After a long wait, the Seattle expansion franchise finally has a name, and it’s the Kraken. In 2021, the Nashville Predators will have to figure out who to protect.
Naming new expansion franchises is always a fun exercise as it doesn’t happen very often, and the NHL now has a new team in Seattle called the Kraken.
The Seattle Kraken won’t start playing games until the 2021-22 NHL season, but it’s never too early to start thinking about who they’re going to target in their expansion draft.
Even more so, it’s never too early to start making the tough decisions on who to protect on your roster, and who you will let walk. In comes James Neal, who some Nashville Predators fans still haven’t gotten over as he was left unprotected and shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Seattle’s social media team is wasting no time making it clear they’re coming for some of our favorite players to build their new roster by stating “We’re strategizing all the ways to draft your favorite player”.
The expansion Seattle Kraken are going to be looking for a mixture of young talent and proven veterans who are already locked up in current long-term deals to give them some stability.
The expansion rules for 2021 will remain the same as they were for the Golden Knights in 2017. There’s certain players on the Predators I consider as locks to be protected such as; Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Juuse Saros.
With pending free agents coming up in the offseason, there picture gets more unclear after that.
That’s the first thing you have to look at when looking over the Predators and thinking down the road when these decisions will have to be made, which will presumably be next summer.
It will definitely be interesting to see if Seattle can duplicate the immediate success that the Golden Knights had in their first season, or if they go down the hard road that most expansion franchises go through.
Here are some early Predators players that I could see possibly going unprotected and lost to the Seattle Kraken.
This one seems to be the most realistic at the current time as Kyle Turris still has a long-term deal in place and has the veteran leadership and experience to move into an expansion team’s top-six.
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It’s fair to say that Turris’ time with the Nashville Predators has been up and down, but mostly down. He hasn’t really lived up to his former self with the Ottawa Senators, but there’s also been arguments made that he hasn’t been utilized properly.
Turris should be sticking around with the Predators for at least another season to try to recapture his past success, leaving it entirely possible that the Predators decide he’s too valuable to let go.
I don’t see that happening, and I could easily see the Kraken being interested in a veteran like Turris as a core piece of their top two lines in 2021.
Another seasoned veteran who offers a well-rounded game is Colton Sissons. He’s been with the Predators since being drafted in 2012, but has never really taken off as a big scorer.
However, Sissons does many other things effectively and can be an important depth piece for Seattle’s first season. He’s also a great leader and one of those no nonsense type of a player that you want on a new team.
Sissons is signed to a pretty lengthy deal that goes to 2025-26, which would be convenient for Seattle to take into their expansion season. He’s also moderately cheap at under $3 million per year.
I’d be a little sad to see Sissons go, but there are several other players on the team I’d be more distraught about losing.
Teams must leave at least one defenseman unprotected in the expansion draft rules, and Nashville’s current situation with their defensemen is a little uncertain.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro will be protected. There’s no clarity on what Nashville’s bottom defensive pairing will look like at this time next year.
So that leaves the scary possibility of leaving Mattias Ekholm unprotected. I don’t like that thought any more than you do, but it might have to happen.
Ekholm would be an excellent choice from Nashville’s roster for Seattle. He has the skills to be a top line defenseman, but he is due to be a unrestricted free agent in 2022-23, which might deter Seattle from taking him.
Teams also have to leave one goaltender, and there’s no way the Predators will be reckless enough to leave Juuse Saros unprotected. I also don’t see Pekka Rinne being around after next season.
So this leaves Connor Ingram as a possibility if he’s on the roster by then. I don’t think Seattle would choose Ingram as their goaltender pick from the Predators where there will probably be more valuable Predators players to choose from, but nonetheless he may be out there as an option.
Ingram is the top candidate in the Predators prospect pool to eventually be the backup behind Saros after Rinne’s time is done. This likely happens after next season and just in time for the expansion draft.
Jarnkrok was protected in the last expansion to the dismay of many, and James Neal ended up being the one taken by the Golden Knights. He doesn’t get that same treatment this time around.
Due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022-23, Jarnkrok still has some upside left to evolve into a quality second or third line scorer. He doesn’t offer much else in terms of defensive abilities or possession metrics.
However, Jarnkrok does have those occasional flashes of outstanding offensive play that could draw attention to Seattle. I wouldn’t be overly upset if Jarnkrok was the odd man out that was lost in the expansion draft.
With nearly a year before the 2021 NHL Expansion draft, I’m predicting that the Predators lose a forward to Seattle. One who has the most veteran experience, leadership and versatility for an expansion roster.
I’m going with Turris as the player that the Predators won’t be able to protect and will become a member of the Seattle Kraken. It’ll be a win-win for both teams as the Predators will be able to move on from what has been a pretty bad contract, while Seattle will be getting a proven veteran who still has a lot to offer if in the right system.
Depending on who all they get, I could see Turris being a second line center for Seattle’s expansion season.
For the Predators, they have to protect their defensive core next season along with their top six forwards of Forsberg, Johansen, Duchene and Arvidsson. Granlund or Smith may also be in that mix if the the Predators retain them in the offseason.
Welcome to the NHL, Seattle Kraken.