2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: San Jose Sharks

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft; Dylan Gambrell trade
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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 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 San Jose Sharks preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options for San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have to be given a lot of credit. Despite the difficult position they are in now, their fans can’t be too unhappy with their efforts. Since the turn of the millennium, San Jose has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 16 times in 20 years. In a lot of those years, they were either a solid favourite or a popular dark horse pick to win it all. They’ve been buyers most trade deadlines, and they’ve been a very popular place for their own free agents to stay.

NHL free agent frenzy

It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. They hit eighth place in their division in 2018-19 and sixth this past season. The party is over, and the band is waiting to get paid.

The Outlook

One of the big swings the San Jose Sharks took was for the biggest free agent available in years. Erik Karlsson chose the Sharks in 2019, but at a big cost. He’s not only costing the team $11.5 million for the next six seasons, but he also has a full No Move Clause. He joins Marc-Édouard Vlasic as the only two San Jose players who must be protected.
The Sharks are an ageing team. The players they paid to keep weren’t able to get them to glory. The long-delayed rebuild seems inevitable now, and they wisely used the last bit of the season to get a look at some younger legs. They still, for the most part, have protection from being exposed in the expansion draft. There is a bit of maneuvering up front they can do, and a decision to be made on the blue line. But whoever is picked should be a relatively painless loss for the Sharks.

Protection List: Forwards

This is difficult to predict at this point. If the above list holds true, then San Jose will need to get two forwards under contract to expose. Most likely are their own restricted free agents, so we’ll run with that assumption. This is a straightforward list: look at their top scorers, that’s who’s protected. San Jose had little bite last season, scoring a meagre 151 goals in their 56 games. The scorers they had, they probably won’t mind keeping.

Protection List: Defence and Goalie

Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Marc-Édouard Vlasic
Fortunately for the Sharks, Mario Ferraro isn’t available for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. That freedom gives them one point of debate: to expose or not expose Brent Burns. In the short term, it’s a no-brainer. Burns is legendary in San Jose – as well he should be. He averaged a career-high of over 26 minutes a game through 2020-21. On the other hand, he also costs $8 million a season and will for another four years. With all four of those years likely at or close to a flat salary cap, any decrease in his skill could be fatal.
It’s an easier question in goal. At first glance, Martin Jones is the veteran to protect with the unproven rookie Korenar left available. But San Jose has waited for two seasons for Jones to round back into form. Instead, he’s finished each of the last three years with a .896 save percentage and ever-worsening goals against average.

Left Exposed

The cupboards are bare enough for the Sharks, never mind for an expansion team. There could be some maneuvering among the forwards, as there could be some warm feelings in the system for Dylan Gambrell. Right now, Gambrell and Alex True are the most likely targets to receive qualifying offers for exposure. But if he signs on for little enough, the team may opt to protect Gambrell and expose the far more expensive Labanc. The centre is far less experienced, but plays centre rather than wing as has put up good numbers with the Barracuda.
On defence, Radim Simek might get the nod rather than Burns, with the team gambling that Burns’ contract will be enough to keep the Kraken at bay. Simek plays the left side rather than the right, but the potential savings could be enough to convince the Sharks to run that risk. It’s a bit too soon for Ryan Merkley to make an appearance, but they could find someone with an extra $5.75 million available.

Alternate Options

San Jose has some space. If there is a team out there that is particularly vulnerable to losing a solid forward, the Sharks have room. They need to restock their prospects, but this is a one-time chance to add value now. They do have two fourth- and two fifth-round picks this season. It’s not much to offer, but it could be better than the nothing a team will get from the Kraken.

Looking Forward

General manager Doug Wilson has been running the team for 18 years now, and he knows very well the situation they’re in. He put them there, after all. While the overall situation is not great for the team, there is one benefit to not having a great team. They don’t have to make too many hard decisions about who to leave exposed. While losing even one player for free isn’t a great situation, it’s one every team in the NHL will have to face.
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