Updated 2021 NHL Expansion Draft Predictions for the Seattle Kraken
With the NHL's 2021 trade deadline fading into history and the playoffs approaching, the focus shifts toward the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs commencing in May. At the back of the minds of 30 NHL general managers, however, is the expansion draft scheduled for July 21.
The Seattle Kraken will officially take to the ice next season as the NHL's 32nd franchise. Most of its roster will be comprised of players selected in the expansion draft.
The draft will follow the same rules as the Vegas Golden Knights draft in 2017. Kraken general manager Ron Francis will select one player from each club except for the Golden Knights as they're exempt from this draft.
Teams have the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) and a goalie. Players with no-movement clauses cannot be exposed in the draft unless they agree to waive their clauses. First- and second-year players and unsigned draft picks are exempt.
In January, we made our way-too-early predictions for which players could be selected by the Kraken. With the NHL regular season drawing to a close and the trade deadline altering several rosters, it's time to revisit and—where necessary—revise our predictions.
Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Shattenkirk
Kevin Shattenkirk was our original predicted pick by the Kraken. With the Anaheim Ducks heading toward a possible rebuild following another disappointing season, the 32-year-old defenseman should remain a tempting expansion-draft target.
The Ducks could protect younger defensemen Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson in order to protect seven forwards. A veteran rearguard like Shattenkirk might not fit into the rebuilding Ducks' future plans. His offensive skills and experience could make him a steadying influence on the Kraken's blue line.
Shattenkirk enjoyed a solid 34-point performance last season with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, not including 13 points in 25 playoff contests. A puck-moving blueliner, he's put up a respectable 15 points in 44 games this season with the low-scoring Ducks. He has two more seasons on his contract at an affordable $3.9 million annual average value.
Arizona Coyotes: Christian Fischer
Our original selection in January was winger Tyler Pitlick, assuming the Arizona Coyotes would protect their younger forwards. However, the decline in winger Christian Fischer's performance could leave the 24-year-old available in the expansion draft as a possible reclamation option for the Kraken.
The 6'2", 214-pound Fischer appeared to have some power-forward potential following a promising 33-point performance in his first full NHL season in 2017-18. However, his production has declined, with just four points in 40 games while averaging only 12:09 of ice time per game on the Coyotes' checking lines. However, he leads the Coyotes with 119 hits and averages 1:40 in shorthanded ice time per game.
Fischer has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $1 million. He could be enticing to the Kraken if they're seeking an affordable, physical young forward for their checking lines.
Boston Bruins: Trent Frederic
Anders Bjork was our original predicted selection from the Boston Bruins but he was shipped to the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline. The Kraken could instead give consideration to young center Trent Frederic.
Frederic, 23, has a limited body of NHL work. He appeared in 17 games over the previous two seasons before cracking the Bruins' lineup this season on a full-time basis. The 6'2", 203-pounder has good size, can skate at center or wing and plays a physical two-way style. He is a restricted free agent lacking arbitration rights this summer and would provide some affordable muscle to the Kraken's forward lines.
The Bruins could also leave winger Ondrej Kase exposed in the draft. The 25-year-old has promising scoring stats, but his long injury history could convince the Kraken to pass him over in favor of the gritty Frederic. They could also consider a young defenseman such as Jeremy Lauzon or Jakub Zboril, but better blue-line options could be available elsewhere in the draft.
Buffalo Sabres: Colin Miller
Things are a mess for the floundering Buffalo Sabres. Colin Miller, our original predicted selection from the Sabres, might not even be with the team if management pushes forward with rebuilding via offseason trades before the expansion draft. Nevertheless, Miller remains the most likely option for the Kraken.
The Sabres will probably protect younger defensemen such as Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen and Henri Jokiharju. Dahlin and Jokiharju are restricted free agents this summer while Ristolainen has a year on his contract. That leaves Miller as the Kraken's best option with term left on his deal.
Miller, 28, is earning $3.875 million per season and is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. His offensive stats have tumbled from his career-high of 41 points in 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights, managing just nine points in 40 games this season. A move to Seattle could help him regain his offensive form if he plays a larger role with the Kraken.
Calgary Flames: Mikael Backlund
Winger Dillon Dube was our initial prediction for Seattle, but Calgary will likely protect him after trading Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline. Big offseason changes could be afoot as the Flames flounder near the bottom of the Scotia North Division. Among them could be leaving Backlund unprotected in the expansion draft, where the Kraken could snap him up.
A reliable two-way forward, the 32-year-old Backlund has reached or exceeded 45 points in five straights seasons from 2015-16 to 2019-20. He has 26 points in 41 games during this shortened season.
