The expansion draft comes to Seattle this offseason as the Kraken officially become the 32nd team in the NHL. Each team is forced to give up one of their players to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It’s no different in the case of the New York Rangers, with one of their players going to Seattle. So, who do the Rangers lose in the expansion draft?
The rules of the expansion draft are the same as the Vegas draft. Seattle must have a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2021-22 season, with a minimum number of players per position. Teams protecting players have 2 choices in how they get to protect them. They can either keep 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and a goalie or 8 skaters (forwards or defensemen) and a goalie.
Based on the eligible players for the draft, the Rangers will likely take the first option and protect 7 forwards. Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Chris Kreider all have NMCs, so they must be protected. With 4 spots left for forwards, the Rangers will protect Filip Chytil, Ryan Strome, and Pavel Buchnevich. With the last spot, they should protect Colin Blackwell. It’s a close call for Blackwell, but he performed well last year and will likely be protected from Seattle.
The three defensemen that will be protected are Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, and Libor Hajek. Trouba has an NMC, and Lindgren is the best defensemen that are not exempt from the draft. The last spot goes to either Hajek or Brendan Smith, and it’ll most likely be Hajek.
The Seattle Kraken will select Julien Gauthier from the New York Rangers. Realistically it comes down to two players: Gauthier and Brett Howden. Howden has been talked about as a potential candidate, but Gauthier is a better fit for Seattle. Gauthier has a much higher ceiling and is better than Howden in most ways. Kraken GM Ron Francis also drafted Gauthier in 2016, and will most likely want him back. And while Howden may better at defense, Gauthier brings more to the table.
Gauthier is a perfect young forward for Seattle. He perfectly compliments any team building for the future and is a great fit for Seattle. Gauthier could make great strides as a player in Seattle if he gets picked. He’d be a solid middle-six option who can provide valuable depth scoring for them. If they picked Howden, he would be most likely a bottom-six forward who plays more defensively. This could be useful for Seattle too, but it’s more likely that they take Gauthier due to his higher upside.
A Surprise Selection
With either Gauthier or Howden an essential lock for the pick, it won’t come as much of a surprise seeing either of them in a Seattle Kraken jersey. But for Seattle fans that hope for something more, there’s another potential pick they could make.
Ryan Strome will be a UFA this offseason unless the Rangers choose to bring him back. The Rangers had shown before the season that they probably wouldn’t keep Strome after this year. While that has most likely changed, it’s always a possibility he goes unprotected. The Rangers have also been in talks about signing or trading for another big-name center for a while now. This could also mean the end of Strome’s tenure. If the Rangers didn’t want to resign Strome, they could just let Seattle take him.
The Kraken would be incredibly lucky to have a solid top 6 line center in Strome. When paired with the right people he can absolutely dominate. He had 49 points in 56 games on a line with Panarin, so he can certainly score. And when Panarin was gone he stepped up and led the second line. Strome would be a valuable asset to any team, and Seattle could use a talent like him.
While Seattle most likely won’t get him, it’s definitely an idea to think about. That being said, Seattle will most likely take Gauthier.