In less than one month, the Seattle Kraken will take part in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
It's been well-documented that this year's draft won't be as injurious to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Vegas edition, where the club bribed the Golden Knights to take William Karlsson (and a first-round pick!) in order to keep Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo, etc. Still, the Blue Jackets will lose a roster player. With the obvious caveat that plenty could change between now and the draft, it seems likely that they will choose the 7-3-1 (F-D-G) approach.
The Athletic's NHL staff recently completed a mock draft for the Kraken, and two of the three writers picked Eric Robinson. The other picked Dean Kukan, who will almost surely be exposed. But is it a guarantee that Robinson will be exposed?
It's more or less a given that the club will protect Oliver Bjorkstrand and Patrik Laine, and it would be shocking if they didn't protect Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, and Jack Roslovic. That's five right there. With one year remaining on his contract, it would be surprising if they exposed Max Domi, even though he underperformed in his first year in Columbus.
That leaves decisions to be made on Gus Nyquist, Eric Robinson, and Kevin Stenlund. Our Sam Blazer recently analyzed why Stenlund would or wouldn't make sense to expose the lanky centerman. New head coach Brad Larsen went out of his way to specifically point out Robinson as a player that is on the rise in the organization. And while Nyquist is a solid player, perhaps the Blue Jackets could sneak a soon-to-be-32-year old coming off major shoulder surgery, who happens to be making $5.5M AAV for the next two seasons, through the draft untouched.
Defensively, much of the decision hinges on Seth Jones. If the club trades him before the expansion draft, the calculus will change. If not, they will clearly protect him, Zach Werenski, and Vladislav Gavrikov. That would leave Kukan (and others, like Scott Harrington, Michael Del Zotto, etc.) exposed. It's certainly possible that Seattle takes Kukan, a 27-year old on an expiring and inexpensive contract.
It's also possible that the Kraken select Matiss Kivlenieks, the organization's number three goalie. That doesn't seem like it would be a huge loss, but consider what that would mean if the Blue Jackets move on from one of Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. The 24-year old Kivlenieks is signed for one more season at $725k before he becomes an RFA. That cost and contract certainty may be appealing as the Kraken build out their organization.
If it were my decision, I would lean towards exposing Nyquist. For a rebuilding club, I'd rather have Stenlund/Robinson than a more expensive pending UFA coming off shoulder surgery. Plus, I'd be surprised if Seattle, a forward-thinking organization, would take on the financial, age, and injury-related risks associated with Nyquist. That would likely mean that Seattle would take Kukan, which is a manageable loss, all things considered.