2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

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 theĀ 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 Columbus Blue Jackets preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options for the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Outlook

The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the 2020-21 season with expectations of a fifth straight trip to the playoffs while competing in the league’s strongest division. In return, they posted an 18-26-12 record that put them in tied for third last in the league. The real story of the season in Columbus was a malfunctioning team that traded away their best forward in Pierre-Luc Dubois, fired head coach John Tortorella, had multiple stars underperform, and saw Seth Jones declare he would be testing free agency instead of re-signing back in Ohio. As a result, the expansion draft arrives with the franchise teetering on the precipice of a painful re-tool. Columbus has a lot of issues and decisions to work through but fortunately, the Seattle expansion draft will not be difficult.

Protection List: Forwards

Cam Atkinson, Max Domi, Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner, Gustav Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic

There are no notable omissions for the Blue Jackets as they lack a large number of high-end forwards that would force their hand. Cam Atkinson is under contract for another four seasons and is only two seasons removed from 40 goals. Max Domi and Patrik Laine both underperformed in their first seasons with the club and are under team control. Domi will also miss the beginning of next season following successful surgery this off-season for an injured right shoulder. Ultimately, the only way he and Laine don’t play in Columbus next season is if they are traded.

Meanwhile, Columbus native Jack Roslovic was the bright spot of the Dubois trade and will have a main role in next season’s lineup. Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand have been a part of the Blue Jackets lineup for years and remain dependable scoring threats in a shallow offensive pool. Gustav Nyquist missed the 2020-21 season following shoulder surgery and could also be a staple in the Blue Jackets lineup or used as a trade piece if they deep dive into the re-tooling.

Protection List: Defense and Goalie

Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo

What has been the backbone of the Blue Jackets for years will stay intact, at least through Seattle’s Expansion draft. Columbus’ top-pair of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski would be the best defensemen on most NHL teams which makes them slam-dunk protection candidates.

If the Blue Jackets hadn’t traded him at the deadline, David Savard would’ve been another no-brainer to keep on the back end. Instead, 25-year-old Vladislav Gavrikov will take the final skater slot and help fill out the Blue Jackets D-core. He’s performed well in his first two NHL seasons and is an up-and-coming defensive defenceman.

Columbus has a wealth of young goaltenders, even if they took turns underperforming this season. Elvis Merzlikins has taken the starters role from Korpisalo and luckily for the Blue Jackets, Elvis won’t be leaving the building any time soon as he’s exempt from this expansion draft. Next season will be the third year the Blue Jackets will roll out the Merzlikins/Korpisalo tandem and that combo platter will make a lot of teams jealous.

Left Exposed

There aren’t any stand-out options for Seattle to pick from Columbus. Some of the exposed names include Brandon Dubinsky, Mikhail Grigorenko, Eric Robinson and Michael Del Zotto. There are no ‘heavy hitters’ to choose from here for the Kraken but still some valuable players. Dubinsky and Del Zotto have slowed down over the past couple of seasons and will both be UFA’s this off-season. But they could provide a veteran option for a potentially young expansion team.

Alternatively, both Grigorenko and Robinson would be solid younger options that have the potential for some scoring prowess. As we saw with the Golden Knights, it’s sometimes the underrated guys that flourish in a new situation.

Alternate Options

The Blue Jackets were burned in the last expansion draft when they traded a first and a second-round pick to Vegas to ensure they would take William Karlsson and the rest of David Clarkson’s contract. At the time Karlsson had 13 goals in 165 games with Columbus. Since then he’s potted 96 goals in 283 as a Golden Knight. Luckily, this time around, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen won’t need to be making side deals because he isn’t exposing any valuable players.

The real ‘excitement’ for the Blue Jackets will come when they make a decision on how to handle their Seth Jones problem. The 26-year-old has one year left on his deal and has already made it clear, he is going to test free agency before considering a return to Ohio. The Blue Jackets really couldn’t work out a deal with Seattle as they would want more than future picks in return.

A potential Jones deal would come either at the NHL draft or sometime in the off-season to ensure an optimal return. This is yet another star the Blue Jackets have to try and recapture some value from before he leaves for greener pastures.

Other franchises would use this time to make a move to better their team. Instead, Columbus will have to make themselves worse yet again continuing the theme of one step forward, two steps back.

Looking Forward

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a lot of choices to make this off-season. Beyond the soon-to-be Seth Jones fiasco, the Jackets have to decide how they will handle a lack of offense from their top forwards. They also need to hire a new head coach that can actually work with their young stars instead of benching them.

Truthfully, the only concern the Blue Jackets and their fans shouldn’t have is the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and who they could lose. They will give up a depth player at most in the draft while potentially losing another star via trade, yet again.

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