Backlund's $5.35 million annual average value over the next three seasons could be a tad expensive for a veteran approaching his mid-30s. Nevertheless, he'd provide experienced depth to the expansion Kraken's forward lines.
Carolina Hurricanes: Brady Skjei
The Carolina Hurricanes are stocked with plenty of talented forwards and defenseman. The problem, however, is they could end up protecting only three blueliners to ensure their top-two forward lines remain intact. As we originally predicted, that could leave Brady Skjei available to the Kraken.
This is assuming the Hurricanes re-sign Dougie Hamilton, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent a week following the expansion draft. They won't leave blue-line stalwarts Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce unprotected. If Hamilton's re-signed, the Hurricanes could have little choice but to leave Skjei exposed.
Signed through 2023-24 with an average salary-cap hit of $5.25 million, Skjei would be a solid long-term addition to the Kraken's defense corps. The 6'3", 210-pounder averages 21:01 of ice time per game on the Hurricanes' second pairing, including 2:53 of shorthanded ice time. He's also among their leaders in blocked shots (52), takeaways (15) and hits (54).
Chicago Blackhawks: Calvin De Haan
Our original prediction had the Chicago Blackhawks exposing Connor Murphy as veteran defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith have no-movement clauses. With Seabrook now on permanent long-term injury reserve, the Blackhawks could ask him to waive his clause. That would allow them to protect Murphy and expose Calvin de Haan.
The Kraken won't select Seabrook because his playing days are over. They could find pickings slim among the Blackhawks available forwards. With Keith and perhaps Murphy and Nikita Zadorov protected, and with limited goalie options in Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia, de Haan could be the best bet.
A seasoned veteran defenseman, de Haan would bring experienced depth to the Kraken's blue line, especially on the penalty kill. He's among the Blackhawks leaders in hits (98) and blocked shots (82), logging 18:53 of ice time per game. The 29-year-old rearguard is signed through next season with an annual average value of $4.55 million.
Colorado Avalanche: Devon Toews
The Colorado Avalanche are blessed with considerable blue-line depth. With Erik Johnson carrying a full no-movement clause and skilled puck-movers Cale Makar and Samuel Girard to be protected, the Avs could leave Devon Toews and Ryan Graves unprotected. Toews will be too tempting for the Kraken to pass up.
The Avalanche could opt to protect four defensemen to keep Toews in their ranks. Doing that, however, means exposing a quality forward such as Nazem Kadri or Andre Burakovsky. With promising youngsters such as Bowen Byram and Connor Timmins in their lineup or coming up soon, the Avs can afford to leave Toews exposed.
Acquired from the New York Islanders last October and signed to a four-year, $16.4 million contract, Toews has fit in well with the Avalanche. The 27-year-old has 23 points in 40 games and logs a team-leading 24:46 of ice time per game. He's also among their leaders in takeaways (25) and blocked shots with 69.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Dean Kukan
We haven't changed our earlier prediction that Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Dean Kukan could be available for the Kraken. The Jackets will likely protect top defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski and sophomore blueliner Vladislav Gavrikov.
The Kraken won't find many palatable available options among the Jackets forwards as promising youngsters Alexandre Texier and Liam Foudy are exempt. So is Elvis Merzlikins, who is making his case as the Jackets' starting goaltender.
Kukan's had a rough year with the Jackets. Appearing in just 27 games, he has averaged 13:32 in ice time, down from last season's 14:52. With a year remaining on his contract at an average salary of $1.65 million, he'd be an affordable reclamation project for the Kraken.
Dallas Stars: Anton Khudobin
In our earlier prediction we pointed out Ben Bishop's no-movement clause means Anton Khudobin will be left exposed by the Dallas Stars. The 34-year-old goaltender remains the likely candidate to be plucked by the Kraken as the expansion club builds up their depth between the pipes.
A career NHL backup, Khudobin replaced the sidelined Bishop during last year's playoffs and carried the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final. They rewarded him with a three-year, $10 million contract. With Bishop still sidelined by offseason right knee surgery, Khudobin's record is nine wins, nine losses and six overtime losses with a 2.34 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and three shutouts.
The performance of rookie goalie Jake Oettinger could make the Stars more comfortable about exposing Khudobin. The 22-year-old has comparable stats (2.29 GAA, .917 SP) and is emerging as Bishop's heir apparent. Best of all for the Stars, he's exempt from the expansion draft.
Detroit Red Wings: Adam Erne
Forward Adam Erne was our predicted Detroit Red Wing to be selected by the Kraken. It's expected the rebuilding Wings will protect young core players like Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, as well as veterans such as Robby Fabbri, Vladislav Namestnikov and Thomas Greiss.
