Seattle's NHL Team: Mock Expansion Draft

As the dust settles in St. Louis following an entertaining All-Star Weekend that featured three-on-three hockey amongst hockey's top female stars and Mat Barzal dethroning Connor McDavid as the league's fastest skater, hockey fans across the world await the highly-anticipated announcement on what the mascot will be for the NHL's newest team based in Seattle. Apparently it's supposed to release soon:

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When the NHL brought the balance back to its current 31-team roster by announcing a new pro team in Seattle, excitement stirred within residents of the Pacific Northwest as they would now have another team to pledge their loyalty to outside of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the WNBA's Seattle Storm, and the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics. Sure, if you've got a hockey itch that needs to be scratched, the Everett Silvertips give you every cent's worth of your ticket price while the Seattle Thunderbirds draw hockey fans from the Puget Sound region to the ShoWare Center. However, there's nothing like going from a packed house of 6,500 fans cheering on the team as they played for the Ed Chynoweth Trophy back in 2017 to a potentially sold-out crowd of 20,000 fans in a primetime matchup of the "New Six" (the six newest teams in the league that sit on the opposite end of the spectrum as the "Original Six" - the Vegas Golden Knights, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Minnesota Wild, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Nashville Predators, the Florida Panthers, the Anaheim Ducks) in the house that Kevin Durant, Gary Payton, and Ray Allen built - the KeyArena located in downtown Seattle.

It's obvious that Seattle has some big shoes to fill. Former Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee and his scouting team structured a tremendous roster a couple of years ago that ultimately led the then newly-created expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Whether there's an algorithm that can be cracked or a formula that can be implemented to draft the "perfect" team, Seattle will obviously be looking to follow in the footsteps of its expansion draft predecessors that saw a great deal of success in its inaugural season and continues to see that success as a current Pacific Division powerhouse.

The majority of you might have tinkered with Franchise Mode in the NHL video game series - ranging from GM-like duties like trading players and acquiring free agents during the offseason all while keeping an eye on your team's salary cap. It was a taste of what a GM's day-to-day looked like - making key decisions for your favorite team, building a roster to how you saw fit, spending millions of (virtual) dollars. Now, imagine doing that in real life. In real-time. Decisions that don't live in a virtual realm and actually cost you and other people's real money. It's daunting. Almost intimidating. That's why we're sticking to our virtual assessment of each team's decisions and creating a mock expansion draft team without being on the hook for each move.

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A quick reminder: Expansion rules will remain the same for Seattle as they were for Vegas. If you're a bit hazy on the rules themselves, here's a quick rundown --

  • A team can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie OR eight skaters and a goalie.
  • Players that are exempt from the protected list (and cannot be drafted by Seattle) are first-year players, second-year players, and long-term injured players.
  • Teams are also obligated to protect players that have "No-Move Clauses" or "NMCs" in their contracts unless that clause is waived by said player.
  • Seattle will select fourteen forwards, nine defensemen, three goaltenders, and four "other" roster spots that can be used to draft any position.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft as a whole.

Without further ado, here's our prediction for Seattle's upcoming roster for the 2021-2022 season:

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We break down each team's decision-making process on who they protect and what format they protect their players (i.e. 7-3-1 or 8-1). We also analyze which player Seattle will select for their roster.

Anaheim Ducks (7-3-1) - Adam Henrique

  • F: Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rackell, Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase, Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Max Jones
  • D: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson
  • G: John Gibson
  • Available: Adam Henrique, Isac Lundeström, Devin Shore, Nick Ritchie, Brendan Guhle, Chase De Leo
  • Exempt: Maxime Comtois, Benoit-Olivier Groulx
  • Injury Exempt: Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves

The Anaheim Ducks are slowly getting older. This becomes more and more evident as we see the same, lovable characters from the Mighty Ducks film series grow old alongside the players that worth the same jerseys. Ryan Getzlaf is no longer the 22-year old that won a Stanley Cup alongside Scott Niedermayer and the team is moving more towards leaning on their AHL team's standouts from San Diego. In a league that's shifting towards a faster and quicker style of play, Anaheim will look to protect the very players that match that playstyle. At age 29, Adam Henrique is still young and can put points on the state sheet, but for a team that's looking to rebuild from the ground up, Seattle might have a great opportunity to grab a forward that can skate long minutes, score goals, and create plays.

