Carey Price and Ryan Johansen are two pricey but intriguing players exposed to Seattle. Will the Kraken take the bait? (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

Seattle Kraken Roster Projection 2.0, Now With Authentic Protection Lists

Six days ago, we ran an expansion draft projection for the Seattle Kraken. Since then, everything has changed.

Ok, not exactly everything. But we saw a massive stream of trades come in just before a trade freeze fell over the league at 3 P.M. Eastern on Saturday. Some were relatively small; others knocked our socks off. Those moves changed the outlook for several teams’ protection lists, which were officially submitted to the league later yesterday and released to the public this morning. Unsurprisingly, they are not the same as the protection lists I created from scratch (using CapFriendly’s wonderful expansion draft tool), which I used in the original Kraken projection, or Seattle 1.0 if you will.

Now that we know which players Seattle will be choosing from, the time has come for a redo. You can check out all of the protection lists here and compare them to our East, Central, West, and North Division projected protection lists. And as a brief reminder, here are the ground rules: the Kraken will select exactly one player from every NHL team except the Vegas Golden Knights (who do not receive a cut of the $650 million expansion fee Seattle paid). Of their thirty picks, Seattle must select at least fourteen forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. The total cap hit of their picks must be between 60% ($49.8 million) and 100% ($81.5 million) of the salary cap. The Kraken must select at least twenty players under contract for the 2021-22 season and they cannot buy out anyone they select until at least the 2022 offseason.

Keep in mind that the Kraken will not necessarily be looking to take the best player available from every team. Seattle must take age, contract, production, and other factors into consideration when making their selections. General manager Ron Francis is already on the record saying, “The one thing we think is extremely, extremely valuable in this environment is cap space.” So do not expect Seattle to be taking everyone’s biggest contracts, even if they belong to some pretty good players. Seattle has gobs of cap space right now, and the organization will look to weaponize it in every way possible.

Finally, in the interest of being concise (the first expansion draft preview was nearly 7,000 words), I will just be copying and pasting my previous remarks for players/teams who I originally projected and still project Seattle to take. I have also chosen not to include an “also considered” section for the majority of teams; they would essentially be the same as those from the original article. Alright, let’s delve into this before half of the league’s landscape changes again.

Anaheim Ducks: D Haydn Fleury

2020-21 (47 GP w/ CAR/ANA): 3 G, 1 A, 53.26% Corsi, 50.04% Expected Goals For (xGF)

Fleury has not lived up to the hype of being taken #7 by Carolina in the 2014 NHL Draft, but he is a solid third-pair defenseman with minimal offensive upside that can kill penalties. At 25, hope likely still exists that he can become a bit better than he is now, but there is nothing wrong with being a solid fifth or sixth defenseman, especially at just $1.3 million.

Arizona Coyotes: RW Tyler Pitlick

2020-21 (38 GP): 6 G, 5 A, 47.09% Corsi, 47.13% xGF

Pitlick should be a perfect plug-and-play option on Seattle’s fourth line. He is an outstanding forechecker and solid penalty killer who can chip in 10-15 goals and 25 points. Not a headline player, but you need one or two of the Pitlick’s of the world to have a well-rounded team.

Also Considered: Christian Fischer is a similar player, but younger. I do think it is important to have some veteran presence (shudders) on your fourth line and I am a big fan of Pitlick from his Philadelphia days, so I will stick with my incumbent pick from the first mock expansion draft.

Boston Bruins: LW Nick Ritchie

2020-21: 15 G, 11 A, 53.67% Corsi, 52.55% xGF

I thought the Bruins would really be looking to move on from Jake DeBrusk, but they still think too highly of him to expose him. The Kraken will have to settle for someone else, and I am choosing Ritchie instead. He does not have as much pure skill as DeBrusk but is nevertheless a solid power forward with decent offensive totals and 38 playoff games under his belt.

