking lines. He also carries an equitable $2.75 million annual salary-cap hit through 2021-22.

New York Islanders: Nick Leddy

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The subject of trade speculation over the past two seasons, Nick Leddy could be left unprotected by the New York Islanders. His experience and skills could make him useful to the Kraken.

    A mobile defenseman with good offensive skills, Leddy enjoyed three consecutive 40-plus point seasons with the Islanders from 2015-16 to 2017-18. While the 29-year-old's production has declined over the past two seasons, he can still log second-pairing minutes.

    While Leddy carries a $5.5 million salary-cap hit for next season, he's slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The Kraken could use him as a bargaining chip if he doesn't fit into their long-range plans.

New York Rangers: Brendan Lemieux

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The New York Rangers could face a difficult choice between protecting center Brett Howden and left winger Brendan Lemieux. With enough left wings in Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, Lemieux could become the odd man out.

    Son of former NHL winger Claude Lemieux, Brendan is a gritty, agitating forward just like his father but lacks his dad's scoring touch. The 24-year-old has just 36 points in 131 games with the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. Nevertheless, he's effective in a checking-line role.

    Lemieux carries a cap-friendly $1.55 million annual average value through 2021-22, after which he's a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. His aggressive style could make him a fan favorite in Seattle.

Ottawa Senators: Chris Tierney

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    With a number of young forwards poised to crack the rebuilding Ottawa Senators roster over the next couple of years, they could be forced to expose a veteran forward. Chris Tierney could be among those available to the Kraken in the expansion draft.

    Acquired by the Senators from the San Jose Sharks as part of the return in the Erik Karlsson trade, Tierney became among the few bright spots for the Senators over the past two seasons. He netted a career-high 48 points in 2018-19 and was on his way to another 40-point performance last season before the schedule was cut short by coronavirus-related pause.

    The 26-year-old is in the first season of a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3.5 million. With the Senators looking to make room for their promising youngsters, the Kraken could have an opportunity to bring the center's two-way game and playmaking skills to Seattle.

Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Flyers could leave former 30-goal left winger James van Riemsdyk exposed in the expansion draft, but his $7 million annual average value through 2022-23 might not interest the Kraken. A more palatable option from a salary-cap standpoint could be defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

    A finalist for the 2016 Calder Memorial Trophy to the NHL rookie of the year, the 27-year-old carries an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. A skillful if inconsistent puck-moving defenseman, he's tallied 37 or more points four times, including a career-high 65 points in 2017-18.

    Injuries limited Gostisbehere to 42 games last season. He also struggled to adjust under head coach Alain Vigneault's system, sparking trade conjecture. A change of scenery might help him regain his form as well as provide the Kraken with some offense from the blue line.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Teddy Blueger

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Kraken will be in need of reliable penalty-killers in their inaugural season. While the Pittsburgh Penguins could make Brandon Tanev available, the length of his contract (signed through 2024-25 at $3.5 million annually) could be a turnoff. The Kraken could prefer a less costly option such as Teddy Blueger.

    The 26-year-old is a solid defensive forward with sound penalty-killing skills. He can also chip in offensively, tallying 22 points in 69 games as a sophomore last season.

    A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, Blueger will earn $750,000 this season. He'd be a cost-effective signing for the Kraken.

San Jose Sharks: Dylan Gambrell

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Finding young, affordable players will be important for the Kraken beyond their inaugural campaign. San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell could be among those on their radar entering the expansion draft.

    A Washington native who grew up less than an hour away from Seattle, Gambrell played his first full NHL season with the Sharks in 2019-20, notching 11 points in 50 games. A two-way forward with decent faceoff ability, the 24-year-old could be a nice homegrown addition to the Kraken's checking line.

    Gambrell will earn $700,000 this season and becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Re-signing him won't bust the Kraken's budget.

St. Louis Blues: Jordan Kyrou

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Blues could face a choice between protecting Oskar Sundqvist or Jordan Kyrou in the expansion draft. If they choose Sundqvist, the Kraken could take the 22-year-old.

    A promising right wing, the Blues slowly brought Kyrou into their lineup over the past two seasons, averaging a little more than 10 minutes per game. He could see a lot more playing time with them in 2020-21. He skates well and possesses good offensive abilities.

    Kyrou will complete his entry-level contract this season, becoming a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. He would be a cost-effective signing for the Kraken and could fit into their long-term plans if he plays up to expectations.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tyler Johnson

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Lightning attempted to trade and then waived right winger Tyler Johnson as a cost-cutting move during this offseason. While he's still with the Bolts for the coming season, he will likely be left unprotected in the expansion draft, where the Kraken could take him off their hands.

    The 30-year-old tallied a career-high 72 points in 2014-15, but his numbers have been mostly between 40-50 points since then. He netted just 31 points in 65 games last season while taking on a lesser role on a deep Lightning roster. Perhaps the Spokane, Washington, native could enjoy a resurgence playing in his home state.

    Carrying a $5 million annual average value to the end of 2023-24, Johnson would be an expensive addition to the Kraken's salary-cap payroll. Nevertheless, their roster could benefit from his two-way skills and championship experience.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Travis Dermott

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to protect three defensemen (Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and TJ Brodie) in the expansion draft. That could make Travis Dermott a tempting target for the Kraken.

    A mobile blueliner with good offensive abilities, the 24-year-old was a regular on the Leafs blue line over the past two seasons. However, the offseason addition of the promising Mikko Lehtonen could make it difficult for Dermott to remain among their top six rearguards.

    Dermott will complete his entry-level contract this season, becoming a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. He should be an affordable short-term signing who could flourish with the expansion team.

Vancouver Canucks: Braden Holtby

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Vancouver Canucks will likely protect promising goaltender Thatcher Demko in the expansion draft, especially if he builds upon his outstanding performance during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. That will leave Braden Holtby available to perhaps become the Kraken's starting goalie in their opening season.

    Winner of the 2016 Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top netminder, Holtby backstopped the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018. However, he struggled over the past two seasons, lost the starter's job with the Capitals to Ilya Samsonov and signed a two-year, $8.6 million contract as a free agent in October with the Canucks.

    Now 31, Holtby's best seasons could be behind him. Nevertheless, a solid performance with the Canucks this season could make him an enticing short-term goalie option for the Kraken.

Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Washington Capitals could attempt to use the expansion draft to free up some much-needed salary-cap space. With $66.3 million invested in 15 players for 2021-22 and captain Alex Ovechkin to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent, they could leave winger T.J. Oshie exposed.

    The 34-year-old, who spent his early years north of Seattle, could be a natural fit with the Kraken. Despite his age, he remains a consistent offensive player. He tallied 49 points in 69 games last season, marking the ninth time in his 12-year NHL career he's reached or exceeded 47 points.

    Oshie's age and contract could be concerns. He's signed until the end of 2024-25 with an annual average value of $5.75 million. Still, the Kraken could benefit from Oshie's experience and leadership during their early years.

Winnipeg Jets: Sami Niku

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Sami Niku has had difficulty cracking the Winnipeg Jets' defense corps over the past three seasons. The 24-year-old could have a better opportunity to become a full-time NHL defenseman with the Kraken.

    A strong-skating blueliner, Niku also possesses good puck-moving abilities. The Finn needs 27 games this season to become eligible for the expansion draft. Given the Jets' blue-line issues, he could get in enough games.

    Niku would also be an affordable gamble for the Kraken. He's signed for 2021-22 with a cap hit of just $725,000.


    Salary info via CapFriendly.