Arizona Coyotes (7-3-1) - Kyle Capobianco

  • F: Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall, Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse, Conor Garland
  • D: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jacob Chychrun, Jordan Oesterle
  • G: Darcy Kuemper
  • Available: Alex Goligoski, Derek Stepan, Carl Soderberg, Antti Raanta, Michael Grabner
  • Exempt: Barrett Hayton

Couple of no-move clauses here in Arizona - namely Phil Kessel and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Our best bet is that they'll want to offer their newest acquisition, Taylor Hall, to an extension after the conclusion of the current season, which leaves the rest of the protected list to younger players like Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, and Jacob Chychrun. Although star names like Alex Goligoski, Derek Stepan, and Carl Soderberg headline the list of available players, this might be a good spot for Seattle to draft a prospective defenseman in Kyle Capobianco. He's produced almost a point per game in the AHL for the Tuscon Roadrunners and has proven to be a solid presence on the blue line, dating back to his days playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL. There's plenty of room to develop and plenty of room to shine, and Seattle will be looking for a mix of veteran and younger players to round out their roster.

Boston Bruins (7-3-1) - Matt Grzelcyk

  • F: Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly
  • D: Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo
  • G: Tuukka Rask
  • Available: David Krejci, David Backes, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork

The one thing that I noticed when I was creating a list of protected players for Boston was that David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk are both only 23 years old. That is insane. With some obvious selections for their list of protected players, the Bruins are tasked with a somewhat difficult scenario in potentially making their older players available. David Krejci will be a UFA at the end of the 2020-2021 season, Zdeno Chara, assuming that he plays for a few more years, will likely retire or finish his career with the Bruins, which leaves only a few options for Seattle to select from. The choice looks to be 26-year old defenseman, Matt Grzelcyk. He's equipped with playoff experience and can prove to be a veteran-like presence without the old age. He's young and can provide efficient minutes on the blue line.

Buffalo Sabres (7-3-1) - Zemgus Girgensons

  • F: Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, Jimmy Vesey, Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, Victor Olofsson
  • D: Rasmus Ristoleinen, Rasmus Dahlin, Henri Jokiharju
  • G: Linus Ullmark
  • Available: Brandon Montour, Kyle Okposo, Marcus Johansson, Conor Sheary, Colin Miller, Zemgus Girgensons
  • Exempt: Dylan Cozens

Seattle definitely has the pick of the litter when it comes to poaching a player from the Sabres. Buffalo traded for Jimmy Vesey in a deal that sent Vesey to the Sabres in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2021. This was ultimately a cap space move for the Rangers to acquire Artemi Panarin, but I can see Buffalo looking to extend that contract once it's up in 2020. Outside of Vesey (who I think will be the Sabres' pick to get a contract extension) and Skinner who has a no-move-clause in his contract, Buffalo leaves open a wide selection of players that are available for the taking. Zemgus Girgensons looks to have the most potential of the group of available players and he'll be a UFA in 2020. Buffalo would love to entertain the idea of unloading Kyle Okposo's $6 million dollar contract, but I don't think Seattle will have the cap space or desire to do so. Players lke Conor Sheary and Marcus Johanssen are also available as they will be UFAs in 2020 and 2021, respectively, but our pick is Girgensons as he's a capable forward that can produce night in and night out.

Calgary Flames (7-3-1) - Travis Hamonic

  • F: Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dubé
  • D: Noah Hanifin, Juuso Välimäki, Rasmus Andersson
  • G: David Rittich
  • Available: Mark Giordano, Sam Bennett, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic
  • Exempt: Jakob Pelletier

We've got quite the dilemma brewing here in Alberta, and no, it's not what other players are on the Oilers outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Calgary has a mixed bag of players that will end up staying and the fate of the players is in the hands of the team itself. Milan Lucic will stay, per his no-move-clause and the Flames will protect its core of young forwards along with him. This shifts the focus to the defense, which is where I think Seattle will have their pick. Mark Giordano will be left unprotected under the gamble that Seattle will move past him due to his age and fix their gaze on either Travis Hamonic or T.J. Brodie - both players that Calgary will leave unprotected as they are both UFAs this summer with only one (Travis Hamonic) being available to be drafted by Seattle as Calgary will likely offer a contract extension to one (T.J. Brodie) of the two defensemen.

