Capped: Looking at potential draftees for Seattle’s expansion
With no hockey going on, and a lot of the offseason processes on pause for the foreseeable future, this seems like an excellent time to take the next few articles to dive into some thoughts on the Seattle expansion team. In the lead-up to the Vegas expansion, I took a general look at the league (here), and a lot of those points are going to be valid for the Seattle situation as well. However, we can just ignore the part about Vegas being a non-cup-contender off the bat, and if Seattle's front office is any indication, they may be able to make a playoff push in their first season as well.
Let's just sum up the Vegas article in a few points, before moving on to the meat of this one:
-There will be an extra ~$80 million spent on NHL contracts next season. That has to go somewhere in your league, and inevitably, it will be on the wire. Be ready to take advantage.
-Players will be given excellent opportunities in Seattle to thrive, but don't forget about the holes that are opened up on the other 30 teams.
-An added 41 games to the schedule means an even busier, and more condensed season for us fantasy owners, so pay even more attention to scheduling quirks in the following seasons.
Now, with that out of the way, let's look into some way-too-early thoughts on how each Eastern Conference team could be affected by the Seattle expansion draft.
A few notes before I begin:
-I am making some assumptions for the selections, knowing there will be player movement in the 15 months remaining until the selection draft. If you have questions, I would be happy to answer – you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
-I am using the Capfriendly expansion tool to keep my thoughts organized.
-I will try to keep my biases out of this and will be aiming to uncover what selections may have repercussions that could affect the fantasy landscape.
Possible Seattle selection: Anders Bjork
With a deep forward corps, and Torey Krug looking like he will be leaving in free-agency, Bjork's second line upside may be the best asset available. He is an RFA this summer, and his next contract signed with the Bruins could be finished off in a Seattle uniform. This is the kind of upside piece that might just need to get out from behind some top line players before jumping up to the 50- or 60-point plateau.
Possible Seattle selection: Colin Miller
With Buffalo owning a surprisingly deep blue line, Colin Miller makes a lot of sense as a Seattle selection, having already thrived in the Vegas expansion setting. Miller could end up matching or surpassing his career high 41-point campaign set in his first year with the Golden Knights. Whether it is to Seattle or elsewhere, a move out of Buffalo may be writing on the wall at this point, which would be excellent news for fantasy owners.
Jordan Staal's NMC really throws a wrench into what otherwise would be some easy choices for the Carolina Hurricanes. Following Ron Francis to Seattle may be a selling point in Staal waiving his NMC, but if he isn't willing to, then the Hurricanes are set up to lose a prime piece. This could be a situation where Jake Bean is thrown in to keep Seattle off of Vincent Trochek, and then Bean would be able to grow into the PP1 role in Seattle.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Possible Seattle selection: Vladislav Gavrikov
Not a household name yet, but with Columbus' assortment of capable defencemen, one will have to be left unprotected. Gavrikov has the well-rounded kind of game that would fit well with an expansion team, and be able to play either a puck-moving or shutdown role.
Detroit Red Wings
Possible Seattle selection: Luke Glendening
Remember when Vegas drafted Connor Brickley from Carolina in their expansion draft? Don't worry, no one else does either. It may be a similar situation with the Seattle selection from Detroit. It will either be a depth skater without much upside like Luke Glendening, or an AHL player with some youth on his side. It's unlikely this pick amounts to much.
Possible Seattle selection: Too many options
The Panthers have a lot of work to do with a number of free agents (including Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov), as well as upside players likely to be left unprotected at every position. Trading Vincent Trochek for depth players certainly didn't help their situation. Hopefully they can at least learn from the Vegas draft and not give away two top forwards instead of just letting one be drafted.
Possible Seattle selection: Joel Armia
In outlining the selections, I left Shea Weber unprotected with the thinking that he will turn 36 before he gets a chance to suit up for Seattle, and Montreal would be okay with getting that contract off their books after another season. From there, we end up with a possible Joel Armia selection, who would slot in well as a middle winger with some sandpaper for Seattle. His production from this year could become the new norm.
New Jersey Devils
Possible Seattle selection: Nick Merkley
Surprisingly the New Jersey Devils may actually have a less appealing pool of players to choose from than Detroit. As a result, we're going to go with Nick Merkley. If he was worth enough to be traded as part of a package for Taylor Hall, we'll give him the honour of being our placeholder selection by Seattle.
