Last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montréal Canadiens in five games, closing out the last Stanley Cup Final before the Kraken enter the league. While the Lightning’s victory marks the end of the 2020-21 NHL season, it also signals the start of a mad scramble to prepare for the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft, which will take place July 21st (here’s an explainer video of how the draft works if you’re interested).
30 NHL teams must submit their protection lists to the league for review by July 17th – only nine days away. Despite having years to prepare for the expansion draft, many teams are still in less than ideal positions, poised to lose a valuable player to the Kraken. But there’s still some time left for teams to make maneuvers with the expansion draft in mind. In fact, the pre-expansion draft posturing has already begun. Last Thursday, the Nashville Predators traded winger Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings for a pair of draft picks. Predators general manager David Poile confirmed that the trade was motivated by the expansion draft:
Facing the prospect of losing Arvidsson for nothing in the expansion draft, Poile instead decided to trade the player and get what return he could. The Kings, who had extra protection spots available, happily stepped in to acquire Arvidsson, knowing they’d be able to keep him protected from the Kraken. The Predators are one of many teams who will look to be involved in this sort of trade over the coming week. A few teams stand out as obvious candidates to make similar deals. Here are some situations Kraken fans should keep an eye on:
The Wild have one of the more complex and challenging expansion draft situations in the NHL, largely due to their league-high five no-move clauses (NMCs). Being required to protect those five players severely limits Minnesota’s protection flexibility. If none of the five are willing to waive their no-move clauses, the Wild would have to expose either promising winger Jordan Greenway or top-4 defenseman Matt Dumba. If faced with that choice, the Wild would probably trade one of them in a move similar to the Arvidsson deal.
Minnesota’s expansion draft strategy involves a lot of moving pieces but their outlook may hinge on one player more than any other. Be on the lookout for news regarding veteran winger Zach Parise. Parise is one of the five Wild players with no-move clauses and was recently listed on Frank Seravalli’s list of 10 buyout candidates for this offseason. Should Parise waive his NMC or be bought out, the Wild would be able to protect both Dumba and Greenway. While the Minnesota media has been oddly quiet on the situation so far, Kraken fans will want to monitor it closely in the coming week. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into the Wild’s expansion draft outlook, we discuss it in detail here.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues’ list of exposed players features a lot of attractive options, but one name stands out above the rest- Vince Dunn. The 24-year-old defenseman’s value on the trade market could surpass Arvidsson’s, which is why the Blues would be foolish to stand by and let Seattle select him in the expansion draft. Look for Dunn to be on the move this week to a team with room to protect him.
Dunn might not be the only part of the Blues’ pre-draft posturing though. According to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, winger Vladimir Tarasenko has officially requested a trade from the team. Should a Tarasenko trade happen before the expansion draft, Seattle’s options at forward could look different very different than they do now.
Washington’s expansion draft dilemma is in net. Each team can only protect one goalie and the Capitals have two young, promising netminders in Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. In addition to their on-ice potential, Washington’s goalies come with salary cap benefits. Vanecek is under contract for another year at $716,667, just barely above league minimum salary, while Samsonov still has three years before he can hit the open market. Up against the salary cap, Washington will have a difficult decision to make. They could attempt to trade one of Samsonov or Vanecek before the expansion draft, although that would still mean having to bring in a (likely more expensive) replacement. Or the Caps could go into the expansion draft with their two netminders and make the Kraken an offer to steer their hand in a different direction.
Carolina has one of the most stacked bluelines in the NHL and the Kraken are in position to take advantage. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are locks to be protected, while the third protection spot is a toss-up between Brady Skjei and Jake Bean. That means one of them is on track to be exposed. Either defenseman would surely fetch a hefty sum on the trade market. Will the Canes want to lock in a return rather than lose a valuable defenseman for nothing? Would they rather try to negotiate a side deal to keep their blueline intact? The next week should provide some answers.
There is, however, a wild card in all of this: Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton, a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), is easily the most sought-after defenseman to hit the open market this year. The Hurricanes have given Hamilton permission to speak to other teams early to get a sense of the market for his services. Ron Francis is probably in on those conversations, in part due to the Kraken analytics team reportedly having a lot of interest in Hamilton. If the Kraken and Hamilton come to an agreement on a contact during the Seattle’s 48-hour exclusive negotiating window from July 18th-20th, The Kraken could make him their expansion draft pick from the Hurricanes. Carolina may have incentive to push things in that direction, as it would allow them to keep both Bean and Skjei.
Like the Hurricanes, the Avs have more valuable defensemen than protection slots. If Colorado goes with the 7-3-1 protection option, Ryan Graves becomes the clear odd man out. Ranked by ice time, Graves is the fourth defenseman in Colorado but could probably step into a bigger role on many teams. There would likely be a lot of demand for the 6’5 220lb. blueliner if the Avalanche feel they need to move him to avoid losing such a valuable asset to the Kraken. For a more in-depth look at Colorado’s expansion draft outlook, we cover it in depth here.