Carolina Hurricanes (7-3-1) - Haydn Fleury

  • F: Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teräväinen, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele
  • D: Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce
  • G: Petr Mrázek
  • Available: Erik Haula, Jordan Martinook, Jake Gardiner, Joel Edmundson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury
  • Exempt: Ryan Suzuki, Martin Necas

A bunch of jerks protecting a bunch of their players. Another team with a young core of players in a league that's seemingly teeming with youth, the Hurricanes will most definitely protect players like Sebastian Aho and their exciting lacrosse-style goal-scoring star, Andrei Svechnikov. The Hurricanes will likely resign their top defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, to a contract extension in 2021, which leaves a litter of players that will go unprotected due to expiring contracts or simply due to not making the cut. However, the luxury of having a team of young players comes at a cost as you also leave a number of young players exposed for Seattle to pluck, which is exactly what they will do by snagging 2014 first-round draft pick defenseman, Haydn Fleury.

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Chicago Blackhawks (7-3-1) - Collin Delia

  • F: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, David Kämpf, Alexander Nylander, Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat
  • D: (Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook), Conor Murphy, Erik Gustafsson
  • G: Robin Lehner
  • Available: (Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook), Olli Maatta, Andrew Shaw, Calvin de Haan, Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter, Zack Smith, Dylan Sikura, Corey Crawford
  • Exempt: Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist

Toews and Kane aren't going anywhere. Literally. Both from a franchise perspective and a no-move-clause perspective. The Blackhawks will obviously make use of those NMCs, but likely have either Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook waive their no-move-clauses to free up a spot for some of the younger players. Luckily, Chicago does have the luxury of not having to use a protected spot on their up and coming rookies, Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist. This leaves serviceable options in Olli Maatta or perhaps Andrew Shaw, but I think Seattle will opt for some potentially untapped (or tapped) talent in a backup goaltender, Collin Delia.

Colorado Avalanche (7-3-1) - Ryan Graves

  • F: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher, André Burakovsky Tyson Jost
  • D: Nikita Zadorov, Cale Makar, Samuel Girard
  • G: Philipp Grubauer
  • Available: Erik Johnson, Ryan Graves, Doonas Donskoi, Ian Cole, Matt Nieto
  • Exempt: Bowen Byram, Conor Timmins

I was torn between making Colorado a 7-3-1 team or an 8-1 team. On one hand, they have everything to gain by protecting a young core of forwards, but on the other hand, they have everything to gain by protecting a core of young defensemen. They only way that this scenario comes to life is if the Avalanche gamble on Erik Johnson waiving his no-move-clause, thus allowing them to use their defensive spots on Nikita Zadorov and their young blue liners, Cale Makar and Samuel Girard. On the flip slide, this also gives Colorado the ability to protect players like André Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, and J.T. Compher - all capable forwards that have great careers ahead of them. Seattle will most likely take advantage of the fact that there simply weren't enough spots on defense for Colorado to protect Ryan Graves and will be able to grab a solid defenseman at an unbelievable price.

Columbus Blue Jackets (7-3-1) - Marcus Nutivaara

  • F: Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois
  • D: Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray
  • G: Joonas Korpisalo
  • Available: Brandon Dubinsky, Alexander Wennberg, Riley Nash, Sonny Milano, David Savard, Markus Nutivaara
  • Exempt: Liam Foudy

The Blue Jackets were the magical team that entered last year's playoffs as the second wild card and upset the first-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. To continue and build upon that success, they've dot their i's and cross their t's to perfect their roster. Even after locking up younger players like Bjorkstrand, Anderson, and Dubois and key players like Atkinson, Foligno, Jones, and Werenski, there are still quality players for Seattle to choose from. Namely, 25-year old defenseman Markus Nutivaara. A great pick considering he's a considerably cheaper contract than the other options that the Blue Jackets have to offer and can produce great things on the blue-line.