Side note, since New Jersey doesn't have much to pick from, how much would they have to pay Seattle to take on the last year of Cory Schneider's $6 million AAV contract?
New York Islanders
Possible Seattle selection: Kiefer Bellows
The Seattle team won't have many former first round picks on their squad, however, Bellows could be one. The soon-to-be 22-year-old could be the odd man out among the Islanders' forward group, and would be a juicy selection that GM Ron Francis would have a tough time passing up. Another possibility would be defenceman Scott Mayfield, signed on a bargain deal until the summer of 2023, and if Vegas taught us anything, it's that you can't pick too many NHL-caliber defencemen in an expansion scenario.
New York Rangers
Possible Seattle selection: Julien Gauthier
The New York Rangers are coming along just at the right time, in that the core of their team is relatively easy to protect, but they don't have the older depth to have to worry about losing a great player either. Ron Francis' first round selection from the 2016 draft (with the Hurricanes) may be one of the pieces left available by the Rangers and could be another forward with first round pedigree to be scooped out of NY. He would provide some size and upside for the Seattle team.
Possible Seattle selection: Bobby Ryan
How I see this going down:
Ron Francis: "We're going to take a forward, we're thinking Bo…"
Eugene Melnyk interjecting: "We want you to take Bobby Ryan so we can get his contract off our books".
EM: "We're willing to give you a second-round pick to change your mind"
In all seriousness though, the Senators have 10 or 11 forwards I wanted to protect, so someone is going to have to be lost there. Ryan will only have one-year left on his contract before likely leaving Ottawa anyways, so getting his contract off the books, and Seattle giving him a fresh start could be a win for everyone.
Like Florida, Philadelphia hasn't done themselves any favours with their expansion protection group. An NMC given to Kevin Hayes ties their hands and ensures that a productive forward will be exposed. Philadelphia's depth on forward also means that some talent will be exposed on defence as well, but there are question marks with Gostisbehere and Morin, meaning Seattle would likely lean towards the proven top-line player. This could be a boon for JVR's fantasy value – though his problem has always been injuries, so unless he finds the salt air to have healing properties, that risk will still exist.
Possible Seattle selection: A goalie
The Penguins don't have too many tough skater decisions, which means that the player they lose will likely again be a goalie. Between Matt Murray (25) and Tristan Jarry (24), there are two good options, and Seattle must be licking their chops at the opportunity to have a goalie with the ability to be a top-15 starter in the league for years. Hopefully Pittsburgh doesn't have to throw another pick away to make it happen this time.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Possible Seattle selection: Erik Cernak
There will be a lot of good depth forwards left open by Tampa Bay (the best one I left unprotected was Yanni Gourde), but there should also be one of their top-four defencemen available. The fourth of which would be Erik Cernak, who would really help solidify the defensive end of the ice for Seattle. If Cernak was selected here and saw a bit of an increase in ice time, his value could jump as one of the best multi-category owns in fantasy.
Tyler Johnson is an intriguing option as well, being from close to the Seattle area. He could be a name that comes up in discussion between the Tampa and Seattle front offices.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Possible Seattle selection: Alex Kerfoot
The one advantage of Toronto's top-heavy team structure is that they won't have to give us a player as valuable as those left exposed by other teams around them in the standings. Kerfoot excelled in spurts in Colorado, but wasn't able to follow through on the potential as the third centre in Toronto. He has done well, but still there is something left to be desired. With a more balanced group in Seattle, Kerfoot should be able to find a better fit, and provide a little more value than what he has shown so far in Toronto.
Possible Seattle selection: Nick Jensen
Assuming Braden Holtby moves on to greener pastures, the Capitals don't have a lot left over after their protection selections are made. Even if Holtby doesn't move on this summer, the crease will certainly be Ilya Samsonov's after the expansion draft. Nick Jensen is under contract for a few years for a reasonable number for a top-four defenceman, and is the best of the rest available. Washington doesn't stand to miss a beat as a result of the expansion draft.
While we wait for hockey to return, stay safe everyone, and let me know what you think about the pick options!
If you have questions, comments, or article requests, you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
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