Continuing with the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft projections, today I’m taking a look at the Central Division teams.

The Central Division wasn’t a particularly easy division to predict. The Colorado Avalanche are coming off a President’s Trophy winning year and have to carefully select what players to expose and maintain their build towards a deep playoff run. The Minnesota Wild dropped a nuke on expansion draft plans when they announced Tuesday morning they were buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. St. Louis has its own mess to work through, especially following news that Vladimir Tarasenko wants out (more on that coming later this week).

As a reminder of the rules for this Mock Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft: no mock trades were included (though I did update the protection lists following Monday’s Duncan Keith-Caleb Jones trade. Actual trades are allowed for inclusion through Thursday). All teams had the option to use either the 7-3-1 protection plan or the 8-1 protection plan, and I chose what I thought would be more beneficial to the team.

Once again, thank you to CapFriendly, whose Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Simulator made this whole process more streamlined and accurate. If you’re a hockey fan, go check out their work. It’s incredible!

With no further delays, here are the Central Division Protection Lists!

 

Arizona Coyotes Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Phil Kessel ** Oliver Ekman-Larsson ** Darcy Kuemper
Lawson Crouse Jacob Chychrun
Christian Dvorak Kyle Capobianco
Conor Garland
Clayton Keller
Tyler Pitlick
Nick Schmaltz

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

 

As a franchise, the Arizona Coyotes are spinning their wheels. After conducting improper prospect testing while COVID-19 shut down in-person scouting, the Coyotes were punished through forfeiture of their 2020 second round pick and 2021 first round pick. Arizona already traded their 2020 first in the Taylor Hall trade (which got Arizona a first round playoff exit before Hall left), and their third round pick was used to select Mitchell Miller, who spent time in juvenile court for assaulting a mentally handicapped black classmate. The Coyotes have since rescinded their rights to Miller.

With the franchise virtually “paused” in terms of prospect acquisition and development, Arizona won’t be in a great position to fill the spot of whichever player is selected. However, that also means protection list decisions are a bit easier to make.

Though Arizona has nearly $35 million in cap room, they’ve only got eight forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender under contract for next season. The Coyotes could use that money to acquire lower-end talent and hit the reset button on a rebuild or continue on their current course. But with one playoff appearance in the last nine seasons, Arizona cannot afford to take a backwards step.

Notable Exposed Players: Adin Hill, Antti Raanta, Ilya Lyubushkin, Alex Goligoski (UFA), Niklas Hjalmarsson (UFA).

 

Chicago Blackhawks Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Patrick Kane ** Caleb Jones Kevin Lankinen
Jonathan Toews ** Connor Murphy
Henrik Borgström Nikita Zadorov (RFA)
Alex Debrincat
Adam Gaudette ^^
Brandon Hagel
Dylan Strome

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

^^ = dependent on Alex Nylander’s protection status. If Nylander is eligible for exposure, he would sub in for Gaudette.

 

The Blackhawks made a splash in the trade market on Monday, shipping longtime defenseman Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers for Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 third round pick (the pick becomes a second rounder if the Oilers play make it to the third round of the 2022 playoffs AND Keith ranks in the top four among Edmonton defensemen in time on ice).

To recap, for a team that was expected to suffer for a long time following their Cup run, Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, and Andrew Shaw have all retired, Brandon Saad was traded to Colorado for Nikita Zadorov, and Keith was sent to Edmonton. After that, Chicago suddenly has tons of cap room and eight picks over the first three rounds in 2021 and 2022 (including the 11th overall pick this year).

Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Philipp Kurashev, and Dominik Kubalik are all exempt from needing protection. There is still some confusion on whether Alex Nylander’s injury status prevents him from exposure during the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, and different outlets have conflicting reports. If he is not exempt, Nylander would be protected over Adam Gaudette.

Notable Exposed Players: Brett Connolly, Malcolm Subban, Calvin de Haan, Vinnie Hinostroza.

