We’re coming down to the wire for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
The NHL’s 32nd team will pick one player from every existing team next week, with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights, because they didn’t share in the $650 million expansion fee Seattle paid.
Teams must submit their protected lists by Saturday, with those lists becoming public on Sunday morning. Some wheeling and dealing is expected before then, with teams brokering deals with Kraken GM Ron Francis, or another team.
Most teams will protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie, though protecting eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goalie is also allowed.
Because all first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft choices, are exempt from the process, the Canucks don’t have to protect players like Quinn Hughes, Nils Hoglander, and Vasili Podkolzin. That makes the Canucks a candidate to add a player from another team before Saturday, perhaps someone like Jason Dickinson from Dallas or Noel Acciari from Florida — two centres that will likely be left unprotected if they’re not dealt.
But for the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume the Canucks stand pat and protect the players they currently have.
Thatcher Demko will be the goaltender that they protect, while Tyler Myers, Nate Schmidt, and Olli Juolevi are slam dunks to be protected on defence. Six of the seven forward spots are obvious, with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Motte likely to be protected.
Players like Jake Virtanen, Micheal Ferland, Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Madison Bowey likely won’t be protected, but they won’t be of any interest to Seattle either for various reasons.
That leaves five players that Seattle could realistically pick, with one of the forwards listed below likely to get protected. That means that the Kraken will likely end up with one of the following five players.
1. Braden Holtby
The biggest name on this list, goaltender Braden Holtby has reportedly generated interest from the Kraken.
“I think Seattle is interested in Holtby, but not at [his salary/cap number],” Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on today’s episode of the 31 Thoughts podcast. “I think they want to see if they can get Vancouver to retain something or try something there.”
Holtby has one more year left on a contract that carries a $4.3 million cap hit, though he is due $5.7 million in actual salary.
The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native has won a Stanley Cup and a Vezina Trophy during his career, and is widely viewed as a good teammate. He would fit well with a young starting goalie if Seattle goes that route. The trouble is he turns 32 before next season and has posted a save percentage under .900 in back-to-back seasons in Vancouver and Washington.
2. Matthew Highmore
If the Canucks opt to keep prospect Kole Lind, Matthew Highmore will be available for the Kraken. The 25-year-old forward Vancouver received from Chicago for Adam Gaudette, Highmore doesn’t have much offensive potential, but he did show some promise as an energy player in 18 games with the Canucks last season.
3. Kole Lind
The 33rd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Kole Lind’s tenure with the Canucks organization has been mostly disappointing to this point. He turns 23 in October, and played in just seven NHL games last season, registering zero points.
If the Canucks give up on him, he might be worth a shot for Seattle as a player with potential that could start with their AHL team.
4. Jonah Gadjovich
Vancouver’s other second-round pick in 2017, Jonah Gadjovich has also had some struggles since turning pro. The 22-year-old had a bit of a coming out party with the Utica Comets last season though, scoring 18 points, including 15 goals, in 19 games. A big body with good hands, the challenge for Gadjovich is his skating, which may deter Seattle from taking him.
5. Zack MacEwen
If the Canucks protect Highmore and Seattle isn’t enamoured with Lind or Gadjovich, perhaps they view Zack MacEwen as an option for their roster. The 25-year-old PEI native brings size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and toughness to the table, though he has just nine points in 55 career NHL games.