By Kris Smith
Tonight (Wednesday), Seattle Kraken will build the foundations of their franchise by assembling their first squad at the NHL Expansion Draft, the 13th of its kind since the league’s first expansion back in 1967.
On Saturday night, every NHL team, except Vegas Golden Knights, submitted a protected list to the league and Sunday morning revealed which big names and big earners had been left exposed.
Below we take you through the top five players that will be available to the Kraken.
5. Vince Dunn (St Louis Blues, $0 contract, RFA)
The 24-year-old defenseman already has a Stanley Cup ring and four years of NHL experience under his belt, but he is the standout defensive option for Seattle with his current status as a Restricted Free Agent.
The 2015 second round draft pick will be a cheap addition and fits well into a possession based system, with his strong offensive skills a major upside also.
Last season, the Canadian featured in 43 regular season games and recorded 20 points (6G, 14A) with the Blues and still has a bright future ahead of him in any city.
4. Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators, $8,000,000 contract until 2025/2026)
It was never certain that he would be left unprotected by Nashville but the Predators will be hoping to tempt Seattle into taking on the 30-year-olds large contract.
However, the Kraken will be getting an experienced centerman, who is capable of posting 50+ points each year and Duchene has hit the 40-point mark in every full NHL season since the lockout of 2012-2013.
In the shortened 2020-2021 campaign, the Canadian scored six goals and assisted seven times in 34 regular season matches, before adding three more points (1G, 2A) in six playoff appearances.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko (St Louis Blues, $7,500,000 contract until 2022/2023)
Is one of the franchise level players that have been left exposed to the expansion draft, however it was by his own choice as the Russian made an official trade request to the Blues and since no deal was done before the roster freeze on Saturday, the 29-year-old could be heading to Seattle for free.
However, Tarasenko carries the heavy baggage of historic injury problems, as the right winger missed nearly the entirety of the past two seasons after receiving his third shoulder operation.
Despite the fact he has only played 45 games in the past two years, there is still hope that Tarasenko can return to his previous high-scoring form and if not, Seattle can always trade him.
2. Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens, $10,500,000 Until 2025/2026)
Will be the top goaltender available to the Kraken but Price is only exposed because he selflessly waived his no-movement-clause, to allow the Canadiens to protect his fellow netminder, Jake Allen.
Price has five years remaining on his hefty contract but would be a solid option for Seattle, if they wanted to use up a large part of their salary cap to get a goaltender who could be the face of the franchise and carry them through the playoffs.
Whilst unlikely, Ron Francis and Seattle have considered the option of taking 33-year-old veteran but may choose a cheaper and younger option of someone like Matt Murray.
1. Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay Lightning, $5,300,000 Until 2021/2022)
Has just completed back-to-back Stanley Cups, a 59 point season and is arguably the best of three, top six forwards that have been left unprotected by the Lightning, due to their salary cap issues.
Palat, 30, has over 370 career NHL points and was a key player for Tampa in their past two playoff championships, scoring 18 points in the 2020 post-season and 13 this past year.
The Kraken would be able to add a dynamic winger, who has a reasonable salary and a short length of time remaining on his contract, allowing them to adjust for his performances with a new club, next summer.