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) their 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 Chicago Blackhawks preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
This was a strong first year for a rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks team. In year one the team seemed to have established core guys for the future, found a somewhat reliable option for their goalie, and were in the hunt for the postseason. Despite missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, the team showed sparks of their former selves. Overall the team looks like they’ll be a competitive threat to bubble teams in the Central Division this October. The expansion draft will prove to be a stepping stone for year two of the rebuilding process. Depending on the players Stan Bowman leaves exposed and which ones actually get selected, Bowman might need to re-adjust his lineup a little bit more.
Protection List: Forwards
Kane, Toews, and DeBrincat are the easiest choices for Stan Bowman to select. Kane and Toews have no-movement clauses attached to their contract and keeps them protected. DeBrincat bounced back and scored 32 goals and set a 50 goal pace. You don’t give up that talent without a return, let alone give that talent up in the first place. These three players are their best forwards, keeping their experience and skill during a rebuild is crucial for mentoring younger talent. Strome is an interesting point. There have been plenty of trade rumours surrounding the centre in recent months, and maybe the team would get a favourable return if they pursued a trade. The problem lies that by exposing Strome risks losing him for no return to replace him. By protecting him it gives Bowman the option to flip him at the draft or later in the summer. Similarly, it maximizes his assets and affords him another season to develop Strome.
Brandon Hagel was the team’s most underrated forward this season. In 52 games the 22-year-old scored 24 points. He showed signs of a strong two-way game as well as perfect production for a third-line forward. Depth is becoming increasingly important for cup-winning rosters, and having a player like Hagel that can play up the lineup if asked will be crucial for future success. Similarly, Vinnie Hinostroza showed what the team was missing since being traded to Arizona a few seasons ago. Much like Hagel, Vinnie can play up and down the lineup and play efficient hockey no matter what. At 27 he doesn’t have much more room to grow his game, but he made huge strides this season. In 17 games he scored 12 points for Chicago. Had he played a full 82 games with Chicago playing the same pace, he’d have scored 57 points. A sneaky forward with a production ceiling like that is something you hold on to, much like Carpenter despite being three years older.
Protection List: Defence and Goalie
Similar to Kane and Toews, Keith has a no-movement clause attached to his contract. The likelihood of the 37-year-old veteran waiving it to go to Seattle is almost zero. At an old age and at the last years of his career he’s still providing effective play for the defence. Much like Strome, too, if Bowman were to let Keith go he would surely try to get assets through trade. Teammate Connor Murphy was one of the team’s best defenceman this past season. At 28, the former Arizona Coyote has shaped up to be a valued top four piece in Chicago. He is showing all the right signs to take over the blue line once Keith retires, and will likely wear the ‘A’ at some point in his tenure as well.
Zadorov is a sticking point on the list. He has a similar playing style to Brent Seabrook, and Bowman really likes him playing in Chicago. Riley Stillman was, arguably, better defensively in his short time than Zadorov was all season. A big, hitting defenceman is nice, but reliable defence is nicer for cup runs. At the end of the day, Bowman is partial towards Zadorov. He’ll protect him and sign him to an extension after the draft.
Lankinen wasn’t even supposed to be in the NHL this season. He was the third goalie on the team’s depth charts and was supposed to spend the year in Rockford to play starting minutes. A few crazy games later and the rookie found himself in the starters crease through 37 games. He may not have been an ‘elite’ starter during this time, but he helped keep the team in the hunt. By game 56 when Colin Delia started at home, Lankinen had already cemented his spot in Chicago for this fall.
Chicago leaves some talented, but replaceable, players exposed for Seattle to take this summer, starting with defender Calvin de Haan. He’s been an average top four piece for the Blackhawks in his two seasons with the team. He’s young enough where he can make the best moments of his career as a Blackhawk. The reality is, however, that he is a very replaceable player. With the amount of youth that Stan Bowman wants to incorporate into the lineup, protecting de Haan doesn’t seem to make much sense in the long run. Similarly, Stillman might be a nice piece for Seattle’s defence. Alongside a strong shutdown defender, Stillman could thrive in a complementary role like that. Up the lineup, there’s David Kampf that’s left exposed. The 27-year-old centre has been a strong role player for Chicago’s fourth line. Much like de Haan, however, there is youth expected to make the jump that might hinder his protecting from Seattle this summer.
Collin Delia, the once heir to Corey Crawford‘s throne, will be an option at goalie for Seattle. Seeing as there are better options, likely Braden Holtby, one of Dallas’ goalies, and more, he will probably be staying in Chicago. Recently acquired Adam Gaudette is also exposed. He may have had an explosive stretch in Chicago, four points in seven games, he still has questions in his game. Compared to some of his teammates of the same age, he’s replaceable.
Any way the expansion draft goes, Chicago won’t need to do too much reshuffling of the organization. With the Entry Draft soon after, and free agency in late July, the team will have plenty of time and avenues to make trades and improve their lineup. Year two of a rebuild won’t be monumental. With that being, Chicago will look to improve and stay competitive when the divisions re-align this fall.