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 New York Islanders preview for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft
The Isles made the league’s final four for the second straight season. New York’s season also ended at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second straight campaign. However, the Islanders earned some more respect by knocking out heavyweights like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Head coach Barry Trotz proved last year wasn’t a fluke and the team is built for success for the next few seasons.
A lot of the protection list is pretty straightforward with little pain on who to protect. Players like Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson and Ilya Sorokin are exempt due to service time, so general manager Lou Lamoriello can use his protection slots on veteran skaters. The Isles do have to give pay bumps to three very key players and the team currently has $5 million in cap space at this time. However, Seattle could do them a favour by taking a decent-sized contract off the Isles’ books.
Protection List: Forwards
The Islanders likely go 7-3-1 with their protection plan because of their abundance of forwards. No New York players have a no-movement clause, but this forward group is pretty much a no-brainer. The Isles have a great mix of scorers and defensive forwards that an expansion team would love to get their hands on. Seattle will have a choice of a quality veteran forward when we talk about who’s still exposed later on.
Beauvillier is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, but Lamoriello will likely lock him down to a new deal. Recent acquisitions Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are unrestricted free agents, so their status could be up in the air.
The only player that could be dangled in this group is Eberle and his $5.5 million contract. Someone like Cal Clutterbuck could get a protection slot. However, Eberle likely gets protected due to Lamoriello’s pragmatic nature.
Protection List: Defenceman and Goaltender
This group is also a pretty simple group to pin down unlike other clubs. Pelech and Pulock look like they’ll be cornerstone defencemen for the next few seasons. Pelech is also an arbitration-eligible RFA that will be in line for a big raise. Mayfield may not be glamorous, but he’s an effective blueliner and comes cheap at $1.45 million until the end of the 2023-24 season. He gets the protection spot over Nick Leddy due to his contract with the younger defencemen not being ready to take Mayfield’s place.
Varlamov gets a protection slot thanks to Sorokin being exempt thanks to service time. He’s due $5 for the next two seasons and is still a capable starter. Sorokin is an arbitration-eligible RFA that will also be in line for a pay upgrade like Beauvillier and Pelech. The younger Russian will take the starting spot in the next couple of seasons. Lamoriello could try to protect third goalie Ken Appleby and hope Seattle takes the bait on Varlamov.
Barring any unforeseen changes, the Islanders will have some veterans left exposed. Matt Martin and Clutterbuck are veteran forwards that do like playing in Long Island. They probably be unhappy having to go out west. Casey Cizikas, Palmieri and Zajac all become unrestricted free agents and all three will likely head to the open market. Andrew Ladd is on long-term injured reserve and won’t be picked. RFA Michael Dal Colle hasn’t shown enough to be taken. Otto Koivula could be an intriguing option and may get the first crack at Cizikas’ spot being the fourth-line centre if not selected by Seattle.
Kieffer Bellows might be a solid option if the Kraken want a value pick. Bellows has shown flashes of being a good scorer. However, he hasn’t been a regular in the lineup and there’s not a spot for him. The former first-rounder in the 2016 NHL Draft has five goals in 22 career NHL games. Seattle might take a risk on him due to his $1 million cap hit. However, he is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Leddy is the biggest name on defence, but the left side would be thin if the Kraken draft him. Trotz still likes Leddy and he led the team in ice time in the post-season. However, his style is better suited on a non-grinding team. Thomas Hickey‘s return was inspirational, but Seattle likely doesn’t pick him due to him being 32. Sebastian Aho hasn’t gotten a regular spot in the lineup and Seattle likely goes with someone more experienced.