Dallas Stars (7-3-1) - Jamie Oleksiak

  • F: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa, Jason Dickinson, Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz
  • D: Esa Lindell, John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen
  • G: Ben Bishop
  • Available: Joe Pavelski, Andrew Cogliano, Mattia Janmark, Corey Perry, Jamie Oleksiak, Roman Polák
  • Exempt: Tye Felhaber, Ty Dellandrea

The Stars have four players with a no-move clause in their contracts - Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and Ben Bishop. Pavelski will most likely go unprotected, but not taken by Seattle as I believe he'll end up going the Patrick Marleau route in 2022 by re-signing with the San Jose Sharks after a short stint with a different team. With young and potentially up and coming players like Hintz and Heiskanen protected by the Stars, Seattle could opt for either of the two rock-solid defensemen available - Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns. It's a pick 'em at that point, but I think Seattle opts for Oleksiak at a slight price cut (but not much). 

Detroit Red Wings (7-3-1) - Evgeny Svechnikov

  • F: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taro Hirose, Michael Rasmussen, Robby Fabbri
  • D: Danny DeKeyser, Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek
  • G: Jonathan Bernier
  • Available: Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening, Frans Nielsen, Evgeny Svechnikov, Madison Bowey, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Green
  • Exempt: Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, Filip Larsson, Moritz Seider

It truly is Detroit vs. Everybody. The state of Michigan is grasping at straws by having to pledge loyalty to the Red Wings, Lions, Pistons, and Tigers. With aging Jimmy Howard, Mike Green, and Jonathan Ericsson becoming UFAs this upcoming summer, Detroit will likely look to protect what's left of their young(er) core and start from scratch. That means exposing Abdelkader and Nielsen's ludicrous contracts which will go untouched by Seattle and ultimately leading in Seattle looking to opt for whatever is left on the unprotected list.

Edmonton Oilers (7-3-1) - Zack Kassian

  • F: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alex Chiasson, Cooper Marody, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujärvi
  • D: Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear
  • G: Mikko Koskinen
  • Available: Adam Larsson, Zack Kassian, James Neal, Caleb Jones, Markus Granlund, Kris Russell
  • Exempt: Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard

Back in college, I stayed up all night finishing a paper that took multiple proofreading sessions and edits. It was an excruciating process that had rough drafts on top of rough drafts that were saved on my desktop as "final paper" and progressively got lazier throughout the night as file name creativity reached an all-time low with file names like "final paper 3" and "final 8". Needless to say, it was painstaking to have to sift through my "final" versions of my paper to find the actual one and eventually submit it via the class' online portal. I'd like to think that there's a one in a million chance that an Oilers executive does something similar to that and accidentally submits the wrong protected list roster that leaves Connor McDavid unprotected. Wouldn't that be hilarious? A generational talent and one of the best players in the leagues goes unprotected and shakes up the course of their career and the league as a whole - all because of a clerical error. With that being said, it's a given that Draisaitl and McDavid will go protected. From there, Edmonton will look to protect their budding stars like Marody, Yamamoto, and Puljujärvi and leave older players like Larsson, Kassian, and Neal exposed. Seattle could be looking for a Ryan Reaves type player in Kassian, and I'd be interested to see how Kassian would fare in that environment.

Florida Panthers (7-3-1) - Noel Acciari

  • F: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Evgeni Dadonov, Mike Hoffman, Frank Vatrano, Henrik Borgström
  • D: Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Mike Matheson
  • G: Sergei Bobrovsky
  • Available: Noel Acciari, Anton Strålman, MacKenzie Weegar, Brett Connolly
  • Exempt: Owen Tippett

The Panthers are on the up and up. Seriously. They've got an unbelievable core of players on both ends of the ice. Ranging from talents like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov to defensive stars like Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle. As a bonus, they've got Bobrovsky locked up in net until 2026. Even their Instagram account is on the up and up. They've got less than Howies Hockey Tape's follower count, but it's still on the rise! It's slim pickings with Strålman's age and key pieces on defense already figured out, so it would be a toss-up between Acciari on offense or Weegar on defense in terms of similar ages, contract prices, and overall value. I'd say Florida opts for Acciari and gets a great value in a productive forward in the likes of Vegas' pick in William Karlsson so that Weegar can wear his #52 in peace.

