The trade deadline has passed and the 2021 NHL season is winding down, which means rosters are all but set for the Seattle expansion draft on July 21. With projected protection lists rolling in at a steady pace now, hockey fans and analysts are getting a better idea of who might be available for the Kraken when the day arrives. A quick refresher on how the expansion draft works:
- Seattle will select one player from each team, excluding Vegas, for a total of 30 players
- Each team will have the option to protect either:
- Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie (7F/3D), or
- Eight skaters of any position and one goalie
- First and second year players cannot be selected and do not count against protection limits
- Players with no-movement clauses must be protected unless the player chooses to waive the clause
In 2017, Vegas was able to leverage the expansion draft to pull extra players and draft capital from several teams that felt like they needed to protect more than they were allowed. Many are speculating that Seattle will not be able to snag the haul that Vegas was able to, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any trades at all on expansion day. Here are three of the most likely candidates that could make a side deal with the Kraken in order to keep their NHL rosters more intact.
The Wild have a no-move clause problem. Any player with a full no-move clause in their contract is required to be on a team’s protected list. There are 52 players with no-movement clauses, five of which are on the Minnesota Wild, and three of which are defensemen. If the Wild roll with the 7F/3D protected list, their choice has already been made in regards to which defensemen will be exposed and which will be protected, and Matt Dumba becomes the odd-man out.
Dumba played the second-most minutes per game at even strength last year among Wild defensemen. Per evolving-hockey.com, Dumba ranked 35th out of 123 defensemen with at least 700 minutes played in expected goals for percentage (xGF%). His 53.1% xGF% mark just means that while he was on the ice, the Wild controlled 53.1% of the scoring opportunities in a given game. He could legitimately be a top-pair defenseman in the NHL.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 19, 2021
Meanwhile, should the Wild choose to protect 4 defensemen, they’ll be forced to leave someone like Jordan Greenway available to Seattle. Greenway is a former 2nd-round pick who has slowly earned more ice time with each passing year. He had a career-high 32 points this season in 56 games, improving his points per game for the second consecutive season.
Who will Minnesota allow to leave for nothing, a defensemen that could play on their top pairing or a forward with top-6 potential? Neither has to sound particularly appealing for a Wild team that made a surprise run into the playoffs this season, competing with the known-contenders that are the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche.
Minnesota currently has two first round picks this year after acquiring Pittsburgh’s pick for Jason Zucker last year, which would lessen the blow of an expansion day trade. But it’s also worth noting that they’re one of the teams considered to have been swindled by Vegas the last time around, when they gave up Alex Tuch, a core Vegas starting forward, in order to keep the Golden Knights away from…Matt Dumba. This will be a real test of whether or not current general manager Bill Guerin learned from his predecessor Chuck Fletcher in regards to making a side deal during the expansion draft.
Kraken general manager and former Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis has an opportunity to grab a quality NHL player from his former team this year. The Hurricanes face a similar problem as the Wild, in that they have too many good defensemen to protect. But Carolina has the luxury of fewer no-movement clauses and thus more flexibility when it comes to their protection list.
As of now, top-defenseman Dougie Hamilton is still set to hit unrestricted free agency, where Evolving Hockey projects him to command nearly $9M per year.
Losing Hamilton in free agency still leaves the Hurricanes with a solid top-4 defensive core of Jacob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, and Jake Bean. One of those names will have to be available to Seattle (assuming the 7F/3D protected list) and most projections see rookie Jake Bean as the odd man out.
Bean was the 12th overall pick by none other than Ron Francis in 2016. This past year was his first full season on the NHL squad. His numbers are somewhat average by most public models, but it’s tough to expect much more than that in a player’s first year in the NHL.
There’s a good chance the Hurricanes lose Dougie Hamilton this offseason, so losing Bean as well would mean the Hurricanes are out two key pieces of their defense this offseason with no return.
They could opt to protect eight skaters (4F/4D), but that would leave Vincent Trochek exposed after a season in which his points per 60 minutes saw nearly a 50% increase from his career average, going from 2.1 to 3.0. Carolina general manager Don Waddell should at least give his former colleague a call to see what they can work out. After all, Ron Francis himself made a deal with Vegas in 2017 that worked out pretty good for Carolina during their expansion draft. He traded a 5th round pick in exchange for Vegas taking pending unrestricted free agent Connor Brickley, who split time between the AHL and NHL over the next two years and most recently played in the Austrian Hockey League.
The Avalanche, despite their second-round playoff exit, were one of the best teams in the NHL this year. Their roster is loaded with talent on both offense and defense, which means the Kraken are going to get a good player here.
An expansion day trade here wouldn’t necessarily be about Colorado trying to keep a great roster intact, however. This one comes down to money.
Right now, Colorado has about $25M in cap space for next season, which leaves them in better shape than most teams. The problem is that they still have to re-sign their captain Gabriel Landeskog, superstar 22-year old defenseman Cale Makar, and Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer. Landeskog and Makar project to eat up as much as $19M alone per Evolving Hockey, and Grubauer might be the best free agent goalie on the market this year.
Cale Makar last night pic.twitter.com/JV2YqzHLSp
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 31, 2021
The key to navigating this cap crunch for Colorado comes from defenseman Erik Johnson.
Johnson was a staple on the Avalanche blue line before Makar, Samuel Girard, and Devon Toews joined the team. But at 32 years old, with nagging injuries that kept him out of all but four games in 2021, it seems as though he’s lost his spot in the starting lineup. Reports are already surfacing that he will waive his no-movement clause, paving the way for him to be available to the Kraken in the expansion draft. But Seattle might need some motivation to take on a 32-year old, oft-injured defenseman with a $6M cap hit for the next two seasons. Colorado has already traded away their 2nd-round picks in 2021 and 2022, but still has their 1st-rounders to offer Seattle if they want to ensure they can make some extra room to keep their star players.
Plenty of teams may still feel that it’s better to decline any calls from Ron Francis and just take the loss of a single player in the expansion draft. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few that will feel the need to make some side deals in order to keep a contending roster together for one more run at a Stanley Cup. Let’s hope they can find some common ground and get the Kraken off on the right foot this October.