2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Arizona Coyotes

Seattle Kraken expansion draft

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, and 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 Arizona Coyotes preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options For Arizona Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes have only made the playoffs once since 2012, and that was last season. Thanks to an expanded field of teams made eligible due to a worldwide pandemic, the Coyotes qualified. They made it past the First Round but then were annihilated by the Colorado Avalanche. The team will face new challenges as they move to the more competitive Central Division next season. Faced with many setbacks to succeed, including a lack of draft picks for various reasons… how will the expansion draft affect them going forward? For one thing, they will have a new head coach behind the bench to direct the team. That appointment must happen before too long.

So, the Desert Dogs will lose one player, as every NHL team will. We will get in-depth here to determine how they may address that. They will more than likely go with the seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie path. Let’s break it down.

The Outlook

The Coyotes have a ton of free agent players to consider, especially when it comes to protecting or exposing them in the expansion draft. Since they have a new GM, it is unclear what choices Armstrong will make to keep the players he wants going forward. There could very well be a long list of players who are left exposed for the new Seattle club. Some of the decisions will likely be focused on the finances of the team. After all, it has been made known that the Coyotes want to attempt to keep their internal salary cap limit in the $65 million range. This past season has been a financial disaster for most NHL teams, and the Arizona franchise is no different.

Protection List: Forwards

Phil Kessel, Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland (who is in contract negotiations presently), Lawson Crouse and Michael Bunting

While some of the above choices are obvious due to no-trade clauses, or long-term deals, it gets tricky with Michael Bunting. He burst onto the scene late in the 2020-21 season, tallying 10 goals and 13 points in just 21 games. In terms of the final forward protection spot, it was either him or Tyler Pitlick who had just 11 points in 38 games. The only other option to consider was Christian Fischer. But he only potted 11 points in 52 games and was a healthy scratch for some games during the season. Bunting has to be protected as he is the type of player that GM Armstrong likes. He goes to the net hard and isn’t afraid to get in the dirty spots on the ice to retrieve the puck. If it’s a choice between Bunting, Pitlick, or Fischer, Bunting has got to be protected and re-signed.

 Protection List: Defence

Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Kyle Capobianco

This is where it gets tricky. The team has the following players who are all free agents, (and the list is long): Alex Goligoski (UFA), Niklas Hjalmarsson (UFA), Jason Demers (UFA), Jordan Oesterle (UFA), Jordan Gross, Cam Dineen, Aaron Ness, and Dysin Mayo (RFA). It seems that the obvious choice to expose on the blueline would be Ilya Lyubushkin. The hard-hitting Russian was recently signed to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million in April. It seems that Armstrong likes Goligoski and may have him return since Chychrun has flourished well with the veteran blueliner. The others will more than likely go to free agency.

Protection List: Goalie

Another head-scratcher for the team. Do they protect Darcy Kuemper or Adin Hill? Both have their positive arguments to be made to remain on the team. While Kuemper has had the injury blues (perhaps he was around Antti Raanta too much), he still is an excellent choice to stay on the roster. If it is looked upon from a financial perspective, the choice should be to protect Hill. He did step in on two different occasions recently to fill in when BOTH Kuemper and Raanta went down. Hill has matured as a netminder, and really fills the blue paint standing 6′-6″, 202 pounds.¬† He is an RFA and was making $800,000. Compared to Kuemper’s $4.5 million contract, Hill would be a bargain if the team decides to trade Kuemper.

Left Exposed

The Seattle team would have a great selection of exposed players from the Coyotes roster. Would they grab a scrappy forward like Pitlick or a hard-hitting guy like Fischer? Don’t forget that Johan Larsson could help them too. They may even want a veteran like Derick Brassard to guide the young players they will have. Meanwhile, on defence, they may have such a wide range of options that they will have trouble deciding. Demers offers veteran experience, while Jordan Oesterle is more of a puck-moving D-man. In net, the Coyotes could only hope that Seattle takes Raanta. His ability to stay healthy may detract from any team looking at him seriously going forward. The biggest decision may be whether the Kraken would take either Kuemper or Hill if one is exposed.

Looking Forward

As with any expansion draft, there are more questions than answers, and the Coyotes can only hope that they won’t lose a player they want to keep. Don’t forget that when the Vegas team came in there were numerous deals done to persuade teams NOT to take a certain player. For the Coyotes though, that won’t be a factor, since the Seattle team, like Vegas, will only entertain not selecting a certain player in exchange for draft picks to supplement their farm system. The problem for the Coyotes is they really don’t possess that many draft picks to even consider that option; thanks a lot John Chayka!

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