As the NHL season kicks off this week, here are some storylines Seattle Kraken fans should keep an eye on with the teams from the conference formerly known as the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins do not have many questions leading up to the Expansion Draft this summer. The Kraken will probably focus on evaluating the skill level of some of the younger options in that organization.
Specifically, Trent Frederic, 22, and Jakub Zboril, 23, who played 99 percent of their games in the AHL last season.
Is Buffalo a playoff team? Once we know the answer to that, we will get a better read on what they do with Taylor Hall.
Hall signed a one-year deal this summer, but if Buffalo is out of the playoff race around the trade deadline, the Sabres might salvage his value by trading him for draft picks. Assuming Hall does not sign a contract extension in Buffalo (or with another team), he won’t be protected and the Kraken will have the opportunity to sign Hall during the club’s 48-hour exclusive free agent negotiating window.
I have a huge bias for young players when looking at the Expansion Draft and two names that I have had circled for a long time are Morgan Geekie and Jake Bean.
Both players are 22. Geekie played two games in the NHL last year while Bean was in the AHL the entire season. The question is how much do we see them this year and what type of steps do they take in their professional careers?
In case things don’t go well for either of these guys, Haydn Fleury, 24, is the next one on deck.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Will they move Pierre-Luc Dubois before the Expansion Draft?
Dubois projects to be an elite center in the NHL, but he recently expressed interest in getting traded out of Columbus. If they do trade him, the questions become who they get in return and how does that player impact who they protect in the Expansion Draft.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit is not a team Kraken fans should be overly excited about right now, but one to monitor for the Expansion Draft is how good Danny DeKeyser looks since undergoing back surgery early in the 2019-20 season.
There aren’t a whole lot of open questions in Florida. If I am isolating a few players to put on a Kraken watch list in Florida it is Markus Nutivaara and MacKenzie Weegar. At least one of them will be exposed in the Expansion Draft.
Montreal possesses a glut of quality forwards on expiring contracts. Joel Armia, Phillip Danault, and Tomas Tatar are all notable forwards that Montreal would love to keep beyond this season. If the Canadiens sign any of these players to extensions, they will want to protect them in the Expansion Draft.
New Jersey Devils
Can Ryan Murray stay healthy in New Jersey?
I love the former Everett Silvertip and I am absolutely rooting for him to have a great season. Staying healthy has been a huge challenge for the 27-year-old blue liner, though. If he stays healthy and has a solid season, he could be protected in New Jersey which will expose PK Subban, though Subban also needs to have a bit of a rebound season to be considered by the Kraken next summer.
Additionally, Kyle Palmieri is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and if they resign him, it will impact the Devils protected list.
New York Islanders
Do the Islanders expose Josh Bailey or Jordan Eberle? And what kind of season do we see out of Otto Koivula and Kieffer Bellows? It is likely that only one of the four players mentioned can be protected, so we should keep an eye on all of them.
New York Rangers
Will Ryan Strome maintain his playing from last year when he was close to a point-per-game player? Or will he play at a level more in line with his career? And not that this has anything to do with the Kraken, but we’re all curious to see how Alexis Lafreniere fares as a rookie.
The Senators won’t offer a large selection to choose from come the Expansion Draft, but they might have a goalie of interest. They added Matt Murray from Pittsburgh this offseason, and if he delivers on his expectations, he will be the protected netminder. That would expose Joey Daccord, a highly respected 24-year-old goalie prospect, for the Kraken.
Nolan Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 season due to migraine issues, is forecasted as one of the protected forwards in Philadelphia. He is at camp and is reportedly moving full steam ahead for the coming season, but there is still questions about whether he can fight off the health issues that kept him out last year.
If he is healthy and can perform, then he will be protected, exposing Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Jakub Voracek.
Pittsburgh will more than likely expose two of the three forwards of Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger, or Jared McCann. Ideally all of them have great years to provide Seattle quality options.
Tampa Bay Lightning
If the Lighting protect four defensemen in the Expansion Draft it will come down to their confidence in 2017 first-round draft pick, Cal Foote. Foote is expected to make his NHL debut this year and should be able to showcase his long-term potential in the NHL.
If Foote lives up to expectations, the Lightning will protect him with fellow defensemen Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak. Protecting four defensemen will force the Lightning to expose forwards Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, and Alexander Volkov.
Toronto Maple Leafs
There is not much debate on who the Maple Leafs will protect in the Expansion Draft. Travis Dermot should be exposed on defense. In the forward group, Kraken fans might want to keep an eye on pending UFA Jimmy Vesey to see if he shows any promise for Seattle.
