Seattle Kraken 2021 NHL Expansion Draft: Eligible Players and Roster Predictions
It's time for the Seattle Kraken to assemble their roster for their inaugural NHL season.
The expansion draft for the league's 32nd franchise takes place Wednesday, when the Kraken will get to take one player from 30 other teams (The Vegas Golden Knights, the most recent expansion team, are exempt.)
However, there are rules in place for the expansion draft, and they can't just take any player they want.
Every NHL team set a list of protected players who won't be eligible to be selected. They could protect a group of seven forwards, three defenseman and one goaltender, or they could choose to protect any eight players (with at least two forwards and one defensemen) and one goaltender. First- and second-year players are not eligible to be drafted, either.
Among Seattle's 30 selections, 20 must be names who are under contract for the 2021-22 season. The other 10 can be players who are set to become free agents July 28.
A full list of protected and unprotected players can be found at NHL.com.
Before the Kraken's initial roster is announced Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, here are some predictions for several key decisions they'll make when choosing players.
Kraken Go with Holtby and Driedger, Not Price
There's been a lot of speculation surrounding Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
The 33-year-old has been left unprotected, and despite his injury concerns, Seattle's ownership has given its hockey operations department "the full green light" to take him if it wants to, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff.
However, other strong goaltenders are available. So because of Price's age and the potential for him to miss substantial time, the Kraken will go with two other netminders instead: Braden Holtby and Chris Driedger.
Holtby has 11 years of NHL experience and is still only 31. After spending a decade with the Washington Capitals—which included leading them to the Stanley Cup in 2018—he signed with the Vancouver Canucks last offseason. He didn't fare as well there, though, and could benefit from another fresh start.
Although Driedger is 27, he has only 38 games of NHL experience. However, he had a strong showing for the Florida Panthers this past season, posting a .927 save percentage and a 2.07 goals against average in 23 games.
He is set to become an unrestricted free agent next week, but the Kraken are already in the process of signing him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
It's possible Seattle could take Price instead of Holtby, but it seems more likely it will draft the latter.
Dunn Selected to Lead Seattle's Defense
The Kraken will likely consider taking Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues.
However, the 29-year-old has already requested a trade, so Seattle could select a different player from the team and then try to deal for Tarasenko later, if it has interest in the forward.
Plus, the Kraken won't want to pass up the opportunity to take Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, who could be an anchor for their unit on the blue line. He has been a solid player throughout his four NHL seasons, and he's going to be a restricted free agent, so Seattle would be able to sign him.
At this point, the 24-year-old is already a top-four defenseman but could continue to improve because he's so young. He struggled a bit during the 2020-21 season (posting a career-low plus/minus rating of minus-eight), but he should turn things around with his talent and skills.
While the Kraken may consider taking Tarasenko instead—especially if they want him and don't think they can work out a trade—they're more likely to select Dunn. He should be a core player for them to build their defense around moving forward.
Seattle Swipes Colorado Captain Landeskog
After spending his first 10 NHL seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog was left exposed for the expansion draft. However, if the Kraken decide to take the Avs captain, they'll need to work out a deal with him, as he's set to become an unrestricted free agent next week.
But Seattle is going to need to spend some money if it hopes to land a few top players to build around, and Landeskog would fit that role. He's been a strong offensive player for the past decade, and the forward's leadership skills would be valuable for a new franchise.
The 28-year-old has tallied at least 52 points in seven of his first 10 seasons. He had 20 goals and 32 assists in 54 games during the 2020-21 campaign while leading Colorado to the Presidents' Trophy.
The Avalanche are one of the league's top teams, so they have quite a few strong players who they couldn't put on their protected list. But Landeskog is the one the Kraken should take, as he would immediately be a valuable piece to their top offensive line while potentially becoming their first captain, too.