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Expansion draft predictions: Who we think the Kraken select

Image courtesy of Seattle Kraken Twitter account

In December 2018, the NHL announced that the city of Seattle would be the newest addition to the league. On July 23, 2020, the league’s 32nd team unveiled their name: the Seattle Kraken. Now, almost a year to the day from that unveiling, the sports world gets to see which players Seattle adds to their inaugural roster.

Following a couple of years of speculation among fans and media alike, 30 teams unveiled their protected lists on Sunday morning. The notable exception being the Vegas Golden Knights, exempt from the process thanks to an agreement with the league before they entered in 2017-18. In exchange for being exempt, Vegas didn’t collect a share of the $650 million expansion fee the Kraken paid to join the league.

Just like Vegas, Seattle is subject to the same rules the Golden Knights were the last time The Scrum Sports did this prediction exercise during the 2017 expansion draft. Before Vegas selected its players, past expansion drafts did not favor new teams. They often got left with scraps off the bottom of the barrel. With the Golden Knights’ arrival, the league changed the rules to make things more favorable for them, yet even with those new rules, not many people took a look at Vegas’ initial roster and thought, “That’s a playoff team.”

During that expansion draft, the Knights made side deals with several teams that agreed to give them draft picks or prospects to stay away from certain players. As history showed, that ended up working out for Vegas better than anyone could’ve imagined, as they marched to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Washington Capitals in five games.

Could Seattle duplicate Vegas’s feat?

A betting man would say “probably not”, as that Golden Knights team played with a chip on their shoulder and bought into then-head coach Gerard Gallant’s up-tempo system while also receiving some fantastic goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury. Now could the Kraken make the playoffs in their inaugural season? It’s certainly possible, especially with some of the players available for Seattle’s choosing.

The Kraken could go any number of ways. They could load up on some talented players with big cap hits (and injury issues) like Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko. Perhaps they seek a balance of youth looking for a bigger opportunity and an expanded role combined with some solid veterans and depth players? Either way, much like the 2017 expansion draft, side deals will likely be completed. With Vegas, some teams overthought the process, giving up multiple assets to protect certain players, which backfired on teams like Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, and Minnesota. In Seattle’s case, side deals are likely to occur due to the salary cap being flat at $81.5 million for probably the next couple of years due to COVID-19.

As a result, several teams find themselves in a financial bind. A lot of tough decisions will be made around the league. Will teams send draft capital and/or prospects the Kraken’s way, or will they just bite the bullet and lose a good player no matter what?

A reminder of the rules for the Kraken

Since Seattle is following the same rules as the 2017 Vegas expansion draft, here’s a reminder of what some of those rules are:

  • The Kraken must choose a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2021-22 and must at least meet the salary cap floor, which is $48.9 million, or 60% of the salary. Seattle cannot buy out players chosen in the expansion draft until the summer of 2022 at the earliest.
  • Teams can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie, or eight skaters total and a goalie.
  • Seattle is currently in a window until the day of the expansion draft on July 21 where they could potentially sign unrestricted free agents left unprotected in the expansion draft. If they sign a player during that time, it counts as their pick from that team.
  • Teams must protect players possessing no-movement clauses unless they chose to waive their NMC for the expansion draft.
  • All first-year and second-year professionals, as well as unsigned draft choices, are exempt.
  • Each team, except for Vegas, loses one player.
  • Seattle must choose a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies, with four additional choices going to a position of their choosing.

Our predictions for the Kraken’s roster

Over the next few pages, not only will I make my predictions, but I’ve enlisted fellow staff writers Riley Gillespie-Wilson and Robert Hazou to submit their mock drafts as well. We’ll submit our rosters and explain why we made the picks that we made. All salary cap information comes from CapFriendly, so without further ado, here’s who we think ends up being selected in the 2021 expansion draft.

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