Buffalo Sabres: C Cody Eakin

2020-21 (46 GP): 3 G, 4 A, 38.13% Corsi, 35.45% xGF

Wow, I was unaware underlying numbers went that low. Eakin had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in Buffalo, just like everyone else. His Corsi For% was second-worst in the NHL (min. 20 games) and his xGF was third-worst. I firmly believe this year was an outlier year for Eakin, mostly due to being a Sabre. After all, Eakin was a quality bottom-six center for several years before 2020-21. He will not score 41 points as he did in 2018-19 for Vegas, but Eakin is good on face-offs and can kill penalties; just what you ask for from a fourth-line center. $2.5 million is maybe a bit pricey for a 4C, but with only one year left, I think Seattle can swing it.

Also Considered: 24-year old William Borgen is a cheap right-handed defenseman with little offensive upside. He is the next best choice if Seattle does not want to take on Eakin’s cap hit.

Calgary Flames: D Mark Giordano

2020-21: 9 G, 16 A, 52.97% Corsi, 52.5% xGF

This could officially mark the end of an era in Calgary. Even at 37, Giordano is still a good defenseman and a great leader in any locker room. He did show some signs of decline in 2020-21; he was negative relative to his teammates in Corsi and xGF for the first time since the lockout year. The $6.75 million cap hit is high, but it is only on the books for one more year. Giordano should be the face of Seattle’s defense; if they win, he will likely be a key part of it, and if they come up short, he can be flipped at the deadline for assets.

Carolina Hurricanes: D Jake Bean

2020-21 (42 GP): 1 G, 11 A, 53.09% Corsi, 51.65% xGF

This pick gives me major Shea Theodore vibes, even if Bean does not end up as good. Bean, the AHL defenseman of the year in 2019-20, is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who never found a permanent spot on Carolina’s stacked defensive core. That should not be an issue in Seattle, as Dave Hakstol and his staff should prioritize Bean’s development and give him consistent 5v5 and power-play minutes.

Chicago Blackhawks: D Calvin De Hann

2020-21 (44 GP): 1 G, 9 A, 49.22% Corsi, 47.27% xGF

Speaking of protection list do-overs, I would probably protect 22-year old Brandon Hagel instead of Brett Connolly, a solid goal-scorer in 2018-19 and 2019-20 who had a dismal season last year and carries a fairly big cap hit. Regardless, I am going with De Hann, someone who could be flipped right after the expansion draft (Vegas did this plenty in 2017). That estimation is not anything close to a sure thing, just a gut feeling. De Hann has been a solid defenseman dating back to his Islanders days and would be changing sweaters for the fourth time in the last four years. He was also basically the only Blackhawks defenseman whose underlying numbers were not totally horrible.

Colorado Avalanche: RW Joonas Donskoi

2020-21 (51 GP): 17 G, 14 A, 57.44% Corsi, 58.17% xGF

I have been a big fan of Donskoi’s for the last few years. Not only does the 29-year old score at a decent clip, but his underlying numbers are sensational. He is a bit pricier than original pick J.T. Compher, but Donskoi is clearly the better player. His ability to play up and down the lineup and on the PK should attract the analytically inclined Kraken’s attention.

Columbus Blue Jackets: RW Kevin Stenlund

2020-21 (32 GP): 5 G, 5 A, 48% Corsi, 48.84% xGF

Stenlund is a cheap, young forward who can score at a 25-30 point clip and his underlying numbers are strong relative to an awful Columbus possession team. That is something.

Also Considered: Max Domi still possesses high-end skill and he is only two years removed from scoring 72 points. Domi can play center or the wing and though his $5.3 million cap hit is not cheap, it would only be an issue for one more year. However, he is going to miss the start of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, and I heard this report on the Steve Dangle Podcast that clarifies why Seattle might not take Domi.

Dallas Stars: D Jamie Oleksiak

2020-21: 6 G, 8 A, 52.5% Corsi, 54.05% xGF

Dallas made not one but two moves to dodge losing a truly quality player. They got the oft-injured Ben Bishop to waive his NMC to protect solid backup Anton Khudobin and they traded a good young center in Jason Dickinson to Vancouver for a 3rd round pick. That left a lot of uncertainty around Seattle’s selection. I was originally going to take 22-year old Nicholas Caamano, but guess what? Procrastination pays off, kids! Oleksiak is a solid defensive defenseman who can throw the body and kill penalties, although he did have the benefit of playing with Miro Heiskanen in Dallas.

