The 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft is coming soon. Even though the playoffs are still going on, most teams will be starting to focus on the offseason as we get further into June. The Seattle Kraken will start their inaugural year in 2021-22, and with that comes the expansion draft. There are plenty of opportunities for this Seattle team and the draft, which will take place on July 21st, is sure to be thrilling. While it will be hard to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights (who are exempt from this draft) first season, fans should be excited regardless. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will go through a team and preview all the possible protection, exposure, and trade scenarios. Today, we take a look at the Buffalo Sabres preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
Heading into the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, the Sabres are in both a good and bad place. The good is that they are very unlikely to lose a player of legitimate impact. The bad? It’s because they have so few of those players. Buffalo had a miserable year in which they managed to come last yet again. This time by a full six points behind the next ranked team. Another disappointing year for a team that has been at the very bottom of the standings for a long time. The worst part is, they have had lottery luck, it just hasn’t been in the best of years.
Where Buffalo goes from here will be interesting to see. However, for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, they do sit in a pretty good spot.
Protection List: Forwards
Overall, a fairly straightforward list we are predicting for the Sabres. Despite all the trade rumours, everyone knows Eichel will not be exposed under any circumstances. Reinhart and Olofsson are two of the better Sabres forwards so they are pretty easy candidates too. Skinner has a full no-movement clause, meaning he has to be protected. Now, he could waive and become eligible. However, there aren’t many candidates better than him in terms of skill for Buffalo to protect anyways. It also seems unlikely Seattle would take him unless an asset was added, which also doesn’t make a bunch of sense for a still rebuilding Sabres team.
After that, we get to the guys who are younger and have some potential. Bjork, Mittelstadt, and Asplund have all had mixed NHL careers so far, but they are all under 24 and decent players with potential. Considering the lack of other options, it just seems foolish not to protect these guys. Even if they’re not a part of the long-term fix going forward, they hold some trade value and that could be useful down the road.
Protection List: Defencemen and Goalie
Again, a pretty straightforward list all things considered. Yes, Ristolainen is a bit of a touchy subject at times in Buffalo. However, there is no denying that they need to protect him as he does hold more trade value than anyone else on that blueline. While Dahlin hasn’t developed quite as hoped there is still a ton of potential there and exposing him would be foolish. For the final spot, Jokiharju is just 21 and has also shown some promise. There was also just a lack of other options too. Colin Miller is the only one who has extra term left and the Sabres would likely be happy if he is taken at this point. So that leaves the obvious choice in Jokiharju who still has the potential to be a part of this team’s future.
In net, Ullmark is the absolute no-brainer here. Ullmark has quietly been solid for Buffalo for two seasons now. The thing going forward is getting him reps to see if he can be a viable starter. This offseason the Sabres may want to look for a tandem guy to help, but for the expansion draft, it is Ullmark all the way.
Again, unlike some other teams in this scenario, Buffalo hasn’t left too many options for Seattle. Among the exposed names are Kyle Okposo, Cody Eakin, Tage Thompson, Drake Caggiula (UFA), Matt Irwin, Miller, and Carter Hutton. Just about all of these names would not be huge losses for the Sabres if we’re being honest. For Seattle, if they have to select a player it seems unlikely Okposo’s contract that has two more seasons at six million will be selected. Thompson and Irwin aren’t very good hockey players so it doesn’t feel like Seattle will be selecting them either.
Hutton will likely be left alone too because of how many options Seattle will have in net. However, Miller or Caggiula might be players they look at. Miller has had a miserable time in Buffalo. Though, in Vegas and before that he was super effective while in more of a limited role. The biggest concern is his 3.875 million dollar cap hit for one more year. The other option would be Caggiula, who is an alright depth forward. They would need to sign him to a new contract as he is unrestricted, but that would count as Buffalo’s player. Overall, there aren’t many options for Seattle here. It may be in both team’s best interest if Miller is taken. That or Seattle goes way off the board and takes the rights to Lawerence Pilut, who is currently in the KHL.
Again, it doesn’t seem like anything crazy will happen in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft for the Buffalo Sabres. If they were really desperate to shed salary, maybe they would offer an asset for the Kraken to take Okposo. Or even Skinner, although that would likely cost way more. The biggest issue with that is it really makes no sense for Buffalo. Yes, they want to get better and fast. But the way to do that is not by giving up even more assets when you’re trying to rebuild.
For some other teams, this paragraph might be an area filled with theories and trades. However, for Buffalo, this is all we really have. At most, there could be a minor deal to move a bit of salary. But don’t expect much of importance to go back the other way.
The Sabres have a huge summer in front of them. The Eichel situation will be at the front of everyone’s minds as he is clearly their biggest factor. However, they also have a bunch of free agents coming up and an opportunity to once again change how this team looks. How will they do that? Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure though, fans shouldn’t lose too much sleep over the Seattle expansion draft. The Sabres will almost certainly be losing a fringe player, some salary they can then use on others, or a player who isn’t even in North America right now.