Alex Ovechkin is on the last year of his contract with the Capitals. There is no doubt in my mind that Ovi will play in Washington next season, but it seems to me they could save a valuable spot in their protected list by waiting for him to get to free agency and then signing him.
Those are just some of the storylines to keep an eye on in the Eastern Conference this year.
Boston, no question marks….REALLY!?! They have several injuries among their top forwards and have to replace their captain Zdeno Chara and Tory Krug on defense. They will be good, but they will have to have others step up on the forward lines and who will fill in on defense. Krug ran the PP and they’ve don’t really have another in the system like him.
Hall to Seattle? Maybe in your wildest dreams. If Buffalo show signs of improvement and he likes playing with Eichel, he may choose to stay. If they are out of it, Buffalo will probably move him at the trade deadline, as a rental. There in no way Hall ends up in Seattle.
Carolina may expose Skjei on defense and not the youngsters. Skjei is a puck moving defenseman, with a high offensive game, but he’s a liability as far as his defensive game goes. They could expose Jesper Fast in the forward group and with his $2 million contract, Quicky’s not overly expensive, he plays a 200 foot game, he’s fast [no pun intended], has great feet and hands. Jesper will not be a high scorer, he can supply some offense and he’s a leader. He plays with grit and doesn’t shy away from scrums in the corners and along the half boards. he would still be with the Rangers, if they had room for him, but it was a numbers game there. If I was the Kraken, I would take a serious look at him.
The NY Islanders may expose Bellows, but he’s been a major disappointment to the organization. He didn’t do anything in college, then joined a loaded Winterhawk team, where I could have put up respectable numbers. In two seasons with their AHL team, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, with 34 goals and only 16 assists in 125 games. The Islanders need some offense, yet he hasn’t been able to crack their lineup yet? Plus he plays a bit soft, in my opinion. With the ‘taxi squad’, he might stick around for awhile this season, but more than likely he’s an AHL player, at best. Seattle should stay away from him.
With the Rangers, I believe Strome is gone by the trade deadline, along with Tony DeAngelo. The Rangers are reportedly in on trade rumors for Dubois and if that comes down, I would imagine Strome and others, will be going the other way. I would also kick in DeAngelo and his racist views, just to get him out of NY. He’s expendable anyway, because youngsters are coming up and he would be a very expensive 3 pair right defenseman, because he won’t replace Trouba and Fox on the right side. It looks like K Andre Miller is going to make the team on the left side, so the side has now been shored up, plus they have more youngsters in the system, who aren’t far away. The experiment of using DeAngelo on the left side, didn’t work. The Rangers do have some tough decisions to make before the expansion draft, but there are really no diamonds in the rough, but they do have some bottom 6 options and a couple young D prospects that will be made available, who haven’t lived up to expectations.
If Murry from the Sens is made available and he looks like he can still play, I would take him. Ottawa will probably be at the bottom of the Canadian [Northern] division, but they shouldn’t be a push over this season. Murry could also be a trade deadline bargaining chip.
As far as Tampa goes, if he clears wavers, Johnson will be exposed, if he isn’t part of a trade. The lightening tried desperately to trade him this whole off season, but he has that no movement clause and teams shy away from his cap hit. If he waves his NMC, he could be an expansion option, but there is that salary. Being a Spokane boy, he would add that to the Kraken and he still has some game left, although he’s not the player he once was.
Vesey of Toronto isn’t the answer, unless he has a bounce back season. I wouldn’t even really call it a bounce back season, because he has nothing to bounce back from. I was a huge Vesey fan when he played for Team USA at the World Juniors and I was thrilled he signed with the Rangers out of college, but he was a major disappointment and he couldn’t even stick with Buffalo. He has speed, but plays soft and gets knocked off the puck way too easily. I wouldn’t want him on my team.
If made available at the Expansion draft by the Caps, I would throw a lot of consideration towards taking Oshie. He appears to have a lot of gas left in the tank, even at age 34, potting 26 goals and 23 assists, in a shortened season. He ranks high in speed, accuracy, puke handling, all around skill, has leadership qualities and is a good teammate. He’s lights out on penalty shots and has a Cup ring. Plus being raised in the Seattle area, he would bring that element to the team and be a fan favorite. I would take him in a heart beat.
You, uhhhh, got your division wrong. Pretty sure Ottawa and Toronto aren’t playing in the same division as any of those US teams this year…
This is the Eastern Conference, or what used to be known as the Eastern Conference. He’ll be doing the Western teams in the coming days, but none of this is meant to be broken down by division.