Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Colorado Avalanche

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
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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 Colorado Avalanche preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Options for Colorado Avalanche

Nobody will feel sorry that the Avs have almost too much talent to protect. They won the league’s President’s Trophy and were a favorite for the Stanley Cup for the entire season before the unfortunate collapse against the Vegas Golden Knights. It is also a franchise that has had multiple star players and two championships since moving to Denver in the mid-1990s. While recent campaigns have been up and down, Colorado is one of the premier franchises for the foreseeable future. Their current core is constructed with sustainable dominance in mind. It’s the sort of environment that not only excels at player development but should also attract premier free agent talent in the right circumstances.

NHL free agent frenzy

The Outlook

This is a roster built for the modern game. It has a mixture of premium skill that dominates the current league landscape and toughness. That was made even more apparent when general manager Joe Sakic went out and traded for both Brandon Saad and Devon Toews. The two offseason acquisitions were huge parts of the team’s success. The deals at the deadline weren’t quite as significant. It will be interesting to see how the team navigates the coming offseason as there are several major pieces to potentially extend.

Protection List: Forwards

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky, Valeri NichushkinJ.T. CompherTyson Jost

The first four players to protect are extremely obvious as they form perhaps the best core in the entire NHL. It’s a quartet that can score in a variety of ways and situations without breaking the team’s back in salary commitments. The biggest question here is how much will Landeskog command for a contract extension; he is the team’s captain and remains a viable top-line wing even if he is no longer the most important scorer.

The final three aren’t quite as notable, but all posted vital contributions on the team’s march to contention in 2020-21. Each had a Corsi For above 54 percent and were valuable defensive contributors on the third and fourth lines. There are certainly questions around their long-term effectiveness, but it’s hard to argue against keeping some of the younger supporting players on the roster.

Several of these players, most notably Landeskog and Jost, are about to hit free agency. Both are central to the team’s efforts around building a sustainable winner, so protecting them is critical.

Protections List: Defence and Goalie

Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews

These three might not be the best trio of defenders in the league, but they are very close. Each of the defenders is under 27 years old and all posted at least five goals and 31 points in 2020-21. It’s the sort of production that every team would adore from its blueline. Of course, some of this is heavily dependent on Erik Johnson waiving his no-movement clause. He should, as there is no chance Seattle is selecting an aging, chronically injured defender whose value is almost entirely on the penalty-kill, but he could exercise the clause and guarantee himself a spot on the roster anyway. Such a move would cause some mild headaches. It would likely force the team to protect only four forwards instead of eight.

Philipp Grubauer

This slot would have been much different if Pavel Francouz hadn’t been injured for the entire season. The Czech netminder was slightly superior in 2019-20, but a lower-body ailment has kept him out all year. That forced Grubauer to shoulder almost the entire goaltending load this year and he was spectacular. The 29-year-old German posted a .922 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against in 39 starts. It was the sort of season that earned him a spot as one of the Vezina Trophy finalists. He does need a new contract this offseason, but he should absolutely receive that before protection lists are due.

Left Exposed

A handful of notable names will get left out for Seattle to potentially select. Nazem Kadri and Brandon Saad stand out as forwards. Both were huge parts of the Avs’ success this year, but Saad’s next contract could be sizeable and Kadri failed the team in the playoffs with his suspension. Colorado has enough young depth at forward that they can afford to risk losing someone like Kadri to Seattle. Even someone like Donskoi isn’t a huge loss as he approaches 30 years old with a cap hit of $3.9 million.

On defence, keeping the three or four above means that Ryan Graves would also be available. Graves is a fan-favourite and plays a vital role, but the team can replace him with one of several defenders who showed promise during the 2020-21 campaign. The final piece of the puzzle is Pavel Francouz, who excelled in 2019-20 but did not appear in a game this year. Grubauer seized the role and that could mean the Czech netminder heads to Seattle or free agency.

Alternate Options

The biggest factor is if Johnson does not waive his clause. As stated above, Johnson not waiving his no-movement clause would force the team to protect four forwards, four defenders, and one goalie as opposed to seven, three and one. Protecting half as many forwards would mean that only MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen and Burakovsky are sheltered. That leaves vital contributors like Jost and Nichushkin open. Obviously, Seattle can only take one, so it isn’t as though the 8-1 scheme is back-breaking. It is just more of a nuisance to try and protect maximum talent.

Looking Forward

Colorado has some hard decisions related to expansion, but nobody should feel sorry for them. They’ll lose either a top-four defender or top-nine forward and replace them almost immediately. Watching someone like Kadri, Graves, or Jost leave will be hard to stomach, but the Avs will still retain the majority of its veteran impact talent. Seattle will also get someone who can step into a huge role almost immediately who also helps them reach their minimum salary threshold. Whomever the Kraken select might be the best player selected in the entire draft.

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