It’s been four seasons, and we don’t have to tell you that the Vegas Golden Knights still lack a legit first-line center, Respect to Chandler Stephenson, who performed yeoman’s work, but a stud down the middle who can change games or crack a tightly packed defensive team still eludes the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights pending division rival, the Seattle Kraken, are headed down a similar path, though they could get lucky if they have the guts to take on a large salary of a player who slumped last season.
The NHL will announce the Seattle expansion draft picks Wednesday at 5 p.m., though leaked footage on Instagram showed Kevin Weekes at the fish market announcing names. So, Seattle is narrowing their choices or already making picks. A few big names are still unknowns, and goalie Carey Price is still twisting in the wind.
VHN will throw our best shot at the expansion draft. Given the secrecy surrounding Seattle’s process, we’re hoping to bat 50%. We also invite you to make a few picks in the comments too.
The $81.5 million salary cap will work against Seattle as the best players exposed from too many teams are expensive veterans who have recently failed to live up to their contract, like Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Vegas Golden Knights pilfered NHL teams with side deals such as getting Jonathan Marchessault AND Reilly Smith from Florida in a midnight madness BOGO sale. Marc-Andre Fleury came gift wrapped with a second-round pick, and Alex Tuch was makegood, so then-GM George McPhee picked another from Minnesota.
NHL GMs got wise. Seattle GM Ron Francis altered his plans, too. Those side deals just weren’t there, so Francis tripled the price rather than accept pennies on the dollar.
So, better players are available.
We gambled big down the middle picks. There is only one free agent pivot who scored more than 31 points last season (David Krejci), so it’s a pretty weak UFA class. The Pittsburgh Penguins protected list included both their centers who could have been exposed, Teddy Blueger and Jeff Carter.
We’re only going to fill the lineup, not all 30, and we can’t predict trades (except the publicized likely trade with Florida), so we’ll skip those, too.
PHN Expansion Draft
- Ryan Johansen, Nashville (He makes $8 million x four more seasons. He popped only 22 points (7-15-22) last season, but he’s 28 and only two seasons removed from three straight solid productions, 61, 54, and 64 points, respectively).
- Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay
- Max Domi, Columbus
- Adam Gaudette, Chicago
- James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia
- Jared McCann, Toronto
- Frank Vatrano, trade with Florida for Chris Driedger
- Conor Sheary, Washington
- Nino Niederreiter, Carolina
- Kieffer Bellow, Islanders (read Christian Arnold’s report from NYIHockeyNow. The Islanders are pushing hard for Seattle to take Jordan Eberle, we pass based on money).
- Jonas Donskoi, Colorado
- Brendan Lemieux, Los Angeles (He’s $2 million less than Brandon Tanev, which saves money and opens the door for Marcus Pettersson).
- LHD Mark Giordano, Calgary (Captain)
- LHD Marcus Pettersson, Pittsburgh Penguins
- LHD Haydn Fleury, Anaheim
- RHD Troy Stetcher, Detroit
- RHD Connor Clifton, Boston
- RHD Vince Dunn, St. Louis
- Chris Driedger, Florida
Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota (Carey Price’s injuries, with that contract, are just too risky)
Now for the math: After several attempts, this lineup costs about $65 million, pending Vince Dunn’s new contract. That cap hit should allow plenty of money for depth players and to chase free agents. Hello Ryan Suter? Mike Hoffman?
I went back and forth on Tarasenko. Could Seattle pick and flip him? The offers weren’t that good on Saturday, so despite my desire for a star, Tarasenko isn’t my guy. Vince Dunn was a better pick than Kevin Shattenkirk, so we went that route.
How do you think we did?