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2021 mock NHL expansion draft: Geoff Baker predicts how the Kraken’s picks could play out

UPDATED: Thu., July 15, 2021

Anaheim Ducks' Haydn Fleury (51) in action against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in St. Louis. Fleury could be a target for the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming NHL expansion draft.  (Associated Press)
Anaheim Ducks' Haydn Fleury (51) in action against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in St. Louis. Fleury could be a target for the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming NHL expansion draft. (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

SEATTLE – With the Kraken poised to begin selecting their team in Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft, here’s a sampling of what to expect as general manager Ron Francis makes his choices.

Francis can pick one unprotected player from each roster of 30 other NHL teams. The league’s previous expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, is exempt from this draft.

Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight of any skaters plus a goalie. Protected lists are due Saturday.

Francis must choose at least three goalies, 14 forwards and nine defensemen. The remaining four players can be from any position.

With this mock-draft exercise, we’ll attempt to show possibilities the Kraken might choose. Keep in mind, Francis has also likely made a number of side deals with teams that will direct his pick toward a player who isn’t on the radar.

Not much we can do with those, as there are dozens of possible combinations. Also, the Kraken will have a 72-hour window before the draft to negotiate with pending free agents. If they sign one, it counts as the draft pick yielded by that player’s former team.

The Kraken must pick at least 20 players under contract for next season – meaning no more than 10 free agents can be signed as an expansion draft choice. Also, the cap hits of the under-contract players selected must account for at least 60% of next season’s $81.5 million salary-cap upper limit – $48.9 million at a minimum.

Got it? OK, let’s take a stab at it. Guaranteed, this will not be exactly what the Kraken’s final choices are. But let’s hope it’s a vague facsimile.

Anaheim Ducks: We’ll assume the Ducks go with the standard 7-3-1 protection scheme and the Kraken take a former Francis draft pick – Haydn Fleury, 25, a left-handed-shooting defenseman. Salary-cap hit: $1.3 million.

Arizona Coyotes: Wouldn’t be surprised to see Phil Kessel waive his no-movement clause so the rebuilding Coyotes can expose him. But for now, goalie Adin Hill, 25, balances out the Kraken’s netminding between youth and experience. Cap hit: Free agent.

Boston Bruins: We’ll go with left-handed-shooting defenseman Jeremy Lauzon, 24. He can play the blue line from both sides and was developed in the AHL by new Kraken assistant Jay Leach. Cap hit: $850,000.

Buffalo Sabres: Could the Kraken trade their No. 2 overall pick and then some to land Jack Eichel? Staying more realistic here and going with restricted free-agent forward Rasmus Apslund, 23. Cap hit: Free agent.

Calgary Flames: Longtime captain and left-handed defender Mark Giordano, 37, is expected to be exposed and would continue in that same veteran leadership role with the Kraken. Cap hit: $6.75 million.

Carolina Hurricanes: Sure, we could play it safe with defenseman Jake Bean. But we’ll roll the dice and go with the Kraken signing unrestricted free-agent defender Dougie Hamilton during the advance negotiation window. Cap hit: Free agent.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Kraken have better goalie options than Malcolm Subban, so defenseman Calvin de Haan, 30, looks like a good bet and would give the team depth from the left side. Cap hit: $4.55 million.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Slim pickings here, so we’ll go with stay-at-home defenseman Dean Kukan, 28, for the bottom-four pairing. Cap hit: $1.65 million.

Colorado Avalanche: It looked like hulking top-four defenseman Ryan Graves would be headed this way until Erik Johnsen waived his no-movement clause Tuesday. It’s possible Graves could be protected and leave restricted free-agent forward Tyson Jost, 23, up for grabs. Cap hit: Free agent.

Dallas Stars: Yeah, you can take slightly declining 35-year-old goalie Anton Khudobin, or just draft Braden Holtby, who is three years younger (see below) and probably poised for a non-Canucks bounce-back. That leaves restricted free-agent forward Jason Dickinson, 26, as the choice. Cap hit: Free agent.