Detroit Red Wings: LW Vladislav Namestnikov

2020-21 (53 GP): 8 G, 9 A, 44.72% Corsi, 45.77% xGF

With the Kraken apparently signing Larsson and Oleksiak, I do not know if my original Detroit pick, Troy Stetcher, fits anymore. Namestnikov is very similar to my original Oilers pick (Dominik Kahun); a decent third-line, second power-play scoring option. His underlying numbers look awful but they should be better away from a terrible Red Wings team.

Edmonton Oilers: D Adam Larsson

2020-21 (48 GP): 9 G, 6 A, 48.34% Corsi, 47.23% xGF

Waiting as long as possible pays off, part two. Larsson is a similar player to Oleksiak; a defensive defenseman who is best used next to a puck-moving partner. Both are solid players, but I feel like they could be redundant. Dominik Kahun, who I selected in the first mock expansion draft, was going to be selected here before the Larsson news broke.

Florida Panthers: G Chris Driedger

2020-21 (23 GP): .927 SV%, 12 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA)

Driedger was one of the feel-good stories of the past season and though he is a pending UFA, there are already reports the Kraken want to sign him during their exclusive negotiation window. The sample size here is already incredibly small, but Driedger has excellent NHL numbers and could be a steal for the Kraken if they hold steady.

https://twitter.com/FriedgeHNIC/status/1417204915961745410

Also Considered: It is surprising to see the Kraken take Driedger now considering A) how many quality goalies there are available under contract and B) how many other quality players are available for the taking in Florida. Turns out the Panthers valued Gustav Forsling over Markus Nutivaara, so he is an available solid defensive option. The bigger surprise for me is exposing Frank Vatrano, who scores at a 35-40 point pace, can kill penalties, and (excluding a mediocre 2020-21) usually has stellar possession numbers.

Los Angeles Kings: C Blake Lizotte

2020-21 (41 GP): 3 G, 7 A, 50.2% Corsi, 46.46% xGF

LA will not have to give up any top prospects to Seattle (unless they want to for some reason), but they could lose a solid youngish player with decent upside. Lizotte fits this billing to perfection. He has less NHL experience than some of the Kings’ other options but he jumped right to the NHL from the NCAA’s St. Cloud State in 2019-20 and he is a solid playmaker who could become a good middle-sixer soon. In addition, he is only 23, with a dirt-cheap cap hit and several years of club control left.

Minnesota Wild: G Kaapo Kähkönen

2020-21 (24 GP): .902 SV%, -4.3 GSAA

A rough six starts in April and May torpedoed his overall numbers, but the 24-year old Kähkönen was very impressive in his first twenty-three appearances between this year and last. Kähkönen won the AHL goalie of the year award in 2019-20, throwing up an impressive .927 SV%. He has some NHL success and is an RFA when his modest 2-year, $725K AAV deal expires in 2022. He would be my number two goalie behind Driedger (assuming Seattle does sign him).

Montréal Canadiens: D Brett Kulak

2020-21 (46 GP): 2 G, 6 A, 56.09% Corsi, 52.69% xGF

During my original write-up, I said I wanted to take Kulak from the Habs but ultimately settled on Jake Allen because I needed a goalie. Well, Allen is protected in a surprising move, opening the door to select Kulak. The 27-year old has put up stellar underlying numbers in a sheltered third-pair role. Seattle could either let him show the ropes to a youngster like Bean or see if he can thrive in tougher top-four minutes.

Also Considered: It is tempting for fans like me to say the Kraken should throw caution to the wind and select Carey Price. In a vacuum, it seems stupid for the Canadiens to protect Price, who is viewed as an elite goaltender by most in the sport fresh off a run to the Stanley Cup Final. But the devil is in the details. Price has underperformed in recent years; he has just one season with a save percentage above .901 since 2017-18.

