The Seattle Kraken will be the 32nd team in the NHL and the franchise revealed its team name, logo and jerseys on Thursday. It's awesome. More importantly, Thursday was a good reminder that the expansion draft is just a season away.
Following the 2020-21 season, every team in the NHL is going to lose a player to Seattle as the Kraken are unleashed. A lot can happen to a roster in a full year, but as of now, here are the six most likely players Seattle could select from Washington.
6. Jonas Siegenthaler
Full disclosure, I don't think this will happen which is why I put it at the bottom of the list, but simple math tells me the Caps are going to leave a defenseman exposed that they don't want to (more on that later). Each team will be able to protect eight total skaters and a goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. Most likely, Washington will choose the latter option in order to protect more players.
John Carlson will absolutely be protected, but after that there are several players you could make a case for.
Siegenthaler is only 23 and on the final year of his entry-level contract. He is not going to break the bank next season with his new deal so this makes him an intriguing option. A budding top-four defenseman only 23 years old and on a good contract? That would be hard to pass up for Seattle...if he were available. But I don't think he will be and the team will protect him.
5. Nick Jensen
Yes, Jensen has struggled since coming to Washington, but he was turning the corner before the season was paused and there is always value in right defensemen as they can be hard to find. Even if he never lives up to his top-four potential in Washington, he certainly did in Detroit so it is not hard to think Seattle would at least be intrigued by him.
4. Braden Holtby
Holtby comes in at No. 4 for one simple reason: I don't think he will be re-signed by Washington. For Holtby to return to the Caps next season, it would have to be on a short-term, cheap deal without a no-movement clause. It does not make sense for a 30-year-old goalie with declining numbers to sign a short-term deal in the hopes that his numbers will somehow improve as he gets older, especially one who still sees himself as a starting goalie which I doubt he would be beyond this season.
If, however, Holtby and general manager Brian MacLellan somehow get a deal done, it would have to come without a no-movement clause because the team certainly is not going to protect Holtby over Ilya Samsonov. That would make him available to Seattle in the expansion draft.
if I thought a new deal was likely, Holtby would probably be No. 1 on the list, but I don't so he drops to No. 4.
3. Dmitry Orlov
It certainly sounds as if Brenden Dillon would be open to a new deal with Washington. If that happens, it immediately makes Orlov expendable because this team has too many left defensemen.
Dillon, Orlov, Siegenthaler, Michal Kempny, Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev are all left defensemen. Something's got to give.
Orlov is a top-four defenseman who is 29 and will have an additional two years remaining on his contract when the expansion draft rolls around. That's a valuable asset, and that actually may be why this doesn't happen.
Most likely, the Caps are going to need to find a top-four right defenseman in the offseason. They are a cap team and the salary cap is going to be flat so the team is not going to have much room to work with and that could mean moving a player to make room fora righty. When you have a player with as much value as Orlov who is also expendable, you trade that asset if for no other reason than to clear cap space. You don't sit on it for a year just so you can lose him for nothing in an expansion draft.
2. Michal Kempny
What!?! The savior of the 2018 playoffs? A top-pair defenseman (when he's healthy)? Surely this cannot be true!
Believe it. The mat just is not on the Caps' side here.
As I mentioned before, Carlson is going to be protected from the expansion draft, but who are the other two defensemen the team could protect? Maybe it will be Kempny. Maybe he reverts to his top-pair form now that he is far enough removed from the hamstring injury and he proves to be invaluable. Plus, with a cap hit of only $2.5 million, that is exactly the type of defenseman the team needs to stay under the cap ceiling. I honestly would not be surprised if he is protected.
But I also would not be surprised if he wasn't.
Let's think of the rest of the defense. Would the team re-sign Dillon just to leave him exposed a year later? Would it make sense to add another body to a crowded defensive core if the team would be OK losing him for nothing next year? If the team doesn't re-sign him, then doesn't it become important to hold onto Orlov? If MacLellan finds a top-four right defenseman to play behind Carlson in the offseason, do they leave him exposed after how long it took to find one? What about the 23-year-old Siegenthaler? Would MacLellan be OK leaving a young defenseman exposed just to possibly get poached the same way Vegas took Nate Schmidt in 2017?
When you start to think about it, there are several defensive players Washington would most likely want to protect from the expansion draft...more than the three allowed. There is going to be a good defenseman left exposed and that player is going to be a very attractive option for the Kraken.
1. T.J. Oshie
Just to give you the short version though, Oshie will be 34 at the time of the expansion draft and will only be halfway through an eight-year contract that carries a cap hit of $5.75 million. A flat salary cap is going to hurt more and more as Oshie gets deeper into his 30s.
Oshie's cap hit would essentially be a non-factor for a Seattle. He was also born in Washington state and lived there for several years before moving to Minnesota. And, for a franchise building a team from scratch, Oshie is exactly the kind of person Seattle will need, a natural leader and someone who can be a fan favorite. If he puts up similar numbers next season to what he did in 2019-20 (26 goals, 23 assists in 69 games), I would be stunned if Seattle passes on him.
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