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 Edmonton Oilers preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options for the Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 season was supposed to be the Oilers best chance at making a deep playoff run in what was considered a weak North Division. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were playing as if they were on rookie mode in NHL21, Darnell Nurse had a career season, and expectations were high. General manager Ken Holland stood his ground at the trade deadline when he decided not to acquire any help for the playoff run.
The Oilers entered their first round series against the Winnipeg Jets as favourites but quickly bowed out after shocking losses at home in Games 1 and 2 and marathon overtime losses in Games 3 and 4. There are now a lot of important decisions that loom for GM Holland and his staff as an extremely critical offseason begins.
For a majority of the season, it was believed that Edmonton would follow the eight skater/one goalie protection method. Since then Daniel Nugent-Bowman from The Athletic reported that the Oilers would only revert to an eight-skater plan if pending UFA defencemen Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie are re-signed ahead of the expansion draft. So for now, we will go with the Oilers following the 7 forwards/3 defencemen /1 goalie protection rules.
Edmonton is one of the teams that will lose someone off of their NHL roster in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. But whomever Seattle takes, it won’t subtract from the Oilers’ depth, because they simply don’t have any.
Protection List: Forwards
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Archibald, Jujhar Kahira, Tyler Benson
I mean, do we need to discuss the first two names? Why waste the words and the energy on two of the best players in the NHL?
Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are two young wingers of the future for the Oilers and are almost as guaranteed as McJesus and Draisaitl are. The last three spots are where some actual decisions need to be made.
The 28-year-old Archibald was the Oilers’ most-utilized forward on the penalty kill this season. He was used as a placeholder on McDavid’s line when needed and was mostly tasked with defending leads late in games during five-on-six situations. His $1.5 million deal is exactly what they need on the books.
Khaira, sat third amongst Oilers’ forwards in ice time on the penalty kill this season. While he doesn’t chip in a lot offensively his role on the team goes beyond offence. On a squad full of offence it doesn’t hurt to have a physical and defensive presence as he has.
The last protected forward (Benson) didn’t dress for Edmonton this season, but has a lot of upside. The 23-year-old was a point-per-game player in AHL Bakersfield in 36 games this season. He also got some work in on the PK which makes him a more attractive depth option at the NHL level. He is exactly the type of unknown player that Vegas targeted in their expansion draft. There is no saying that the Kraken will follow the same path, but it would be in Edmonton’s best interest to keep another of their young and upcoming forwards.
Protection List: Defence and Goalie
The protection options for the back-end is a little easier as things stand. All will change if the Oilers re-sign Larsson before the expansion draft. Of course, waiting until after the draft would come with big risk. Seattle has a 48-hour negotiating window before the expansion draft with all unsigned free agents. As it stands, the order for the Oilers defencemen choices is as follows: Nurse, Bear, Larsson (if re-signed) and Barrie (if re-signed). After that, the choices are wide open.
Nurse is a two-way dynamo who’s having a season worthy of Norris consideration. The second, Ethan Bear, is a solid d-man with one more season on a measly $2 million deal and still has three more years of team control. The last option (If Larsson is not re-signed), is the 24-year-old Caleb Jones. He started the season on the second pair with Larsson before becoming a healthy scratch for a majority of the season. He has one more year on his contract at $850,000 before he can become an RFA.
Not since Dwayne Roloson backstopped the Oilers to the 2005-06 Cup Final, has Edmonton had a reliable goaltender. Mike Smith was the Oil’s most stable goalie last season even though he joined the squad halfway through the campaign. Which is frustratingly bad because Koskinen’s $4.5 million contract is still on the books for another season. The Oilers could protect Smith so they could have the first chance to re-sign him should they want to re-sign the 39-year-old. By offering up Koskinen, the Oilers could look to save even more as they head into the important offseason.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (UFA), James Neal, Zach Kassian, Alex Chiasson (UFA), Kyle Turris, Devin Shore, Adam Larsson (UFA), Oscar Klefbom, Tyson Barrie (UFA), Kris Russell, Mikko Koskinen, Stuart Skinner
The Kraken have a plethora of options to choose from Edmonton. The first name on Seattle’s expansion grocery list is Oscar Klefbom. At GM Holland’s end-of-season presser he alluded that Klefbom would be out until at least the beginning of next season. For an Edmonton team that is in a winner’s window, that dog just ain’t gonna hunt. But for Seattle who can be as patient as they want, he could be a great ‘stash in the back of the cupboard’ option for a couple seasons down the road.
There are a lot of healthier options for Seattle to pick from than a defenceman that hasn’t played since March 2020. They could take the Oilers longest tenured player in RNH and hope he signs with the freshman club. Or take veteran options in James Neal, Zach Kassian or Kris Russell and absorb the cap hit for a nice sweetener in the sense of a draft pick or two. They could start from the back with a young Stuart Skinner or the un-reliable Koskinen.
Seattle has a lot of options to choose from on the Oilers. No matter whom they choose (Klefbom aside), they will likely see their name stitched on the back of the Kraken’s jerseys opening night.
It is almost maddening how many different options there are for the Oilers and GM Holland as they approach the expansion draft. First they could utilize the 8/1 protection method which would allow them to protect another defenceman in Klefbom or Russell. In this option they would protect McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Nurse, Bear, Klefbom, Jones and Smith. By protecting more d-men, when partnered with their exempt prospects like Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg, Edmonton’s back-end is looking strong before the offseason gets underway.
A more likely option that could play out is the Oilers sweetening the deal for the Kraken to take Koskinen off of their hands. The 32-year-old really hindered Edmonton last season and his contract on the books isn’t helping Holland build around McDavid and Draisaitl. Neither the Oilers or Ken Holland’s Detroit Red Wings made a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 expansion draft, so a move this time around would even things out. It may cost a high end pick but it would add $4.5 million to Holland’s chequebook as he works to MacGyver this team into a contender.
This offseason for the Oilers has the potential to be as influential on their future success as the 2015 offseason when they drafted their soon-to-be franchise best player. The Oilers as they stand are a two-headed monster that lacks the support it needs to succeed. General manager Ken Holland has a large mountain of moves in front of him if he wants to make Edmonton the city of champions once again.
Luckily for him and Oiler fans, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft will not be a major concern. They will lose an NHL calibre player, it’s just inevitable at this point. But as with any successful team, you don’t win by keeping every player. You win by replacing those players with cheaper, hungrier options over and over. No matter who Seattle plucks from the Oilers, Edmonton fans need to remember one thing:
At the end of the day, they still have Connor McDavid. And he’s not going anywhere.