As we all know, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft is happening soon – July 21st, to be exact. But the big day for most teams is four days earlier. On July 17th, all NHL teams taking part in the expansion draft must have their protected lists finalized. Pencils down, papers in, negotiation rights to all UFAs exclusively with the Kraken for the next 96 hours.
Last expansion, there was the expectation that teams would negotiate with each other beforehand. Made sense: work trades with teams that had assets before losing your player for nothing. What actually happened was the instinct of general managers everywhere played hob with any strategy involving the established teams. They couldn’t stomach the idea of letting someone else get a bargain off them. So they dealt with the Vegas Golden Knights instead, reasoning an expansion team wasn’t likely to come back and haunt them. Vegas, of course, have just finished their fourth straight season in first, second, or third in their division, so we think things might be a little different this time around.
And indeed, with the month barely ticking over, the Los Angeles Kings saw the sort of problems the Nashville Predators were going to have keeping everyone, and struck. The Kings get a bargain – with a touch of risk attached – and the Predators get something more than the nothing they would have gotten from the Kraken. Then again, looking over the Preds’ forwards without Arvidsson, it’s not hard to imagine them going with a 3/5/1 protection scheme. (Not the most cost-effective forward bunch, that.) But, overall, the transaction is a sign – maybe – that teams are more willing to call each other before the Seattle Kraken expansion selections happen.
The Domino Effect? Please?
Is Arvidsson the first of many such deals in the next two weeks? Or is that all of them? Will the natural wariness of getting fleeced overcome the presumptive lessons of Vegas? Will Ron Francis‘ haul be curtailed by George McPhee‘s success? We hope it’s the former because unseemly speculation can only carry you so far. There are a lot of teams who are going to need some fancy footwork if they don’t want to lose out. So we asked a few of our writers:
If you were an NHL general manager right now, who is the first team you’d call and offer a deal to before the Seattle Kraken expansion picks are made?
If I’m calling anyone this offseason, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers are in an odd situation. They’re too good to rebuild, but lack the talent needed to make a deep run in the playoffs. Their prospect pool is strong, but their roster is bogged down by a series of hefty contracts. Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk‘s deals headline the latter department. If a team like, say, the Detroit Red Wings were to take one of those contracts off their hands, they could likely score some draft picks or players like Morgan Frost for the right offer.
Should a team be on the hunt for a reclamation project, Shayne Gostisbehere might be worth a flyer (no pun intended). Even younger RFAs like German Rubstov might offer an option as a young depth piece for a contending team. The sheer versatility of Philadelphia’s options alone makes them an easy first call. With the expansion draft on the horizon, the Seattle Kraken might have an easy win in the books with Philadelphia. For the right price, they may be able to take Voracek or Gostisbehere off the Flyers’ hands for an extra draft pick or two. It’s a win-win situation for both sides. The Flyers get cap space, the Kraken get draft picks, and both sides come out better for it.
Every general manager in the league should have the Edmonton Oilers’ Ken Holland on speed dial ahead of the Expansion Draft. The Oilers face an exposure predicament following Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contract extension. Edmonton can’t go with the 8/1 protection plan to keep all of their forwards, so 7/3/1 it is. This is where other GMs need to step in to… help.
Teams would be smart to try and ‘help’ Edmonton by taking the next two years of the injured Oscar Klefbom’s contract, leaving the Oilers to protect the younger – and much cheaper – Caleb Jones. His shoulder injuries are a risk, but with seven forwards protected Klefbom is a likely Kraken target. In theory, he will be ready for the 2021-22 season, but could Edmonton get something for him now? Let another team take that risk. His trade value isn’t great, but any return is better than nothing. Unless, of course, they wanted to take the risk and move the possibly more valuable Jones.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The time has come to pay the piper. The Tampa Bay Lightning‘s cap crunch isn’t going to fix itself without some outgoings and this goes even beyond the scope of the Kraken expansion draft. For no matter who Ron Francis picks from the Lightning, they will still be right at the cap ceiling with only 18 players signed.
Put simply, Tampa needs to shed cap via trade. Their ideal option is offloading Tyler Johnson‘s cumbersome contract on someone. But that should incur a significant draft cost for an overpaid middle-six forward. So will, for example, the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, or New Jersey Devils go hunting for a first-rounder in 2022 plus more in exchange for taking on Johnson’s 5 million dollars? A potentially fatal problem with this plan is that Johnson has a modified no-trade clause of 11 undesirable destinations.
Meanwhile, the Lightning is primed to expose Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn in expansion. Getting one of those guys at a potential discount (something is better than nothing) would be a no-brainer for a team on the cusp with cap space. Again, all of them have some form of no-trade clause, making the equation a bit more complicated.
The Carolina Hurricanes‘ fans must be having a great time. They have a solid core at both forward and defence, a rising star in goal, and young stars who… oh, right,… aren’t quite young enough to duck expansion. While they probably wouldn’t mind losing one of their exposed forwards, there is simply no way the team’s going with an 8/1 protection scheme. Carolina has five forwards they can’t afford to lose and one more with a No Move Clause. One of their blueliners is going – it’s just a matter of where.
Sure, they won’t budge on their Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, but how about the 5.25 million-dollar-man Brady Skjei? Or the 23-years young – but improving more slowly than hoped – rookie Jake Bean? The Hurricanes will still lose a decent player to Seattle, but at least they could protect another while getting paid for a third.
Ah, those three little words free agent’s agents love to hear: No Move Clause. The Minnesota Wild has FIVE of them. Hard decisions are on the way, in more ways than one. The team did well to get Joel Eriksson Ek‘s name to a deal, but Kevin Fiala and Calder Memorial Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov remain unsigned. Fiala has been a bargain that last two seasons and Kaprizov is their most exciting skater since Marian Gaborik. In short, they need money.
Add to that little conundrum the three big-time defencemen with NMCs having to be protected. If they go 7/3/1 that leaves two good defenders exposed. Going 8/1 protects one more, but at least three quite tempting forward options present themselves, and to more than the Seattle Kraken expansion team…
Yep, what Minnesota needs now is a friend. With a phone. And possibly some cap space.