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 Detroit Red Wings preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
Detroit Red Wings Expansion Draft Options for Seattle Kraken
It’s slim pickings here in Hockeytown. With most of the Red Wings’ most coveted players either protected or too young for eligibility, the Kraken will have their work cut out for them. The most difficult decisions will come on the blueline. Detroit only has enough room on their roster to protect one of Dennis Cholowski or Gustav Lindstrom. Danny DeKeyser, once seen as a key component for the Red Wings’ defense, was waived by the organization twice in the 2020-21 season. On the offensive end, the choice between a solid Vladislav Namestnikov or young up-and-comers in Givani Smith and Evgeny Svechnikov seem intriguing. Ultimately, the Red Wings expansion draft choice will likely fill a roster need, but won’t be a game-breaker in the way that, say, a Washington Capitals pick would be.
Protection List: Forwards
The captain is the easiest pick for protection on the team. He’s been the Red Wings’ best forward for the past three years. Without the team’s 1C, the rebuild would be worse off than it had ever been before — and that’s saying a lot. Protecting Larkin is a no-brainer. His 23 points in just 44 games ranked second on the team. Expect a bigger breakout next year, barring another season-ending dirty hit from Jamie Benn.
Another no-brainer pick, Bertuzzi is one of the team’s best forwards. At all ends of the ice he’s shown tenacity, opening up lanes, breaking apart opponents’ defense, and chirping with the best of them. Bertuzzi’s season came to an abrupt end just nine games into the season. He’ll look to bounce back in 2021-22. With seven points in nine games, he’ll play a huge role in the Red Wings’ future as the rebuild chugs along.
Acquired in the Anthony Mantha trade, Vrana exploded in his short time in Detroit, scoring 11 points in just as many games. His shooting is among the best in the league. A payday is on its way for the Czech forward. How long and how much remains to be seen — but he has a great situation going for him in Detroit.
Fabbri joined the Red Wings in the 2019-20 season. He was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jacob de la Rose. That trade continues to live in infamy in Detroit, as Fabbri has excelled in every position he’s been placed. His 18 points in 30 games suggest there’s plenty more left in the tank for the flashy forward.
The 2017 1st round pick finally had the breakout Red Wings fans knew he was capable of achieving. After Larkin went down with his injury, Rasmussen filled his shoes at the first line for the remainder of the season. He managed to do a very amicable job and has absolutely earned his place on the protection list. The towering forward should be a mainstay with the Red Wings’ middle-six for years to come.
Last on the list is our biggest breakout candidate, Adam Erne. The fourth-liner ended last season with 11 goals, the most on the roster. He shot at an inhuman 19.2%, and his point streak was the longest the team saw all season long. While it’s unrealistic to expect Erne to keep up those numbers, he’ll still play a solid role on the team’s bottom six.
Evgeny Svechnikov was waived twice by the Red Wings. It appears the writing is on the wall with the 2017 1st round pick. The team will likely use their last protection slot on pending RFA Givani Smith. He showed a good amount of promise this season, holding his own in a variety of games against the Florida Panthers. If protected, the 23-year-old will likely push for a roster spot in the 2021-22 season.
Protection List: Defense
Hronek has been one of the Red Wings’ best defencemen in the last three years. Tough deployments and difficult minutes have seen his advanced metrics plummet, but he’s shown no signs of letting it get in his way. He’s scored at a comfortable half-a-point-per-game clip since making it to NHL ice. The right-handed defenceman is due for a payday this season as his contract extension comes to an end.
Stecher signed with the Red Wings at the start of the 2020-21 season. It was a wonder the Vancouver Canucks let him go. Last year, he more than proved that he was worth his contract. Analytically and defensively, Stecher showcased an immense talent that made him the best defenceman on the roster last season. He’ll likely pair with up-and-comer Moritz Seider to start the 2021-22 season.
It was hard to choose between Lindstrom and Cholowski. While Cholowski has more NHL experience and the reputation of a 1st round pick, Lindstrom has shown he’s better when the pressure is on. He possesses stronger puck control, utilizes the passing lanes more efficiently, and has showcased a higher ceiling than Cholowski. Ultimately, it will come down to an apples vs. oranges debate.
Protection List: Goaltender
As the only non-UFA goaltender, Greiss will automatically receive protection. Greiss had a rough start to the season before bouncing back near the end. His 8-15-0 record and .912 save percentage make him a decent option over the next two years. With that being said, it’s likely that the Red Wings re-sign Jonathan Bernier, creating a 1A-1B situation in the net.
With all of those players out of the way, there aren’t many options for Seattle in Hockeytown. The Kraken could comfortably take on Danny DeKeyser for defence or Vladislav Namestnikov as a solid 2C-3C option. If they’re looking to stay young, there’s no doubt that Givani Smith or Dennis Cholowski could greatly bolster a youth movement. A good cultural fit may be found in Evgeny Svechnikov. The Red Wings waived the Russian forward twice last season. He’s in desperate need of a fresh start. His positive attitude and upbeat approach to the game could go a long way in fostering an inclusive, smile-filled culture in Seattle. Ultimately, it will come down to what general manager Ron Francis is looking for with his team. This writer predicts either a Svechnikov or Namestnikov selection.
The Red Wings will have more cap flexibility than the majority of the league this offseason. It’s unlikely that they’ll need a cap dump with Seattle. Having said that, there’s always a possibility that trading draft picks or draft capital could come in the mix. Keep an eye out on the Red Wings’ sixth-overall draft pick. With Seattle picking second, something may be in the mix if general manager Steve Yzerman sees something he likes.
It’s smooth sailing out in Detroit. While losing a player like Cholowski might hurt for a bit, the glut of draft picks and prospects the Red Wings have signed will make the expansion draft negligible at best. Yzerman has set this team up for long-term success for years to come. All they need to do is keep on trucking. The light at the end of the tunnel will be there before they know it.
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