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2021 mock NHL expansion draft 2.0: With players finally revealed, a look at how the Kraken’s picks could play out

UPDATED: Tue., July 20, 2021

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) blocks a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals series, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The two players with Washington roots -- Price from Kennewick, Johnson from Spokane -- could be in play when the Seattle Kraken pick in Wednesday's expansion draft.  (Associated Press)
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) blocks a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals series, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The two players with Washington roots -- Price from Kennewick, Johnson from Spokane -- could be in play when the Seattle Kraken pick in Wednesday's expansion draft. (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

This “mock draft” thing was supposed to get easier once NHL teams revealed their players protected from the Seattle Kraken in Wednesday’s expansion draft.

Until, that is, the Montreal Canadiens exposed goaltender Carey Price. How often can a new franchise add a goaltender that just led his team into the Stanley Cup Final with a dominant playoff performance reminiscent of peak years?

Throw in Price playing junior for the Tri-City Americans and his wife, Angela, being from Kennewick. He’s an instantly recognizable franchise face for the team’s 13,500 season-ticket holders and even casual fans to rally behind for his five remaining contract years.

But Price will be 34 next season, and it’s uncertain he can repeat his playoff performance. His contract carries a $10.5 million annual salary-cap hit with Price retaining a no-movement clause and taking up about 13% of a payroll limited to $81.5 million.

Still, Price nearly just won a Cup backstopping a Canadiens team nobody saw coming. If you’re spending huge, a goalie is where to do it. And the Kraken is building from scratch, making it easier to accommodate this massive deal. So it isn’t money that should give pause as much as Price’s ability to repeat his elite performance.

Already, we’re hearing whispers he might require knee surgery.

In a March interview, then-goalie coach Stephane Waite told TSN Radio that the Canadiens felt Price’s accumulating injuries meant he could no longer play nightly.

Backup Jake Allen was signed to lighten Price’s workload. But Price’s numbers still declined.

Yes, there will be inevitable comparisons with Marc-Andre Fleury, the netminder plucked by the Vegas Golden Knights from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the expansion draft four years ago.

But they are not the same.

Fleury has barely been injured throughout his career, and Price keeps piling up nagging hurts that come from throwing his muscular, 220-pound body around like somebody 40 pounds lighter. It’s made it impossible for Price to play 60-plus games a season anymore.

Waite said he felt Price was always best playing game after game to where his reflexes took over. Notably, his best recent performances were during playoff runs when starting every game.

So, in hoping Price’s latest playoff run is repeatable over an 82-game schedule, the Kraken would be counting on his reflexes remaining sharp despite playing him far more sporadically.

I’m guessing the Kraken passes. It should make a play instead for Montreal free-agent center Phillip Danault.

So here’s my mock draft 2.0. The Kraken must take at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies, plus four remaining players at any position. At least 20 must be under contract next season at a $48.9 million minimum cap hit.

Anaheim Ducks: Hayden Fleury. The left-handed defenseman and former No. 1 draft choice of Kraken general manager Ron Francis is only 25 and affordable. Salary-cap hit: $1.3 million.

Arizona Coyotes: Tyler Pitlick. Scratch Adin Hill, my previous pick, who got traded to San Jose. Right wing Pitlick, 29, is a decent depth forward. Cap hit: $1.75 million.

Boston Bruins: Jeremy Lauzon. Lauzon, 24, can play the blue line from the left and right sides. Cap hit: $850,000.

Buffalo Sabres: Will Borgen. As Rasmus Asplund got protected, we’ll go with a low-budget pick on right-handed defenseman Borgen, 24. Cap hit: Free agent.

Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano. Giordano, 37, brings ample leadership and can still play D. Cap hit: $6.75 million.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Bean. Going big money elsewhere, so shifting from unrestricted free-agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a restricted defender in lower cost Bean, 23. Cap hit: Free agent.

Chicago Blackhawks: Calvin de Haan. At age 30, a veteran presence on left side of blue line. Cap hit: $4.55 million.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Max Domi. We’d gone with Dean Kukan until left wing Domi was made available. At his best, Domi, 26, is the disruptive forward the Kraken wants. Cap hit: $5.3 million.

Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog. Tyson Jost got protected, and there’s a more valuable forward exposed in free-agent captain Landeskog, 28. This is where the Kraken should use money and cap space to land its franchise player. Cap hit: Free agent.