Los Angeles Kings (8-1) - Jonathan Quick

  • F: Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe
  • D: Drew Doughty, Kale Clague, Sean Walker, Matt Roy
  • G: Cal Petersen
  • Available: Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Blake Lizotte, Alec Martinez, Derek Forbort
  • Exempt: Akil Thomas, Aidan Dudas, Sean Durzi

Let's face it, the Kings had a good run. They got their Cups in 2012 and 2014. Sadly, the clock continues to tick and Father Time doesn't wait for anyone and it's indicative in their protected player list. Thankfully, they don't have to protect their younger prospects like Akil Thomas (who just won Canada a gold medal in the World Juniors), but they will have to expose their older players in exchange for their younger players. This means players like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick will be left unprotected, and I think Seattle will take the same route that Vegas did with Marc-André Fleury. Seattle will opt for Jonathan Quick and could breathe new life into him and bring back his old form between the pipes that once used to dominate the league. If you need some convincing, here are some highlights that show you that Jonathan Quick is indeed still "quick". 

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(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Minnesota Wild (8-1) - Victor Rask

  • F: Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin
  • D: Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon
  • G: Kaapo Kähkönen
  • Available: Devan Dubnyk, Mikko Koivu, Victor Rask, Eric Staal, Marcus Foligno, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy

We've got four no-move-clauses here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The top three players on the blue-line are more or less a lock with Suter, Dumba, and Spurgeon headlining the three defensemen on the protected list. From there, all eyes shift towards the offense - including Seattle's. Parise, Zuccs, and Zucker start the list off strong with Fiala and Eriksson Ek following suit. Donato and Kunin round out our list as the younger stars that have a lot of potential to continue to develop in the league. This leaves little wiggle room for Seattle to poach a "big name" from Minnesota, but Victor Rask could be a good selection for them to utilize for more TOI or utilize him as a trade piece come 2022 when he becomes a UFA.

Montreal Canadiens (7-3-1) - Tomas Tatar

  • F: Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, Phillip Danault, Joel Armia, Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi
  • D: Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Cale Fleury
  • G: Carey Price
  • Available: Tomas Tatar, Paul Byron, Jeff Petry, Karl Alzner, Marco Scandella
  • Exempt: Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling

Don't worry Montreal, Carey Price isn't going anywhere. He's the only one with a no-move-clause and he's signed through 2026, so you've got nothing to worry about. Everyone else? It's going to be quite an interesting decision-making process for all executives involved in the process of creating the list of protected players. Here's what we have boiled it down to - Domi, Kotkaniemi, and Drouin are poised to stay no matter what. From there, there will be five UFAs that will be free agents come 2021, (Tatar, Gallagher, Danault, Lehkonen, and Armia) and from what we can deduce (pending contract extensions), the ones to go will Joel Armia and Tomas Tatar. Seattle will have a decent pick here and should opt for the likes of Tomas Tatar. He had a short stint with Vegas during its inaugural season, but has since taken off with the Canadiens with 58 points in 80 games last year and on pace to beat that this year with almost a point per game at 44 points in 51 games.

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(David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Nashville Predators (8-1) - Calle Järnkrok

  • F: Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson
  • D: Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro
  • G: Juuse Saros
  • Available: Kyle Turris, Mikael Grandlund, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, Calle Järnkrok, Austin Watson, Rocco Grimaldi, Pekka Rinne

This one was tough. Nashville has plenty of forwards that are truly talented and deserve a spot on the protected list, but the blue-line presence of Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi (and his no-move-clause), Mattias Ekholm, and Dante Fabbro was hard to pick between, especially with Fabbro's potential and skill to round out the top two lines on defense. This leaves open a ton of options for Seattle to choose from. However, outside of Kyle Turris, players like Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, and Nick Bonino all become UFAs in 2020, 2020, and 2021, respectively. If I were in Seattle's shoes, I'd shoot for Calle Järnkrok - a younger, affordable winger that puts points on the board.

