2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: New Jersey Devils

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
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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 New Jersey Devils preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview

The Outlook

The New Jersey Devils had a pretty disappointing season all things considered. They’re a team that has been stuck between rebuilding but also starting to look for a playoff spot over the past few seasons. However, they’re not quite there yet. The Devils do have a pretty promising future ahead of them with some exciting young talent at all positions. But they need to add an extra couple of impact pieces to really push them over the top.

The good news is a disappointing season sets them up pretty well for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. The Devils have a few key pieces they will absolutely be locking up, but on the fringes look to lose someone that really isn’t an impact player. So, let’s look into their options for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Protection List: Forwards

Nico Hischier, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod, Yegor Sharangovich, and Janne Kuokkanen.

This is a pretty mixed list of names for the Devils when it comes to the forwards. It is also an incredibly young group of players, with none of them being over 25 years of age. In reality, it will probably be one of the youngest forward cores heading into next year considering Jack Hughes (who is exempt from the expansion draft) will also be a huge part of it. To start, let’s take a look at the obvious names. Hischier, Wood, and Bratt are three of the Devil’s best forwards. All three are very strong possession metric players too which is great to see if you’re a Devils fan.

After that, we have Pavel Zacha. He hasn’t panned out quite as expected when drafted. However, 35 points in 50 games still isn’t horrible production and even if he’s not in the long-term plan, he has trade value. Meanwhile, rookie, Sharangovich burst onto the scene this year with 30 points in 54 games and quickly made himself a must-protect for New Jersey. The 23-year-old fifth-rounder from 2018 proved last year he deserves another look and that is what he will get.

McLeod has struggled to produce for New Jersey but given the rest of the forward core, it seems unlikely they’ll give up on the former 12th overall pick just yet. After all, he is 23 and we have seen players of his prestige get more chances than just the 85 games he has seen at the NHL so far. Finally, we have Kuokkanen who had 25 points this season and is also 23, which may lead the Devils to believe there is more to give.

Protection List: Defence and Goalie

Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Ryan Murray, and Mackenzie Blackwood.

Three of these names are no-brainers to most people. Blackwood is where the future is in net right now for New Jersey; he is the easiest choice here. On the blueline, that is where things get a little more interesting. Butcher really struggled but injuries played a big part in that. He only got to play in 23 of the 56 games and despite a disappointing season, he has still been one of their better defenceman over the past few seasons. Giving up on him now would be a bad choice. Severson is another name that seems like a lock here. He has become a solid defenceman that any team would want on their blueline. The long-term outlook for this team is a little more questionable, but for now, these two will be here.

The third spot is a little more tricky. It’s possible it goes to P.K. Subban. However, his massive nine million-dollar ticket for mediocre play makes him an easy candidate to leave exposed. Murray is an unrestricted free agent, meaning Seattle would have to negotiate a new contract with him which they may not want to do before the draft. Some teams would leave him exposed and just sign him after. However, the Devils really don’t have many quality options to protect, so this seems like the best option. Given they didn’t move him at the deadline despite being clear sellers may mean they want to bring him back. After all, Murray is a solid and underrated defenceman who shouldn’t cost a lot. Bringing him back on a short-term deal feels like a smart move which is why we see him being protected in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Left Exposed

There are a couple of interesting names left exposed for New Jersey. Although, at this point, none of them are really game-breakers. The two biggest names are Subban and Andreas Johnsson. Subban has been a star in this league but injuries have seemed to have caught up with him, making him a shell of his former self. Again, there is a chance New Jersey opts to protect him. After all, star power in name still means something, especially to rebuilding teams. But the chance to move on from that cap hit a year early may be too tempting.

Johnsson had a miserable first year in New Jersey. Putting up just 11 points in 50 games, it couldn’t have gone much worse. He still has two years left at 3.4 million which is why we see him being left exposed. There is a chance he rebounds, but even at his best, he was a third-liner who maxed out at 40 points playing with some elite linemates in Toronto. While that would be a nice player to have, even if he does turn back into it, New Jersey won’t be cursing themselves. Still, he may be an option to protect if they feel more confident in a bounce-back from him than say more development from McLeod or Kuokkanen.

Nick Merkley and Jonas Seigenthaler are the only other two names Seattle may have any kind of interest in. Both are 24 and have struggled to find a full-time role in the NHL. If New Jersey doesn’t want to protect Subban and feels they can re-sign Murray after, maybe they look at Seigenthaler as an option? Although neither of these guys feels like candidates to be picked.

Other Alternatives

Maybe one of the biggest options for the “trade scenarios” people have been throwing out there is a trade between Seattle and New Jersey that involves Subban. The biggest issue with this is New Jersey shouldn’t feel rushed to move assets as they are still rebuilding. Subban is in the final year of his deal and they frankly do not need the nine million this year. However, if they wanted to free up a defence spot maybe they look at it? On the other hand, this feels like a deal Seattle only does if they get an asset to take on that massive contract.

Maybe they look at Subban as a marketable personality. After all, he is one of the funniest NHL players out there and an easy sell to a new market that wants to build a fanbase even if they aren’t good right away. Maybe there is something there? Although, it feels rather unlikely in terms of a trade perspective.

The other option for New Jersey on the blueline would be to take advantage of another team’s struggle. They got Murray on the cheap last year due to Columbus’ cap issues and this is another chance. Some teams are in a much worse position (like the Colorado Avalanche) where they may lose a good fourth defenceman or fifth forward depending on what route they take. What’s more, New Jersey has an open spot on D if they don’t protect Murray, so if they could trade for a Ryan Graves-type player that could be a solid move. There will be a couple of players like that available, Dylan DeMelo being another that comes to mind. Taking advantage of a team in a bad spot for a cheap player could be right up the Devil’s alley.

Looking Forward

This team is set up pretty nicely for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. It feels likely they will lose a player that is more of a reclamation project than anything else. Someone who has struggled and may need a new home, but in all likelihood won’t find success with New Jersey. Being in that spot certainly gives them some interesting options via trade if they feel they can speed the rebuild up slightly too.

Overall, it will be fascinating to see how they approach things as they’re a team that has their options pretty open.