Additionally, the 33-year old is under contract for five more years at a massive $10.5 million cap hit with a no-move clause, and he is apparently dealing with a potentially severe knee injury that Marc Bergevin totally leaked accidentally, not just to further decrease Price’s stock. There are just too many red flags to justify a Price selection, especially with all of the other quality goalies available.

If Price has too many red flags to take, there are simply too many unknowns when it comes to Jonathan Drouin. The former top-three pick has not played since April after taking a personal leave of absence for unknown reasons. If whatever he was dealing with is no longer a problem and he is ready to return, then maybe, but the pick is by no means a slam dunk. Drouin played just 25 games in 2019-20 and he has only scored at about a 42-point pace each of the last two seasons. Considering he makes $5.5 million for two more years, you could probably get a better bang for your buck elsewhere. And it seems like Seattle agrees.

Nashville Predators: LW Calle Jarnkrök

2020-21 (49 GP): 13 G, 15 A, 47.45% Corsi, 49.32% xGF

Jarnkrok is the platonic ideal of who one woud expect to be available in an expansion draft. He is not a star but he scores at a decent clip, can play up and down the lineup, and is under contract for one more year at just a $2 million cap hit. You could say a lot of the same things about Rocco Grimaldi, but Jarnkrök is more well-known and kills penalties (Grimaldi averaged 27 seconds of short-handed ice-time per game, which is something I guess, but ranks seventh among Nashville forwards).

New Jersey Devils: RW Nathan Bastian

2020-21 (41 GP): 3 G, 7 A, 49.2% Corsi, 49.84% xGF

Bastian is one of several young and decent-ish players the Devils had to decide between protecting and exposing. They chose the latter for Bastian, who the Kraken should take a look at. His underlying numbers are much stronger relative to his teammates than the decent raw numbers look. He could be a solid bottom-sixer for Seattle in the near future.

Also Considered: If I was Ron Francis, I would absolutely select Andreas Johnsson here. I like the player; he has some skill and can play on both the power-play and penalty kill. But he had a horrid first year in New Jersey while making $3.4 million for two more years (RFA at expiry). I believe in the skillset, but I understand the pessimism and the desire to find skill elsewhere.

New York Islanders: RW Jordan Eberle

2020-21 (55 GP): 16 G, 17 A, 56.35% Corsi, 59.43% xGF

I might feel stupid when Seattle inevitably takes Kieffer Bellows here to save cap space, but looking at my overall roster and cap structure, Seattle could really use (and afford) one more scorer. Enter Jordan Eberle. He scored at a 24-goal, 49-point pace on an Islanders team not known for their offense. His underlying numbers were also sensational (though that may have to do with having Mat Barzal as his regular center), and he has been incredibly productive during the Islanders’ three playoff runs on the Island (34 points in 49 games). Yes, he is a 31-year old making $5.5 million for three years, but the fact that he is still scoring and driving play (best underlying numbers on the Islanders) is enough reward for me to balance the risk. Why is this guy exposed for Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, Lou?

Also Considered: Former first-round pick Kieffer Bellows can play center or the wing and is a goal-scorer (just not nearly as accomplished as Eberle). Those are attractive traits, as are his age (23) and as an unproven RFA, he will be dirt cheap. I really think a change of scenery could maximize Bellows’ potential, even if his upside is probably closer to solid middle-sixer than truly impactful scorer. Josh Bailey is a slightly cheaper option than Eberle ($5 million x 3 years) who trades some of Eberle’s offensive ability for two-way play.

New York Rangers: RW Julien Gauthier

2020-21 (30 GP): 2 G, 9 A, 44.02% Corsi, 49.08% xGF

Our original pick (Brett Howden) was dealt to Vegas just before the trade freeze, so I will choose another 23-year old in Julien Gauthier instead. The 2016 Carolina first-round pick brings physicality to the bottom-six and has room to improve.