New Jersey Devils (7-3-1) - P.K. Subban

  • F: Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Blake Coleman, Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod, Jesper Bratt
  • D: Sami Vatanen, Damon Severson, Will Butcher
  • G: Mackenzie Blackwood
  • Available: Travis Zajac, Wayne Simmonds, Nick Merkley, P.K. Subban, Andy Greene, Colton White, Cory Schneider
  • Exempt: Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, Jesper Boqvist

The New Jersey Devils have it made in the shade come expansion draft time. They've got three active players on their roster that are also untouchable on the exempt list. That's right, Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, and Jesper Boqvist are exempt from joining the ragtag Seattle squad come 2021. With that said, Taylor Hall's exit creates another spot for the Devils to use on their protected player list. We're gambling on Simmonds jumping ship after this year, leaving some money to be spent on Palmieri when he inevitably becomes a UFA in 2021. Young players like Hischier, McLeod, Bratt, Wood, and Zacha will be here to stay, leaving the Devils with the looming question - will they keep P.K. Subban and his $9 million dollar contract? He's had his struggles since joining New Jersey, but he could be the face of a new team in Seattle, and so... P.K. might be gettin' his swagger back.

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New York Islanders (7-3-1) - Kieffer Bellows

  • F: Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Anthony Beauvillier, Matthew Barzal
  • D: Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech
  • G: Semyon Varlamov
  • Available: Andrew Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Joshua Ho-Sang, Derek Brassard, Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Greiss
  • Exempt: Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson

Boasting a lightning-quick lineup and a roster that could one day bring back the magic of "Fort Neverlose" and play for a Stanley Cup out of Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders are sitting pretty with the right amount of protected players and exempt players on their list. With the NHL's fastest player Mat Barzal leading the way, we round out the rest of the forwards with the assumption that players like Casey Cizikas and Anthony Beauvillier re-sign after the 2021 season. This leaves a couple of the older players to be exposed to Seattle's grubby, drafting hands. Seattle could opt for an older, more experienced player in Andrew Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck, or even Matt Martin, but a younger, quicker player could be in the cards in Kieffer Bellows.

New York Rangers (7-3-1) - Jesper Fast

  • F: Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil
  • D: Jacob Trouba, Brady Skjei, Anthony Deangelo
  • G: Henrik Lundqvist
  • Available: Matt Beleskey, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Ryan Lindgren
  • Exempt: Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox

Panarin, Zibanejad, and Trouba lead the way for the Rangers as players with no-move-clauses in their contracts. From there, assuming that Kreider decides to stay in New York when he becomes a UFA this summer, the young core of the Rangers will either be exempt or protected - ranging from players like Buchnevich, Strome, Andersson, Chytil, Kakko, and Adam Fox. This leaves open the perfect opportunity for Seattle to poach a quick right-winger in Jesper Fast at a good price. Sure, this means they would leave quality defensemen like Marc Staal and prospective players like Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hájek on the table, but with the defensive core that Seattle has built up in the first half of the draft, offensive puzzle pieces are what they would be vying for.

Ottawa Senators (7-3-1) - Dylan DeMelo

  • F: Colin White, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Connor Brown, Anthony Duclair, Brady Tkachuk, Logan Brown
  • D: Nikita Zaitsev, Thomas Chabot, Maxime Lajoie
  • G: Marcus Högberg 
  • Available: Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Mikkel Boedker, Vladislav Namestikob, Chris Tierney, Max Veronneau, Ron Hainsey, Mike Reilly, Dylan DeMelo
  • Exempt: Joshua Norris, Erik Brännström

If there's anyone that's proven themselves to be a lock on the protected player list, it's Anthony Duclair. From there, Ottawa will look to use their slots on the younger players to prep for what seems to be still an early stage in a long rebuilding process. With ludicrous contracts on older players keeping the salary cap top-heavy, it will be up to the Senators organization on whether or they want to extend the contract of players like Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Borowiecki. In an effort to purely keep cap space at bay, Seattle will be looking away from players like Mikkel Boedker and Chris Tierney who came over from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson trade and turn to options like right-winger Max Veronneau or Dylan DeMelo.

