It felt like Christmas morning, the first day of school, and the last day of school all at the same time. Sunday morning, we got to see the list of players that could potentially be joining the Seattle Kraken roster during this week’s Expansion Draft.
There were surprise names along with those we expected, and now Kraken general manager Ron Francis and his staff are diving into the lists to decide on who they will draft.
It sounds easy but there are so many factors to weigh, and it becomes complicated quickly. How old is a guy? What’s his cap hit? Will this young player keep developing? Will picking this player mean you can’t select this other guy?
As the saying goes, it’s why Francis makes the big bucks.
We’ll find out how the Kraken decide to build the initial roster Wednesday night when the Expansion Draft takes place at Gas Works Park. There will be cheers and maybe groans as the players are revealed, but that’s the fun of it.
With that in mind, here are five players that the Kraken should take in the Expansion Draft and five that they should not.
The Kraken should not draft these five players
Carey Price – Goalie – Montreal
The Kraken should not select Carey Price during the Expansion Draft. The intrigue in taking him makes sense. He’s been a top goalie in the league, was good during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs, and would be a popular player due to his reputation and local connections. Those are great sentimental reasons but don’t win hockey games.
The biggest reason to avoid Price is he has a $10.5 million a year cap hit. While that is a high number, it’s the term that is a killer. Price will turn 34 in a month, and his contract runs for five more seasons. The Kraken want to keep some cap flexibility through this draft as they move forward, and Price takes up too much of the pie to do that. As a comparison, the Vegas Golden Knights pay $12 million for both Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury and are looking for a way to lower that number via a potential trade of one of those players. It’s a number Price comes close to by himself.
Beyond that, his recent regular season numbers suggest he could be a player on the decline. His regular season save percentage of .901 last season was below the league average of .908. This was the second straight year, and third in the last four, that he’s fallen below the league average. He was 20th in goals saved above average during five-on-five play, which is not the number of an elite goalie.
Price is not the goalie that he once was and the Kraken should not be weighed down by his cap hit moving forward. On top of that, there are now reports that he may be dealing with a knee and hip injury and could miss portions of the upcoming season. He’s just not worth the cap hit.
Jakub Voracek – Forward – Philadelphia Flyers
Voracek’s exposure by the Flyers was not a surprise, at least, not to us here at Sound Of Hockey. Still productive, Voracek, 31, can be penciled in for 20 goals a season and could provide the Kraken with some needed offensive punch. But he comes with a steep price. Seattle would be on the hook for three seasons of $8.25 million a year. It’s a high number, and while it could be manageable, the Kraken have cheaper options. James van Riemsdyk is available from Philadelphia and matches Voracek’s production, at least last season, and he has a better contract. He’s a million dollars cheaper and with a year less of term which makes him the better choice from the Flyers if you’re looking for a top-six forward.
Tyler Johnson – Center – Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson is another player who carries a lot of sentimental value but is not a top option for Seattle. Johnson is from Spokane and won a championship with the hometown Chiefs in the WHL. He’s won at every level with a Calder Cup in the AHL and now back-to-back Stanley Cup wins. He’s available and still has some value on the ice after playing well in the Final. But the Lightning unprotected list has a ton of players, most of which are more productive at this point in their careers. Johnson’s contract pays him $5.5 million for the next three years, which isn’t ideal for a guy who most likely would be a third center. Seattle has better options out of Tampa with players like Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde, but if Francis can pull a deal that involves Johnson — Tampa has been looking to shed his contract — and other assets then maybe he’s the choice. Still, the Kraken should not select him straight up.
Alex Kerfoot – Left Wing – Toronto Maple Leafs
When the protection lists were released Sunday, there was a feeling that Kerfoot was the easy choice to make from the Maple Leafs. He’s been a steady contributor during his four-year career, although his production dipped after moving from the Colorado Avalanche to Toronto. Kerfoot isn’t bad and could slot into the middle of Seattle’s lineup, but his possession numbers aren’t great. At five-on-five, Kerfoot was a negative player last season, down from the previous year, as was his expected goals (49%) mark. We may be nitpicking here, but there is a better option out of Toronto, which we will get to shortly.
Ryan Johansen – Center – Nashville Predators
Johansen broke out with big offensive seasons playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013 and 2014 — with 33- and 26-goal seasons — but he hasn’t hit the 20-goal mark since. His points per game have declined the past two seasons, dropping to .46 this last year, which is the worst of his career. Those numbers make it hard to justify paying him $8 million a year through 2025. Seattle does need to spend money but there are more productive, high-end contracts available elsewhere.