Detroit Red Wings: Among the rebuilding Red Wings, right-handed D-man Troy Stetcher, 27, from British Columbia is coming off a solid season and allows the Kraken to round out both sides of their blue line. Cap hit: $1.7 million.

Edmonton Oilers: Left wing Tyler Benson, 23, has played mainly in the AHL, but the former Vancouver Giants star from the WHL is still young. Cap hit: Free agent.

Florida Panthers: Left wing Anthony Duclair, 25, would give the Kraken a likely 20-goal scorer, as the restricted free agent should see a boost in playing time compared with what the Panthers offered last season. Cap hit: Free agent.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kraken want guys with lots of energy, and Brendan Lemieux, 25, son of one of the all-time great NHL pests, Claude Lemieux, fits that bill. Cap hit: $1.55 million.

Minnesota Wild: Defenseman Matt Dumba seems obvious, but we’re guessing he’s protected after a flurry of Wild buyout moves, and that veteran goalie Cam Talbot, 34, gets picked. Cap hit: $3.67 million.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs will likely dangle enigmatic winger Jonathan Drouin, but I’d go with physical defenseman Joel Edmundson, 28, and his three remaining years if exposed. Cap hit: $3.5 million.

Nashville Predators: For a big spend, Ryan Johansen, 28, gives you a heavy body up front with top-six potential. Those four remaining contract years will need offsetting. Cap hit: $8 million.

New Jersey Devils: Though P.K. Subban is a big-name, top-money player the retooling Devils could try to unload, the safer Kraken bet is right wing Nick Merkley, 24, a restricted free agent. Cap hit: Free agent.

New York Islanders: Some pricey options to consider, but Sebastian Aho, 25 – no, not the like-named Hurricanes goal scorer – is a good two-way defender from the left side. Cap hit: $775,000.

New York Rangers: Brett Howden, 23, signed a one-year deal last week, leaving the forward eligible for the draft and a likely Kraken pick if exposed. Cap hit: $885,000.

Ottawa Senators: The Kraken could do worse than a versatile 40-point guy in Chris Tierney, 27, a center who plays all three positions. Cap hit: $3.5 million.

Philadelphia Flyers: Somebody needs to put the puck in the net, and left wing James van Riemsdyk, 32, could be one of the more prolific Kraken goal-scorers once you look past his contract. Cap hit: $7 million.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Former 30-goal-scorer Jason Zucker, 29, hasn’t been a great fit in Pittsburgh since Minnesota traded him two seasons ago. The left wing could use a change of scenery. Cap hit: $5.5 million.

St. Louis Blues: You can build on blue-line youth with Stanley Cup winner Vince Dunn, 24, a left-handed puck mover with some strong upside. Cap hit: Free agent.

San Jose Sharks: Restricted free agent Dylan Gambrell, 24, gives you more depth up the middle, and he’s from Bonney Lake, Washington. Hey, you need at least one homegrown or two. Cap hit: Free agent.

Tampa Bay Lightning: There is side-deal potential here where the Kraken select Spokane native Tyler Johnson, 30, and are given some salary relief and additional players such as one of the following: Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn or Yanni Gourde. Cap hit: $5 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Kraken assistant coach Paul McFarland got to work directly with center Alexander Kerfoot, 26, in 2019-20 and he had to like his hard-nosed style. Cap hit: $3.5 million.

Vancouver Canucks: Not a lot to choose from here, so we’re thinking the Kraken go with the high-upside gamble on goalie Braden Holtby. If it works, he’s your No. 1 guy. Cap hit: $4.3 million.

Washington Capitals: With all the veterans the Kraken can load up on in goal, Vitek Vanecek, 25, joins Hill as young netminder they can groom for the No. 1 spot. Cap hit: $716,667.

Winnipeg Jets: One of the only Jets players who showed up for the team’s second-round playoff loss, center Mason Appleton, 25, could be a 20-goal scorer and solid forechecker up the middle. Cap hit: $900,000.

The totals: 16 forwards, 10 defensemen, four goalies. 20 players under contract with a $65,596,667 salary-cap hit.

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