The protected lists were submitted and revealed to the public Sunday. Now the puck is on the Seattle Kraken’s stick.
The NHL’s new expansion team’s decisions will be revealed Wednesday, as they select one player from each of the 30 teams not based in Las Vegas. The Kraken will have a wide array of choices, from high-paid veterans to younger potential stars.
A lot of teams left players with multi-year megadeals exposed in order to protect younger, cheaper players. For the most part, Seattle should steer clear of the likes of Montreal goalie Carey Price and Nashville forwards Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.
That doesn’t mean the Kraken, who have to reach the salary-cap floor just like the other 31 NHL teams, should shy away from spending some money. Here’s a quick look at five players the Kraken absolutely can’t pass up:
1. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 30-year-old Palat can become an unrestricted free agent after the winger counts for cap charge of $5.3 million this season, but that shouldn’t keep the Kraken from selecting the dynamic offensive player who might be able to thrive even when he’s not surrounded by the Lightning’s cavalry of elite of offensive talent. If Seattle likes him, it will have enough cap space to keep him from the UFA market and build around him.
2. Joonas Donskoi, Colorado Avalanche
Coming off a career-high 0.61 points per game, Donskoi’s career seems to be on the upswing at 29. The winger is locked up for two more years at the reasonable rate of $3.9 million and is the kind of quality wing the Kraken could use to be competitive in Year One.
3. Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild
The Wild drafted the Finn in the fourth round in 2014, brought him to North America in 2018, continued to develop him and gave him 24 NHL games this season (he had a .902 save percentage) — only to leave him unprotected at 24 years old. This is a bit of a head-scratcher, but the Kraken could take the former AHL goaltender of the year and pair him with a veteran to give them a chance to win every night. He’ll be a restricted free agent after the season, but history shows most goalies with his level of experience come out of their entry-level deals and get a modest second contract.
4. Jared McCann, Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto picked up the 25-year-old from Pittsburgh in an effort to distract the Kraken from selecting Alexander Kerfoot. The Kraken should take the bait because McCann seems to finally be hitting his stride after being a first-round pick of Vancouver in 2014. He had 32 points in 43 games last season — three fewer points than he had in 66 games the previous season. He has room to grow and is signed for one more season at a little less than $3 million. Then he can become an RFA, meaning the Kraken can keep the cost of continuing to develop him down.
5. Kevin Shattenkirk, Anaheim
There are sexier veteran defensemen on the market, and most would expect the Kraken to make the biggest splash by plucking Calgary captain Mark Giordano. But Giordano is 37 and signed for just one more season. He might not be all that valuable at the trade deadline because of his rental status and his modified no-trade clause.
Shattenkirk, 32, is signed for two years at $3.9 million. He has Stanley Cup championship experience from his season with Tampa Bay and he can be a stabilizing force on the back end in addition to a veteran leader. He has a modified no-trade clause, but that extra season on his contract could make him more valuable at the trade deadline if the Kraken decide to cash in their chips.