Dallas Stars: Adam Mascherin. Forget our original plan, as Jason Dickinson was traded to Vancouver. Going cheap with left wing Mascherin from a thin list of choices. Cap hit: Free agent.

Detroit Red Wings: Troy Stetcher. The right-handed defenseman, 27, can help the Kraken balance out the blue line. Cap hit: $1.7 million.

Edmonton Oilers: Tyler Benson. This is a low-risk gamble for a young left wing that might have upside at only 23. Cap hit: Free agent.

Florida Panthers: Chris Driedger. The Panthers protected our previous pick, Anthony Duclair, plus there’s a report the Kraken will sign free agent goalie Driedger, 27. A possible No. 1. Cap hit: Free agent.

Los Angeles Kings: Brendan Lemieux. Picked forward Lemieux, 25, in previous mock draft and not changing now for energy level he brings. Cap hit: $1.55 million.

Minnesota Wild: Kaapo Kahkonen. Surprise, surprise, the Wild protected the veteran goalie Cam Talbot, so we’re taking exposed youngster Kahkonen, 24, in nets at a vastly reduced cap … er, Kaap amount. Cap hit: $725,000.

Montreal Canadiens: Phillip Danault. My original pick, Joel Edmundson, got protected. Two-way center Danualt, 28, embodies what this team says it wants to be and if signed as a free agent would be a great mentor for centerman Matthew Beniers if he’s taken No. 2 overall in Friday’s entry draft. Cap hit: Free agent.

Nashville Predators: Calle Jarnkrok. Was going to spend big on Ryan Johansen initially, but you can’t do it every place. Saving money here by selecting forward Jarnkrok, 29, and his lone remaining contract season. Cap hit: $2 million.

New Jersey Devils: Nick Merkley. Yeah, I’m tempted to go for big-name P.K. Subban, but that money thing again. … Sticking with Merkley, 24, a restricted free agent right wing. Cap hit: Free agent.

New York Islanders: Josh Bailey. This is where we start loading up on money, forgoing initial cheap defensive pick Sebastian Aho and taking top-six forward Bailey, 31, for his 50-point versatility, leadership and durability. Cap hit: $5 million.

New York Rangers: Barclay Goodrow. They traded my Brett Howden choice to Vegas and acquired Goodrow, 28, from Tampa Bay. Again, the kind of dynamic changing forward the Kraken wants. Cap hit: Free agent.

Ottawa Senators: Evgenii Dadonov. I originally selected Chris Tierney, but right wing Dadonov, 32, puts the puck in the net more and can help Kraken assistant Paul McFarland on the power-play like he did in Florida. Cap hit: $5 million.

Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere. We’re dumping original pick James van Riemsdyk and going with defenseman Gostisbehere for less money. Cap hit: $4.5 million.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Brandon Tanev. Going cheaper than initial Jason Zucker pick, albeit for longer and taking left-wing Tanev, 29, for his speed, aggressiveness and penalty killing. Cap hit: $3.5 million.

St. Louis Blues: Vince Dunn. We’re going to pass on Vladimir Tarasenko’s big money and stick with defenseman Dunn, 24, for money, flexibility and growth potential. Cap hit: Free agent.

San Jose Sharks: Dylan Gambrell. The forward from Bonney Lake was my initial choice, and I’m not abandoning the homegrown train now. Cap hit: $1.1 million.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Yanni Gourde. There’s probably a side deal here where the Kraken somehow takes Tyler Johnson, but Gourde, 29, makes the most sense for his disruptive on-ice ways. Cap hit: $5.167 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Alexander Kerfoot. Not sure why the Leafs traded for Jared McCann, then exposed him so there’s probably a side deal where Kraken takes Kerfoot, 26, my previous pick as a hard-nosed forward. Cap hit: $3.5 million.

Vancouver Canucks: Braden Holtby. Holtby, 31, is a potential No. 1 if he reverts to form. Cap hit: $4.3 million.

Washington Capitals: Vitek Vanecek. Keeping Vanecek, 25, as a young goalie that can be groomed for No. 1 spot or dealt easily. Cap hit: $716,667.

Winnipeg Jets: Dylan DeMelo. Mason Appleton seemed a lock until right-handed defensemen DeMelo, 28, was surprisingly exposed. Cap hit: $3 million.

The totals: 16 forwards, 10 defensemen, 4 goalies. Twenty players under contract with a $62,258,667 salary-cap hit.

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