Philadelphia Flyers (7-3-1) - James van Riemsdyk

  • F: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom
  • D: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim
  • G: Carter Hart
  • Available: James van Riemsdyk, Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun
  • Exempt: Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee

For Seattle to make a splash in their inaugural season, they have to sign some bigger names that will be able to lead the team, provide some veteran insight, and coach some of the younger players and they'll be looking right at James van Riemsdyk to do exactly that. As a veteran that started in Philadelphia, played in Toronto, and is back in the City of Brotherly Love, JVR could be the perfect addition to round out the rather younger roster that this mock-Seattle team has got going and be a mentor alongside Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Quick, and P.K. Subban. I can already hear it now - JVR isn't that old! 30 years old? How old are you? I'm just speaking from the perspective of the average age of this hypothetical Seattle roster being 26 before the addition of van Riemsdyk from the Flyers.

Pittsburgh Penguins (7-3-1) - Dominik Kahun

  • F: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann
  • D: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson
  • G: Matt Murray
  • Available: Patric Hörnqvist, Nick Bjugstad, Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Kahun, Justin Schultz, Jack Johnson
  • Exempt: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Samuel Poulin, Alex D'Orio

Don't worry Penguins fans, you've got your top three players all locked up on no-move-clauses, which means Crosby, Malkin, and Letang aren't going anywhere. From there, younger players like Guentzel and Galchenyuk follow suit alongside blue-liner Marcus Pettersson and Jared McCann. What's left? Sure, you can take on Hörnqvist's contract or even get Bjugstad at a reasonable price, but if I were Seattle, I'd opt for second-year forward, Dominik Kahun. He had 37 points last season and is on pace to beat that this season, and hey, who knows what sort of wisdom Crosby has passed on to the younger players on the team?

San Jose Sharks (7-3-1) - Marcus Sörensen

  • F: Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow, Dylan Gambrell
  • D: Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Édouard Vlasic
  • G: Aaron Dell
  • Available: Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sörensen, Lukas Radil, Stefan Noesen, Brenden Dillon, Tim Heed, Radim Simek
  • Exempt: Mario Ferraro, Noah Gregor

The San Jose Sharks' defensive unit is so set in stone that two of them are on no-move-clauses, leaving the other all-star defenseman, Brent Burns, to round out the defensive slots in the protected player list. On the flip side, the Sharks will look to protect Couture, Tomas Hertl-Bieber, Timo Meier, Evander Kane, Labanc, Goodrow, and budding youngster, Dylan Gambrell. With talks about Brendan Dillon being traded this season eventual Hall of Famers - Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau soon to hang up the skates, there isn't a ton of options for Seattle to sift through when it comes to the Bay Area. The Sharks are already stretched thin in terms of depth and the window for them to win a Stanley Cup might've closed in the past couple of years. Look for Seattle to take Marcus Sörensen in this one.

St. Louis Blues (7-3-1) - David Perron

  • F: Ryan O'Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist, Samuel Blais, Jordan Kyrou
  • D: Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk
  • G: Jordan Binnington
  • Available: Alexander Steen, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Zachary Sanford, Ivan Barbashev, Jacob De La Rose, Robert Thomas, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo

I think there's a bit of recency bias when it comes to the St. Louis Blues. Having come off a Stanley Cup Championship, a lot of these names sound and feel a bit more familiar than some of the other teams on this list. With that being said, this list hinges solely off the contract extension that Alex Pietrangelo may or may not get on behalf of the St. Louis Blues. Obviously, that could open up space to keep on Bortuzzo or Gunnarsson if he does jump ship. On the offensive size, Seattle has the pick of the litter in players like Bozak, Perron, Sanford, and Barbashev. I'd say Seattle hits it right in the middle - a player that's not too expensive, but also not too cheap and opts for a talented, experienced player in David Perron.

Tampa Bay Lightning (7-3-1) - Tyler Johnson

  • F: Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde
  • D: Victor Hedman, Cal Foote, Mikhail Sergachev
  • G: Andrei Vasilevskiy
  • Available: Tyler Johnson, Cédric  Paquette, Patrick Maroon, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Braydon Coburn, Erik Cernak
  • Exempt: Nolan Foote

