2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Preview: Montreal Canadiens

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft; Jake Allen Out
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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 Montreal Canadiens preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

The Outlook

Heading into the expansion draft, the Canadiens are sitting in a fairly good place. Some of their key players, like Phillip Danault and Joel Armia, are unrestricted free agents. They are not forced to protect those players, as they are UFAs, and the chance Seattle selects them would be small without having a contract in place. They do have a window before the expansion draft to negotiate with pending free agents. However, the chance that Danault or Armia would be looking to leave the Canadiens after this run for the Stanley Cup is slim to none. It’s more likely the Canadiens would have a handshake deal with these players to keep them in the fold.

NHL free agent frenzy

The downfall for the Canadiens is they could end up losing a significant defenceman or goaltender which could greatly impact the club.

Protection List: Forwards

Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Toffoli, Artturi Lehkonen, Jake Evans, Jesperi Kotkaniemi

The forward list is pretty easy for the Canadiens. The players we predict they will protect are the only players, who are currently playing on the Canadiens roster, who are signed past this season or hold restricted free agent status at the end of the season. Of course, if Phillip Danault were to sign before the expansion draft, he would obviously be on the list. Gallagher is the only forward on the Canadiens roster who holds a no-movement clause and needs to be protected. But let’s be honest, even if he didn’t have an NMC, the Canadiens would protect the feisty forward.

Players with two years or less of professional experience such as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling are all exempt from the expansion draft. 

Protection List: Defenceman and Goaltender

Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot, Carey Price

This is where things get a little more interesting for the Canadiens. Jeff Petry needs to be protected as he holds an NMC. Shea Weber is the Canadiens’ captain and, despite him being older and making almost $8 million for the next five seasons, the Canadiens certainly wouldn’t want to risk losing him for nothing. Where it will get interesting is their last selection. We predict that Chiarot will be protected by the Canadiens.

Chiarot has logged the second-most ice time amongst Canadiens defencemen, averaging 25:30 per game. That’s just seven seconds less than Shea Weber. He has been an extremely important part of the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup run. Chiarot doesn’t provide much in terms of offence, however, he is a solid defensive defenceman who brings a ton of physicality to his game. He is also an effective penalty killer. His usage during the playoffs shows just how much the Canadiens value him and how important he is to the defensive group. This is why we believe he will be protected by the Canadiens.

Like Caufield, Suzuki and Poehling, Alexander Romanov is exempt from this year’s expansion draft. 

Goaltender

Of course the goaltender the Canadiens will protect is Carey Price. First of all, Price has a no-movement clause. So the only way they can’t protect Price is if Price doesn’t want to be protected. That surely won’t be the case for the Canadiens star. Price was locked up long-term essentially as soon as he was able to. When Price signed the contract, he stated that he never thought about playing anywhere else. And Marc Bergevin made it his goal to have Price play the rest of his career in Montreal.

Price has been the backbone of the Canadiens roster since taking over as the starting netminder for the Canadiens. He has helped carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals, and now to the Stanley Cup Finals in his quest for his first Stanley Cup. While he put together an average regular season by his standards, he has been lights out during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Price has a 12-6 record with a goals-against-average of 2.18 and a save percentage of .928. Price elevates his game on the biggest stage. He’s the most important player on the Canadiens roster, and will surely close out his career with the bleu, blanc et rouge.

Left Exposed

The Canadiens will leave a couple of solid options exposed for Seattle. Most notably would be current backup goaltender Jake Allen. Allen helped get the Canadiens to the playoffs, appearing in more games than Carey Price during the regular season due to multiple injuries for Price. Allen posted an 11-12-5 record for the Canadiens with a goals-against-average of 2.68 and a save percentage of .907. It’s arguably the first time the Canadiens have had a quality backup netminder since Peter Budaj during the 2013-14 season. Getting Allen was the most underrated move Marc Bergevin made during the offseason. Losing him would be a huge blow to the Canadiens.

The Canadiens will also leave Joel Edmundson and Cale Fleury exposed. Edmundson is part of the Canadiens big four on defence along with Weber, Petry and Chiarot. He has played a crucial part in the Canadiens run for the Stanley Cup and losing Steady Eddy would also be a big loss for the Canadiens.

Fleury being a promising prospect for the Canadiens blue line is also a noteworthy player who will be left exposed. He has some NHL experience, appearing in 41 games during the 2019-20 season. Fleury plays a solid defensive game and is a player who loves to throw the body. He could be an option for Seattle depending on how the selections they make from other teams.

Alternate Options

The forward group is pretty well locked in. Unless of course, Phillip Danault or Joel Armia sign a contract before the expansion draft. However, things get confusing on the defensive end. The Canadiens could elect to protect the much younger Fleury instead of Chiarot, as Chiarot is eight years older and brings a cap-hit of $3.5 million. They could also choose Edmundson over Chiarot. They both have the same cap-hit, however, Edmundson has an extra two years on his deal and is two years younger.

One thing the Canadiens may look at is making a trade with Seattle to keep them from selecting Jake Allen. The Canadiens signed Allen to a two-year contract extension, with hopes he would continue to backup Price until Cayden Primeau was ready to make the jump. Allen will most likely be the pick from the Habs, so the Canadiens will need to make a strong offer to convince Seattle not to draft him. A second-round pick and/or a prospect could sway them not to take Allen and select a player like Brett Kulak instead.

Looking Forward

The Canadiens will be busy this offseason. They have some notable free agents such as Danault, Armia, Kotkaniemi and Lehkonen to re-sign. They also have to make a decision on Tomas Tatar. However, it’s more likely that we see Tatar walk in the offseason.

The expansion draft may have them looking for a new backup goaltender as well. So Marc Bergevin will have to get creative and potentially make another trade, which he tends to do every offseason, in order to keep Allen with the team. We saw just how good a rested Carey Price can be over the last two Stanley Cup Playoffs appearances by the Canadiens. Having a capable backup is key to their success. And after a very successful season where they are now in the Stanley Cup Finals, they will want to build off that to make a push again next season.

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