The Kraken should draft these five guys
Jake Bean – Defense – Carolina Hurricanes
At one point late in the season it looked like the Hurricanes might protect Bean in the Expansion Draft, but it’s to Seattle’s gain that he was ultimately left available. Bean is a young defenseman, 23 years old, and has tremendous upside. The former Tri-City American, who was a first-round draft pick of Ron Francis’ during his tenure as general manager in Carolina, has already developed a solid pro hockey track record. His two AHL seasons with the Charlotte Checkers were good and ended with Bean being named AHL Defenseman of the Year in 2020.
He moved into the NHL full time last season and began earning more playing time with the Hurricanes as the season wore on. He scored a goal with 11 assists, which is respectable for a 22-year-old rookie, but it’s his underlying numbers that are encouraging. Bean was a positive possession player (52% Fenwick) and had an expected goals percentage of 51.8 and high-danger chances forced number of 51.6 percent. He’s young and as he further develops those numbers should only improve. Why shouldn’t the Kraken enjoy the benefits of that?
Jared McCann – Center – Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the strangest moves of the weekend was Toronto acquiring McCann from the Penguins on Saturday only to expose him Sunday. McCann should be the guy Seattle takes from the Maple Leafs – he may have also been the pick from Pittsburgh – as he would slide into the Kraken’s top-six forwards. The debate here is between McCann and Kerfoot but McCann’s numbers are better across the board as he scores at a higher point-per-game rate. If you look at his underlying numbers, they far surpass those of Kerfoot. McCann posted an expected goals percentage of 54.5 last year and was a plus possession player with a Fenwick of 53.8.
McCann is just 25 years old and has one year left on his $2.9 million contract, which means that if Seattle takes him they would have to re-sign him as a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
Max Domi – Center – Columbus Blue Jackets
Domi has had an up and down NHL career. He burst out with a great rookie season in Arizona and then a big 28-goal campaign during his first year with the Montreal Canadiens in 2019-2020. Between those high marks he’s been average, so its hard to predict just what you’re going to get from the 26-year-old. His season with the Blue Jackets last year was less than spectacular and ended with an injury that will most likely cost him the first month of the season. So, why should the Kraken draft Domi during the Expansion Draft? The answer is the same reason why three teams have acquired him. Potential. Domi has skill and can score, as he showed throughout his career in the OHL, but hasn’t yet put it together consistently in the NHL.
The list of players that Columbus has made available are less than exciting so take a flyer on a guy who could turn into a top-six center for you. He’s only going to cost you $5.3 million for one season and then becomes an unrestricted free agent which would allow Seattle to move on if he doesn’t perform. If Seattle hits the jackpot with Domi they have the option to flip him at the trade deadline or re-sign him for the future.
Vladimir Tarasenko – Right Wing – St. Louis Blues
Tarasenko is definitely a risky Expansion Draft selection for the Kraken after two seasons where he was plagued with shoulder injuries. The health issues have limited him to just 34 games over the last two seasons but if healthy, he could return to the big-time scorer that he had been prior to being hurt. Tarasenko scored 30 goals or more each of the five seasons prior to 2019-2020 and was a big part of the Blues’ Stanley Cup win in 2019. Having a sniper on the wing is a vital piece to a winning team and the Kraken would be hard-pressed to find a better one than Tarasenko.
He’s a surprise to be unprotected but has had a falling out with the team over how his injury was handled and had asked for a trade. Tarasenko isn’t cheap and comes with a $7.5 million cap hit, but Seattle has to spend money and with just two seasons left on that contract could get out from under it quickly, if needed. Seattle could flip him at the deadline or maybe even sooner.
The upside is too much to pass up, and it’s why the Kraken should absolutely select Tarasenko this week.
Ondrej Palat – Left Wing – Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning’s depth, success, and salary cap troubles have left a number of quality players for the Kraken to choose from. There may be side deals in the offering here which potentially makes predicting just one player for the Kraken to draft moot. If it is just one player, that’s a tough decision, but it comes down to Palat or Yanni Gourde. Trying to find an edge over the two is even tougher, as their numbers are nearly identical across the board. Both project to be top-six players if Seattle were to choose them. What ultimately pushes Palat out in front, by the modest of noses, is that he has a bit more offensive skill and offers more salary cap flexibility.
As close as their numbers are, both of the traditional variety and the underlying type, so are their cap hits. Gourde comes with a $5.1 million a year hit while Palat’s is $5.3 million a season. The only difference is that Gourde is under contract through 2025 while Palat has one year left on his deal. That offers Francis more flexibility with Palat than Gourde. That term would make Palat more attractive if the Kraken wanted to trade him at the deadline next season to free up space, and if not, the Kraken would have options with him at the end of the season.
Draft Palat, but if not, then take Gourde.