The Wings also have several veterans such as Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal and Jonathan Bernier eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. Others who could be unprotected, such as Fran Nielsen and Danny DeKeyser, are a year away from UFA eligibility and past their playing prime.
Erne would be a good depth addition to the Kraken's checking lines. He can skate on either wing and plays a physical defensive style, sitting second among the Wings in hits with 142. The 26-year-old is also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and should be an affordable short-term signing for the Kraken.
Edmonton Oilers: Caleb Jones
Jesse Puljujarvi was our original predicted pick from the Edmonton Oilers. However, it's unlikely the right winger will be left unprotected after developing into a potentially reliable top-six winger this season. Defenseman Caleb Jones seems a more likely option to be available to the Kraken.
Now in his second full NHL season, the 23-year-old Jones is struggling to earn regular minutes on the Oilers blue line. He's averaging just 13:25 of ice time per game and sees little action on their special teams.
Jones could benefit from an opportunity to get more playing time on the expansion Kraken. With a year remaining on his contract and an annual cap hit of $850K, he'd be a cost-effective selection who could play his way into their long-term plans.
Florida Panthers: Sam Bennett
Markus Nutivaara was our original predicted pick from the Florida Panthers. However, the 26-year-old has seen action in just 17 games this season, including missing 11 games to an upper-body injury. The Kraken could instead turn to Sam Bennett, who the Panthers acquired from the Calgary Flames at the 2021 trade deadline.
Selected fourth overall by the Flames in the 2014 NHL draft, Bennett showed flashes of offensive promise but never played up to heightened expectations. He instead developed into an abrasive two-way forward capable of playing center or wing with a reputation for elevating his play in postseason competition.
A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, the Panthers could leave Bennett unprotected in the expansion draft. A solid effort over the remainder of this season in Florida could make him irresistible to the Kraken.
Los Angeles Kings: Carl Grundstrom
Lias Anderson was our original predicted selection. However, the former first-round pick of the New York Rangers spent part of this season on the Kings' taxi squad and was a recent healthy scratch from several games. The Kraken could instead shift their focus toward more promising fare like Carl Grundstrom.
The 23-year-old Grundstrom's seen mostly fourth-line duty in his first full NHL season, averaging 12:32 of time on ice per game. At 6' and 201 pounds, he doesn't shy away from physical play, tied with Austin Wagner for the team lead with 84 hits. He's also collected 8 points in 37 games.
Grundstrom's youth and gritty, hardworking game could make him a better option for the Kraken's checking lines than the little-used Andersson. He's also signed through next season at the low price of $725,000.
Minnesota Wild: Matt Dumba
We originally selected Jordan Greenway but his breakout performance this season means he'll be among the Wild's protected players. With defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin carrying no-movement clauses and too many good young forwards like Greenway, Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek to protect, Matt Dumba could be left exposed.
The Wild could trade Dumba before the expansion draft rather than lose him for nothing. Assuming they can't find any takers, the 26-year-old defenseman is an obvious target for the Kraken. His all-around skills would make him their No. 1 blueliner. He's also under contract for the next two seasons at an annual average value of $6 million.
A smooth-skating puck-moving rearguard, Dumba is logging 22:11 minutes of ice time per game this season, including 2:06 in power-play time and 2:12 in shorthanded ice time. While his offensive stats (14 points in 36 games) are down this season, he's not far removed from his career-high 50-point campaign in 2017-18.
Montreal Canadiens: Jake Allen
With starting goalie Carey Price carrying a no-movement clause, backup Jake Allen remains our predicted pick by the Kraken. His performance this season and previous experience with the St. Louis Blues make the 30-year-old netminder too good to pass up.
Now in his eighth NHL campaign, Allen is performing well in his first season as Price's understudy. He has a record of six wins, seven losses and four overtime losses with a 2.53 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Before joining the Habs, Allen spent seven seasons with the Blues, winning a Stanley Cup in 2019.
The Kraken will need as much experienced goaltending depth as they can get. Allen should fit in well as a starter or a backup. He also has a two-year contract extension that begins next season with a reasonable annual average value of $2.875 million.
Nashville Predators: Luke Kunin
It's been a difficult season for Luke Kunin. Injuries limited the Nashville Predators winger for 23 games, hampering him en route to just 12 points in 27 games. Nevertheless, he remains our predicted pick by the Kraken.
The Predators could protect four defensemen (Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro) in the expansion draft. That could leave a young forward such as the 23-year-old Kunin available for the Kraken. He also has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $2.3 million.