Ottawa Senators: C Chris Tierney

2020-21 (55 GP): 6 G, 13 A, 47.48% Corsi, 41.97% xG

Tierney is a player whose selection here is largely based on reputation, especially after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign. At his best, Tierney is a very useful middle-six center with a few forty-point seasons to his name. But his offense and underlying numbers tanked last season as he never dug out of the early season woes that plagued everyone in a Senators sweater. He seems like a worthy reclamation-ish project for the Kraken to take on for one year at $3.5 million.

Philadelphia Flyers: LW James van Riemsdyk

2020-21: 17 G, 26 A, 53.43% Corsi, 52.43% xGF

I am not going to predict side deals in this exercise, but if one of Philly’s three big money options (van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere) is taken, there is a decent chance of a side deal being involved here. I actually think the hiring of former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol helps Shayne Gostisbehere’s chances of being selected; his dynamite rookie year in 2015-16 and Norris-level play in 2017-18 both came under Hakstol’s watch. But if Seattle wants to be a solid team right out of the gate, they will need some scoring. Van Riemsdyk is an excellent offensive weapon, especially at the net-front on the power-play, and he is not an empty-calorie goal-scorer; JVR has put up outstanding underlying numbers each of the last two years. The $7 million price tag is expensive, but two years is not too insane and JVR is good enough to make biting the bullet worth the cost for Seattle.

Pittsburgh Penguins: LW Zach Aston-Reese

2020-21 (45 GP): 9 G, 6 A, 48.94% Corsi, 51.78% xGF

Aston-Reese is a fairly run-of-the-mill 26-year old fourth-liner, with one very important exception. If you are really into analytics, you could make a legit case that Aston-Reese should win the Selke if you completely ignore offense and strictly focus on defensive impact. He is simply that good defensively. The pending RFA should not come in at too much money and should be a nice fit in Seattle’s bottom-six.

Also Considered: I still think Jason Zucker is a good player, just one that has not fit in well in Pittsburgh. But it is hard to justify taking a forward with 9 goals and 9 assists making $5.5 million for two years. He is only 29 and brings speed and versatility at 5v5 and the ability to play both special teams units. Marcus Pettersson is a solid top-four defenseman making $4.025 million for the next four years. I could really see Seattle taking him, but I think they will try to create a goalie monopoly just like Vegas did with defensemen.

San Jose Sharks: C Dylan Gambell

2020-21 (49 GP): 5 G, 7 A, 44.11% Corsi, 45.53% xGF

I galaxy brained my original protection list, exposing the much more productive and slightly cheaper Rüdolfs Balcers (Gambrell is a center, in fairness?). Gambrell is a 24-year old center making $1.1 million, which are the best parts about him.

Also Considered: Radim Simek is a decent but injury-prone defensive defenseman making $2.25 million for three more years. Change that to one year and he is probably my pick, but alas.

St. Louis Blues: D Vince Dunn

2020-21 (43 GP): 6 G, 14 A, 49.23% Corsi, 44.87% xG

Despite the poor underlying numbers, it is surprising how quickly the talented 24-year old Dunn fell out of favor in St. Louis. The Blues have been reluctant to boost him up from cushy third-pair minutes, with head coach Craig Berube healthy scratching Dunn on multiple occasions this year. Dunn cleared 53% in Corsi and 52% in Expected Goals in each of his first three NHL seasons, so this year seems like an outlier on that front. And he did score a career-best .47 points per game. Dunn is a talented young player that will not break the bank and could be a key piece moving forward for the Kraken. Reports seem to suggest I hit the nail on the head here.

Also Considered: There may not be a more high-upside skater available to Seattle than St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko. From 2014-15 to 2018-19, Tarasenko ranked third in the NHL in goals, 16th in points, T-12th in power-play goals, and T-22nd in power-play points. Not only was Tarasenko an elite scoring forward during this span, but also an elite possession player with stellar underlying numbers at both ends of the rink.