On paper, this Tampa Bay team is STACKED. It's insane. I couldn't even pick who I wanted to protect because I wanted to protect EVERYONE. I opted to protect some of the younger players in Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli and carried that same thought process in protecting Cal Foote over Kevin Shattenkirk (assuming he resigns in the summer) so that Cal could play alongside Nolan. I doubt that Seattle would pick up the contract of Ryan McDonagh, but they would be interested in the addition of Tyler Johnson as a first-line left-winger for the team given the fact that he grew up in Spokane, Washington and is deep-rooted in that area as he played for the WHL's Spokane Chiefs and could be drawn to the idea of being "back home" and playing for the new team in Seattle. It's a hefty contract that goes into 2024, but it's the best option for Seattle to pursue out of all the players that are available on Tampa Bay's roster.

tyler johnson tampa bay lightning hometown spokane washington seattle draft expansion draft new nhl team sockeye team name draft players whl
(Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Toronto Maple Leafs (7-3-1) - Alexander Kerfoot

  • F: Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman
  • D: Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott
  • G: Freddie Andersen
  • Available: Andres Johnsson, Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie
  • Exempt: Rasmus Sandin

Aside from the obvious protections and Tavares' no-move-clause, our picks came down to either keeping on Kerfoot or Johnsson as we opted to keep Kapanen and assumed that the Leafs would extend Hyman's contract come 2021. Seattle will most likely focus on the offensive end of players that the Leafs have to offer due to the murkiness in Toronto's blue-line situation. Outside of Morgan Rielly, their top defensive pairings have contracts that expire in 2020 or 2021, which leaves the door open for new contracts and new faces. For right now, Rielly, Muzzin, and Dermott are our picks to stay with Ceci and Barrie either looking elsewhere or getting extensions, which would be an interesting shakeup in who gets protected afterward. Johnsson has been having a stellar season, so Kerfoot misses the cut and gets scooped up by Seattle in this one.

Vancouver Canucks (7-3-1) - Thatcher Demko

  • F: Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette
  • D: Alexander Edler, Tyler Myers, Olli Juolevi
  • G: Jacob Markström
  • Available: Brandon Sutter, Micheal Ferland, Sven Baertschi, Christopher Tanev, Jordie Benn, Troy Stecher, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte, Thatcher Demko
  • Exempt: Quinn Hughes

Seattle has some decisions to make when it comes to Vancouver. On one side, Tanev is a UFA in 2020, which means a contract extension could bump Olli Juolevi off the protected list. Outside of the obvious protections on the offensive end, I think Seattle looks to grab a younger player from a Canucks roster that is already so young, talented, and filled with potential. With Quinn Hughes exempt from the list, and most quality forwards off the board, the Canucks will likely lose the luxury of having a tandem of quality goaltenders as Seattle will look to poach Thatcher Demko and putting the spotlight on Markström in Vancouver.

Washington Capitals (7-3-1) - Christian Djoos

  • F: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Bäckström, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Jakub Vrána
  • D: John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempný
  • G: Braden Holtby
  • Available: Richard Pánik, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd, Radko Gudas, Nick Jensen, Christian Djoos

The Capitals are here to stay and continue to dominate. The seven selected forwards were also the top seven highest-paid players on the team with Ovechkin leading the way with his $9.5 million dollar contract and Jakub Vrána closing things out with his $3.3 million dollar contract. Norris Trophy contender John Carlson is locked up until 2026, which is good news for the Capitals. Our bet is that Seattle rounds out their defensive unit by looking past Gudas and Jensen and instead opting for Christian Djoos - a quality blue-liner who is young and comes at a reasonable contract.

Winnipeg Jets (7-3-1) - Andrew Copp

  • F: Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Adam Lowry, Jack Roslovic
  • D: Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Sami Niku
  • G: Connor Hellebuyck
  • Available: Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Copp, Nick Shore, Dustin Byfuglien, Dmitry Kulikov
  • Exempt: David Gustafsson

Winnipeg has a surprising amount of players that they'll look to protect when the grim reaper Seattle comes around to snag a player from their roster. With Blake Wheeler on a no-move-clause and younger players like Connor, Scheifele, Laine, Ehlers, and Roslovic all landing a spot on the protected list, this leaves players like Mathieu Perreault, Bryan Little, and Andrew Copp up for grabs. Although Seattle could seek out dipping into Winnipeg's defensive side, I think they'll opt for a good value in a young player in center Andrew Copp.

Overall Summary

Here's the team that we drafted by lines:

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