Kunin showed promise last season with the Minnesota Wild with a respectable 15 goals and 31 points in 63 games. He's shown some of that offensive flourish for the Predators in his latest return from injury, tallying seven points in his past 10 games as a second-line right wing.
New Jersey Devils: Yegor Sharangovich
Miles Wood was our original predicted pick, but he's moved up in value among the New Jersey Devils given his goal-scoring and physical two-way style. The Kraken could instead turn to a promising asset in Yegor Sharangovich.
This is the 22-year-old Sharangovich's first NHL season but this third under his entry-level contract, making him eligible for the expansion draft. The 6'2", 196-pounder has good size and can play center or on the wing. He's a solid two-way forward, sitting second on the Devils with 28 takeaways while averaging a respectable 1:50 in shorthanded ice time.
A restricted free agent, Sharangovich should be an affordable re-signing to a two- or three-year bridge contract. That would give the Kraken sufficient time to evaluate his game, though he's shown a promising level of maturity with the Devils this season.
New York Islanders: Nick Leddy
Nick Leddy has enjoyed a bounce-back performance this season with the New York Islanders. However, the club's limited salary-cap space for 2021-22 leaves him as our prime candidate to be available for selection by the Kraken.
The Islanders have $75.7 million invested in 16 players for next season with Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin set to be restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer. Even with Johnny Boychuk's $6 million annual cap hit on permanent long-term injury reserve, the Isles could still leave Leddy unprotected, making him a tempting target for the Kraken.
Leddy has become the Islanders' best offensive blueliner this season and could fill a similar role with the Kraken. With 25 points in 42 games, he could reach the 30-point plateau for the first time since his 42-point performance in 2017-18. He's the points leader among the Isles defensemen and sits second on the club wth 21:21 of average ice time per game.
New York Rangers: Colin Blackwell
Brendan Lemieux was our original selection but he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on March 28. The Kraken could consider forward Colin Blackwell as a suitable alternative. Signed through next season on a bargain contract, he could prove to be a versatile depth forward in Seattle.
Blackwell saw just 27 games last season with the Nashville Predators before signing a two-year, two-way contract with the Rangers. The 5'9", 190 pounder is among the Rangers' more pleasant surprises. He's tallied 12 goals and 17 points in 33 games and earning ice time among their top-six forwards. He can play center or wing and uses his low center of gravity to win puck battles.
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo could also be available if he's not traded before the expansion draft. However, his one-dimensional style and $4.4 million cap hit could work against him. His banishment from the Rangers following a post-game altercation with teammate Alexandar Georgiev in January could remain an issue.
Ottawa Senators: Chris Tierney
The depth of promising youngsters on the Ottawa Senators continues to make Chris Tierney a possible expansion-draft target for the Kraken. Given the success of rookie Josh Norris as their first-line center, the Senators could shift talented Tim Stutzle from wing to center for his sophomore season.
Tierney's production is down this season as his 17 points in 44 games prorate to 21 points in 56 games. He remains an effective checking center, averaging 2:11 in shorthanded ice time per game and sitting fourth among the Senators with 18 takeaways.
Signed through next season with a $3.5 million cap hit, the Senators could leave Tierney exposed to shed his contract and create a spot for a younger player. The Kraken could easily afford him and make good use of his experience and two-way skills.
Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere
In our original prediction, we observed Shayne Gostisbehere's struggles last season and his appearance in trade rumors could lead to the Flyers leaving him unprotected. Things haven't improved this season for the 27-year-old defenseman. He cleared waivers on March 31 and remains a fixture in the rumor mill.
Gostisbehere's defensive game still needs work but his offensive skills have served him well in the past. He was a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist in 2016 and reached or exceeded 37 points four times.
Changing teams might do Gostisbehere some good, especially if he can be paired with a reliable defensive blueliner. The two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.5 million could be a sticking point for the Kraken. Still, he could be worth the gamble if they seek a puck-moving rearguard to generate offense from the blue line.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Teddy Blueger
Teddy Blueger's energetic defensive game was the reason we originally predicted he'd be available to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It's why the 26-year-old center remains on this list.
Injuries limited Blueger to 16 points in 29 games this season but he's still an effective shutdown forward. He's second on the Pittsburgh Penguins in faceoff wins (147) and fourth in shorthanded ice time (2:24) per game.
Blueger would be a solid addition to the Kraken's penalty-killing unit. Earning $750,000 this season, he's a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer but would be an affordable re-signing.
San Jose Sharks: Dylan Gambrell
Dylan Gambrell's status as a Washington native was among the reasons we originally predicted he'd be a possible pick by the Kraken. His two-way skills and affordability were other factors.