However, he has undergone three shoulder surgeries in the last two years, playing just 42 games since October 2019 (regular season and playoffs), and has not looked the same since going under the knife. Oh, and his $7.5 million cap hit for the next two years is arguably enough to make him an albatross. If you bet on a bounce-back from the 29-year old Tarasenko and hit, it would be a franchise-defining success story. But again, given all the importance Francis has put on having cap space and financial flexibility, I doubt Seattle takes the risk.

Tampa Bay Lightning: D Cal Foote

It would be so easy to take one of Tampa’s middle-upper-priced veterans and help the team slowly work their way out of cap hell, but I think Ron Francis is smart enough to make the Bolts squirm a little. Maybe Tampa protects the young Foote over Erik Cernak, especially since Foote had a solid rookie year (though he did not play at all in the playoffs). Son of former NHL defender Adam Foote, Cal Foote was the club’s first-rounder in 2017 with a bit of offensive potential that has not fully translated to the pro game. But at just 22, he still has plenty of time. I could see Tampa Bay making a side deal to protect the young blue-liner, however, as the cap-strapped Bolts need cost-controlled youth as much as anyone. Yanni Gourde is really tempting, though (and Ondrej Palat, to a slightly lesser extent).

Toronto Maple Leafs: LW Jared McCann

2020-21 (43 GP): 14 G, 18 A, 55.88% Corsi, 55.43% xGF

You might be wondering why Jared McCann is being exposed after Toronto just acquired him for a solid prospect in Filip Hållander and a seventh. McCann is either going to serve as insurance for losing Alex Kerfoot or will fall on the Seattle sword for him. They are similar players, but McCann is cheaper, younger, and is coming off a tremendous offensive year (albeit one that likely is due for regression in 2021-22). Essentially, the assets Toronto traded for McCann are really being used to protect Kerfoot if McCann is the pick. Given his aforementioned attributes, that seems fairly likely, though it would ruin the best-leaked information ever.

https://twitter.com/Ieafsfan/status/1417500548597788675
They probably shot this multiple times with different names… but this would be an EPIC leak.

Turns out the greatest leak ever was not meant to be. At least I got another pick right.

Vancouver Canucks: G Braden Holtby

2020-21 (21 GP): .889 SV%, -13 GSAA

A dicey first (and potentially only) season in Vancouver makes this pick less of a slam dunk than it was a year ago. But with just one year left on his deal, taking Holtby qualifies as a low-risk, high-reward move for the Kraken. The Vezina trophy-winning form of Holtby is probably never coming back, but the 31-year old’s track record proves he can be much better than he played this season (and last year, for that matter). He would also be one of just three former Cup winners on the Kraken, joining Dunn and a player further down this list. The odds of Seattle trying to flip Holtby to another team if he is selected seem much higher today than in the first mock draft.

Washington Capitals: G Vitek Vanecek

2020-21 (37 GP): .908 SV%, 0 GSAA

After spending so much time deliberating what to do on the blue-line during the protection lists portion, I am ultimately poaching a goaltender from the nation’s capital. Vanecek was perfectly average in his rookie year, right down to the zero goals saved above (or below) average. Washington basically thrust him into the starter’s role last year due to injuries and Ilya Samsonov’s time on the COVID list. The unproven Vanecek handled the pressure well and he should be even better playing in a less strenuous role, be it in Seattle or somewhere else if he is immediately traded.

Winnipeg Jets: D Dylan DeMelo

2020-21 (52 GP): 0 G, 9 A, 49.33% Corsi, 51.38% xGF

So let me get this straight. The Jets have been one of the worst defensive teams in hockey the last two seasons, and their response to that is… exposing their best defensive defenseman, who Seattle seems likely to poach. Huh. I understand wanting to protect 23-year old Logan Stanley, our original selection here, but losing DeMelo would be a steep price. The fact that DeMelo actually helped drive play on a Jets team that would not know puck possession if it hit them in the face is impressive. He should be a solid top-four defender and penalty killer for the Kraken.

