One of the most anticipated days of the NHL offseason is finally here, as the league has announced which players will be available to the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft.
Each team was required to make a certain number of players available to Seattle, and the Chicago Blackhawks have formally submitted their list, with 13 total players on the board for the Kraken to potentially pick up.
The big question, of course, is which Blackhawk will be packing his bags and heading to the Pacific Northwest? For your reference, here are the players available, and our prediction of who will ultimately pull on the Kraken sweater next season.
Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Brett Connolly, Josh Dickinson, Adam Gaudette, Vinnie Hinostroza, Brandon Pirri, John Quenneville, Zack Smith
There was a bit of drama over which forwards the Blackhawks would leave unprotected in the expansion draft, and the team opted to keep Dylan Strome and David Kampf, at least for the short-term, while allowing Seattle to look over players like Carpenter, Connolly and Gaudette.
Connolly would obviously be a player the Blackhawks wouldn’t be too upset to lose, mostly because of his $3.5 million cap hit, but if Seattle swings for the fences and goes for a player like Gabriel Landeskog or Carey Price in the expansion draft, then cap space will be at more of a premium for the club, and could rule them out on Connolly.
Gaudette is another interesting possibility for Seattle. He is a restricted free agent, but he likely won’t command much of a raise from his $950,000 cap hit last season. He never quite recovered after testing positive for COVID during the season, but if he’s back in full health for the coming year, then he could be a very intriguing prospect for Seattle should they choose to go in that direction.
Defensemen: Calvin de Haan, Anton Lindholm, Nikita Zadorov
The Blackhawks freed up a protection spot when they traded Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers, and they used it on the player that they got back in that trade, defenseman Caleb Jones.
Connor Murphy was almost a shoe-in for a protection spot, but the decision to protect Riley Stillman over Nikita Zadorov was one that caught at least some Blackhawks fans by surprise. Yes, the Blackhawks did just re-sign Stillman to a deal with a $1.35 million annual cap hit, but they also gave up Brandon Saad to acquire Zadorov, and the team had hoped that the defenseman would be a physical difference-maker on their blue line.
That didn’t quite pan out in 2020-21, and there are rumors that the team is ready to move on from Zadorov. Even still, he is a player who is only 26 years of age, and he’ll be looking to take another step forward in his development in the coming season.
The inclusion of de Haan on the unprotected list isn’t a terrible shock, as the blue liner has dealt with several injuries and carries a $4.55 million cap hit next season. Seattle could conceivably take him if they’re convinced he has a clean bill of health, but with only 44 games played and one goal and nine assists last season, it doesn’t seem like he’d be the most obvious choice in the draft.
Goaltenders: Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban
The Blackhawks have three goaltenders under contract for next season, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were going to protect Kevin Lankinen, which is exactly what they did.
Subban appeared in 16 games last season, with a 3.20 goals against average and a .900 save percentage, so he would seem to be the more attractive candidate compared to Delia, who appeared in just six games and had a 1-3-1 record with a 3.59 goals against average.
Both netminders are very affordable next season, with Delia making $1 million and Subban collecting $850,000, but both are 27 years of age, and it’s unclear what their future roles in the NHL will be.
Who’s Going to Go?
The three most likely players to be taken, at least in our estimation, would be Carpenter, Subban or Zadorov.
Carpenter isn’t the best offensive player to ever lace up a pair of skates, but he has several things working in his favor. He has versatility between wing and center, as well as a cheap contract that will only pay him $1 million next season.
Add to that his ability on the penalty kill, where he finished just behind David Kampf in terms of time on ice per game this season with the Blackhawks, and you have a player that could certainly draw some interest.
Subban is a bit more of a wild card. He appeared in 16 games for the Blackhawks this season, with a 6-8-1 record, a 3.20 goals against average and a .900 save percentage, so he isn’t the best statistical goalie on earth, but for a team looking for a solid second or third-string option in net, he is certainly an intriguing pick, especially with a salary below $1 million per season.
Zadorov is also a player that could potentially garner some interest from the Kraken. Unlike de Haan, there really isn’t much of an injury concern with the physical defenseman, and although he only had one goal and seven assists, Seattle might look at him as a player with untapped potential, who could thrive in a new system after struggling to adjust in Chicago.
His contract situation might complicate things for Seattle, who may not be willing to give him a significant raise from the $3.2 million he made with the Blackhawks last season. If they can get him to agree to a deal around the $4 million mark, he could potentially make a solid second-pairing defenseman, and one that would allow Seattle to make some other higher-priced moves.
All things considered, Carpenter would seem to be the player that would make the most sense in terms of filling needs and coming with a low price tag, but Seattle might be tempted to see what they can do with Zadorov. We’ll lean toward Zadorov being the pick, with Carpenter just behind him.