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2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: St. Louis Blues

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, 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 St. Louis Blues preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options for the St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues didn’t end their 2020-21 season the way they wanted. But the playoff sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche is only the most recent tip of a solid ten-year mountain. Yes, they’ve frequently been bumped out in the first round, but owning a Stanley Cup ring eases the pain. Understandably, the Blues have tried to maintain a team to challenge for the Cup they won just two seasons ago. That includes bringing in free agents, keeping veterans, and giving young players time. The normal risks include overextending fan favourites or desperate bids for free agents. This year’s twist has added repercussions.

The Outlook

One of the free-agent surprises last off-season was the combined result of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the ongoing flat cap. St. Louis outwaited everyone and grabbed a 30(-ish) goal scorer in Mike Hoffman at a reduced rate. Two other Blues forwards inked deals with expansion in mind, too. Having qualified players exposed for Seattle is easy. And if you didn’t know the next line was “too easy” then you haven’t seen enough heist movies.

Protection List: Forwards

Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, David Perron, Sammy Blais, Ivan Barbashev, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou

There is an argument that the Blues could go with a 4/4/1 setup. Barbashev and Blais are well into their careers, and what we’ve seen is pretty close to what we’ll get. Solid NHLers, but not irreplaceable. Schenn just finished the first of an eight-year deal as a 29-year old. He’s a good player who’s earned that $6.5 million paycheque… this year. That’s a burden the Kraken may not want to pick up in their opening season. It would be a hard sell to fans but still might happen. For this article, though, we’re going to assume they go with the 7/3/1 protection format.

The Stars

O’Reilly and Schenn – if they’re going with seven protected forwards – are the no-brainers, here. Amazingly, so is Perron. Originally a draft pick by the Blues, Perron did a quick tour of the continent through Edmonton, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim before returning to St. Louis as a free agent. He was scooped up by an eager Vegas Golden Knights squad in the previous expansion draft. Just as eagerly, he returned to St. Louis at the first opportunity. That he led the team in scoring for 2020-21 at a bargain price isn’t icing on the cake – it is the cake.

The Future

The young Thomas faltered this year, but that’s a blip, not a blast. The centre is obviously going to be protected. Kyrou, on the other hand, emerged as a legitimate scoring threat, having a great first full season in the NHL. While no one is actually “untouchable” in this league, Thomas and Kyrou would cost a LOT to convince the Blues to give them up.

The Others

And here we have Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais. These are the kind of solid, dependable players a team looks to fill their ranks with. They have a physical element to their games – Blais more than Barbashev – and have some scoring touch. At this point, Blais’ age and contract length make him worth protecting as much as anyone else up front. The same could be said for Barbashev, though his ability to play centre is a premium as well. Either of these players could be replaced with Oskar Sundqvist and no one would bat an eye. Realistically, the forwards aren’t likely where St. Louis is going to lose someone.

Protection List: Defence and Goalie

And here’s where it can get interesting. Again, for the sake of this article, we’re assuming the more likely thing. That’s the team protecting three defencemen. Justin Faulk and Torey Krug had twice as many minutes skating together as any other Blues defensive pairing in 2020-21. Faulk played the first of a seven-year deal. Krug likewise to the exact same deal. Well, same value – we’ll get into that in a bit.
With Krug’s arrival, Faulk suddenly got a lot more time beside his goalie than usual. He averaged well over 24 minutes a game, a primary penalty killer and second-unit power-play guy. It’s pretty much the opposite of his reputation but tells you how relied upon he is.
And Parayko is getting protected because he’s The Man on defence. With the same team that drafted him in 2012, Parayko is sent out there to shut down the opponent’s best. He exists to give Faulk and Krug the opportunity to go play.
The options are Ville Husso, Evan Fitzpatrick, and Jon Gillies. The Blues will be protecting the Cup-winning veteran they just extended for another six years.

Left Exposed

Oskar Sundqvist is a more skilled player than Barbashev or Blais and leaned on heavily in the defensive zone, but ending the year on the injured reserve list isn’t a strong argument in his favour. He is a versatile, all-around player who can fill a middle-six spot in a pinch. Last year was a hard one for him, though, and not just because of injuries. He’s signed on for another two years, but the hit isn’t bad – $2.75 million. It’s an option if Ron Francis feels Sundqvist can bounce back.
Vladimir Tarasenko is a wild card. After yet another shoulder surgery, he returned on March sixth and didn’t give a lot of assurances he was back to his 30+goal scoring ways. With just four goals and 14 points in 24 games, we don’t know if he will get back to those numbers again. That is a problem for the Blues, as he’s got two years at $7.5 million per to go. If the team thinks it’s just some rust, he could be protected over Barbashev or Blais. If it’s permanent, they’ll be happy for Seattle to risk it.
Kyle Clifford and Mackenzie MacEachern are the more typical expansion bait players. Veteran forwards signed on to qualifying deals who are, well, fine. If either of them is selected, expect it to be part of a side deal.
There’s one more interesting name to go, here, but let’s tie it into the next section.

Alternate Options

Vince Dunn is currently being shopped, just like he was a month into 2021. Whether the team can get a suitable return remains to be seen. They’re fine with retaining him if they don’t like the offers, as we’ve seen. If the Blues can move him, then the 7/3/1 pattern is the most obvious one to keep. If they can’t, then they obviously won’t want to lose him for nothing. They’d get back a 2021 ex-Seattle Kraken expansion draft pick.
Would St. Louis risk losing Schenn for the sake of Dunn? It would be a bold gamble, but even a team starting from scratch would think twice before adding a 30-year old player for seven years. If the Kraken want to roll the dice, Tarasenko might be their target anyway.

Looking Forward

St. Louis is one of the few teams that could justify using a 4/4/1 protected format in the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft. It’s unlikely they will as things stand – especially if they can get anything like market value for Dunn. But they are going to be a very interesting team to watch leading up to the draft. They could still try striking a deal with the Kraken, but that carries its own risk.
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