Your 2.0 Hypothetical 2021-22 Seattle Kraken

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk (PHI)Jared McCann (TOR)Joonas Donskoi (COL)
Calle Jarnkrök (NSH)Chris Tierney (OTT)Jordan Eberle (NYI)
Nick Ritchie (BOS)Vladislav Namestnikov (DET)Tyler Pitlick (ARI)
Zach Aston-Reese (PIT)Cody Eakin (BUF)Nathan Bastian (NJ)
Blake Lizotte (LA)Dylan Gambrell (SJ)Julien Gauthier (NYR)
Kevin Stenlund (CBJ)

Defensemen

Mark Giordano (CGY)Dylan DeMelo (WPG)
Vince Dunn (STL)Adam Larsson (EDM)
Jamie Oleksiak (DAL)Calvin De Hann (CHI)
Jake Bean (CAR)Cal Foote (TB)
Brett Kulak (MTL)Haydn Fleury (ANA)

Goaltenders

Chris Driedger (FLA)
Kaapo Kähkönen (MIN)
Braden Holtby (VAN)
Vitek Vanecek (WSH)

*Note for above roster: All UFAs are listed in Italics. All RFAs are listed in Bold.

To be honest, I like this version of the Kraken much better than the one that resulted from my protection lists. This time around, I tried to check my own biases at the door and choose players that I think Seattle will take, not necessarily the ones I would select if I was in Ron Francis’ shoes. The theme here is financial flexibility; this team clocks in with $19.4 million of cap space with 22 players under contract (14 forwards, 5 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders). That number is closer to $10 million when factoring in the contracts to UFAs Driedger, Larsson, and Oleksiak. There are plenty of RFAs to sign as well, but I think Seattle should be fine with the cap, especially if they flip some of their picks like Vegas will. After all, you can only carry 23 of your 30 selections (at max) on your NHL roster.

Only four players – van Riemsdyk, Donskoi, Bastian, and DeMelo – are under contract in 2022-23, and at just $14.725 million combined. DeMelo’s $3 million cap hit is the only one on the books in 2023-24 (not counting the deals they will soon give Larsson, Oleksiak, and Driedger). But this team is not bad by any means, especially considering what they could get back for trading a few of those goalies. JVR, McCann, and Donskoi should be a possession menace. There are scoring options behind them in Eberle and Jarnkrök. Aston-Reese, Pitlick, and Bastian bring tenacity to the fourth line. The forward group is very well-rounded.

The defense has a nice mix of youngsters with potential (Bean, Foote, Fleury) with steady veterans (Giordano, De Hann, Larsson, Oleksiak). Driedger is a solid starter, and while Kähkönen is probably the next best goalie, he has one thing that no one other Seattle draft pick has: he is waiver exempt. That would allow Seattle to keep him in the pipeline while using either Holtby or Vanecek as their NHL backup and flipping the other for assets.

Obviously, we do not know what every team will look like when the puck drops in October. I honestly see the Kraken roster I have outlined above as a playoff team, but only because of their division. They are not better than Vegas and the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, plus some other guys that they can carry to relevance.

Maybe an active offseason for LA, who has an abundance of cap space and prospects, pushes them over the top. Or maybe Vancouver supports their outstanding core and bounces back to 2019-20 form. But Seattle is somewhere between the third and fifth-best team in the Pacific; they are clearly better than Anaheim, Arizona, and San Jose. The roster I have built should certainly be in the playoff hunt, maybe even a favorite to make it depending on what they can get back for some of their excess goalies.

I do not see Seattle going very far even if they do make the playoffs, but you never know. Merely making it would be a tremendous first-year for Seattle fans to witness; Vegas’ 2017-18 campaign should be viewed as the ceiling, not the bar. If Ron Francis practices the salary cap patience he has been preaching, the Kraken are set to be competitive not just in their inaugural season, but for years to come.

It would be pretty fun to see the Kraken just go bonkers and take Price, Tarasenko, Duchene, and Subban. Come on, Seattle, shock the world!

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5, Score and Venue Adjusted, unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick; except GSAA, which is via Hockey-Reference