Those abilities remain on display this season. The 24-year-old centers the Sharks third line, averaging 2:20 in shorthanded ice time. He leads all Sharks forwards with 41 blocked shots and is fourth among his teammates with 62 hits.
Gambrell is in the final season of a two-year, $1.4 million contract and becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. He would be a solid, cost-effective addition to the Kraken's checking lines.
St. Louis Blues: Vince Dunn
Jordan Kyrou had been our original choice, but his breakout performance this season should earn him a place on the St. Louis Blues' protection list. However, the Kraken could find a solid alternative in Vince Dunn.
A puck-moving defenseman with good offensive skills who can play on the left or right side, Dunn struggled at times this season. In January, the Blues listened to trade offers for the 24-year-old blueliner but opted to retain him. He tallied a career-best 35 points during his sophomore season in 2018-19 but has just 18 points in 40 games this year.
Dunn is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and will likely seek a substantial raise over his $1.875 million salary for this season. Given the Blues' limited salary-cap space next season, Dunn could become the odd man out, especially if they decide to protect just three defensemen. His offensive potential could make him a top-four rearguard in Seattle.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Tyler Johnson
The Tampa Bay Lightning attempted to waive and trade Tyler Johnson during the offseason in a cost-cutting move. While the 30-year-old winger remains with the Bolts, he's likely to be left unprotected in the expansion draft.
As we observed in our original assessment, Johnson's production has declined over the past two seasons as he's taken on a lesser role with the Lightning. He also carries a $5 million annual average salary for the next three seasons. Still, the Spokane, Washington native's experience and Stanley Cup championship experience could prove useful with the expansion Kraken.
Johnson has just 18 points in 41 games with the Lightning this season while averaging 13:55 of ice time per game. His stats, however, could improve given more ice time and a regular roster spot in Seattle. A versatile forward, he can play center or right wing. He's won 55.2 percent of his faceoff draws and spent some time on the power play.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Travis Dermott
We still expect the Toronto Maple Leafs will protect top-three defensemen Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and TJ Brodie in the expansion draft. Dermott remains the most likely Leaf to be selected by the Kraken.
Dermott appeared to have a bright future as a potential top-four blueliner in Toronto. However, the 24-year-old has tumbled down their depth chart, seeing the lowest average time on ice (12:45) among their regular rearguards. He sees almost no time on their special teams and has just five points in 39 games.
The Kraken could give Dermott a better opportunity to reach his full NHL potential. He's also a restricted free agent this summer and would be an affordable short-term gamble.
Vancouver Canucks: Braden Holtby
The ongoing development of Thatcher Demko into a starting goaltender means the Vancouver Canucks will leave veteran Braden Holtby unprotected. With only a year remaining on his contract worth $4.3 million, the 31-year-old netminder could be a worthwhile short-term pickup for the Kraken.
Enduring the worst season of his NHL career, Holtby has just four wins in 12 starts, a 3.57 goals-against average and an .894 save percentage. Some of that, however, could be attributed to the porous Canucks defense giving up a league-leading 33.8 shots-against per game.
A former Vezina Trophy winner (2016), Holtby's performance has declined since backstopping the Washington Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup. Nevertheless, his experienced and poise could provide some worthwhile goaltending depth to the expansion Kraken.
Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie
We originally predicted the Washington Capitals could leave T.J. Oshie exposed in the expansion draft as a possible cost-cutting measure. With $72 million tied up in 18 players for 2021-22, that scenario still remains a good possibility. The Capitals must free up sufficient salary-cap space to re-sign captain Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Ilya Samsonov.
Oshie, who spent his early years growing up north of Seattle, would be too tempting to pass up for the Kraken. The 34-year-old winger remains a reliable scorer. With 34 points in 42 games, he's on pace to reach 40 points for the 10th time in his career.
His contract could be concerning as he's earning an annual average value of $5.75 million for four more seasons. Nevertheless, the Kraken will need someone with a bit of star power as well as leadership experience. Oshie could provide that for at least another couple of years.
Winnipeg Jets: Logan Stanley
Sami Niku was our original candidate for the Kraken but a more promising option could be available to them in defenseman Logan Stanley. While Niku has had trouble cracking the Jets' blue line, the 22-year-old Stanley has earned a regular role in his rookie campaign.
The 6'7", 228-pound Stanley is a big presence on the blue line, using his long reach to break up opposition attacks. He has the potential to become a more physical defender in a shutdown role as he gains more experience and confidence.
A restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract, Stanley could become a cost-effective development project for the Kraken. Given time, he could become a worthwhile long-term investment.