 

Colorado Avalanche Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Andre Burakovsky Samuel Girard Philipp Grubauer
Tyson Jost Cale Makar
Nazem Kadri Devon Toews
Gabriel Landeskog (UFA)
Nathan MacKinnon
Valeri Nichushkin
Mikko Rantanen

 

Colorado’s expansion route hinges solely on whether defenseman Erik Johnson waives his no-movement clause. While the former first overall pick hasn’t done so yet, waiving would allow the Avalanche to keep Devon Toews in the fold after an incredible season. Johnson is 33 years old and has two years remaining at $6 million AAV. After playing just four games in the 2021 season before heading to injured reserve, there is minimal risk for Johnson in waiving the clause.

After that, things get mucky for the Avalanche. With such a talented roster, Seattle will get a player from Colorado who can make a roster impact on Day One. While there’s talent waiting in the wings like Sampo Ranta, Alex Newhook, and Connor Timmons, the Avs will still feel a bit of a sting whomever Seattle selects.

Notable Exposed Players: Johnson, Ryan Graves, Brandon Saad, Joonas Donskoi, J.T. Compher, Devan Dubnyk, Matt Calvert.

 

Dallas Stars Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Jamie Benn ** Esa Lindell ** Ben Bishop **
Alexander Radulov ** Miro Heiskanen
Tyler Seguin ** John Klingberg
Radek Faksa
Denis Gurianov
Roope Hintz
Joe Pavelski

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

 

Dallas leads the league in players with NMCs, which somewhat limits their creativity for the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. While Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and Esa Lindell have all earned such roster protection, the Stars are in a tight spot with goaltender Ben Bishop. Bishop has been injured and missed all of the 2021 season while dealing with a nagging injury, and he hasn’t started more than 50 games in a season since the 2017-18 campaign.

By protecting Bishop, Dallas must expose fellow netminder Anton Khudobin, who became a fan and locker room favorite during the run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Khudobin to Seattle was almost a foregone conclusion entering the season, but after a disappointing 2021 showing, the Kraken may be looking elsewhere for the answer in net.

Notable Exposed Players: Khudobin, Jamie Oleksiak, Jason Dickinson, Andrew Cogliano, Joel L’Esperance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ben Bishop agreed to waive his NMC on Thursday. Presumably, this would be to allow the Stars to protect Anton Khudobin, as Jake Oettinger is not eligible for expansion selection. However, it’s still possible at least one of those three is traded ahead of next season, as Oettinger is capable of being at least a backup-quality goaltender.

 

Minnesota Wild Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Mats Zuccarello ** Jonas Brodin ** Cam Talbot
Joel Eriksson Ek Jared Spurgeon **
Kevin Fiala Matt Dumba
Marcus Foligno
Jordan Greenway
Ryan Hartman
Nico Sturm

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

 

I had already written up a section about the Wild’s expansion plans, but they dropped a bombshell on that thought when they announced Tuesday morning they would be buying out forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. Both had no-movement clauses in their contracts and had four years remaining on their matching contracts.

While the buyouts give the Wild $10 million in cap room next season (which will undoubtedly be used to lock up RFA’s Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov), Minnesota is looking at $13 million in dead money two seasons from now (2022-23) and $15 million in dead cap in 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Parise was disgruntled throughout the 2021 season and was a healthy scratch at times throughout the season, with clear discord between Parise and head coach Dean Evason. Evason also scratched Parise during the first three games of the playoffs. When an injury to Marcus Johansson forced Parise back into the lineup, he re-energized the Minnesota offense and scored two goals with an assist in four games.

Suter had not shown the same frustration with the team and still played a major role for the Wild in 2021. He has led the Wild in time on ice every season since arriving in Minnesota and leads the NHL in time on ice per game since 2012 (Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty is the only player with more ice time, having played three more games). While he looked a step slow at times this season, Suter’s incredible defensive awareness and hockey IQ had him positioned well and allowed him to still be incredibly effective in a shutdown role.

Both Parise and Suter are still serviceable players (especially Suter, given his playstyle) even at age 36, and they should be solid contributing pieces on Cup-contending teams next season.

I cannot overstate how massive of a gamble this is. With a flat salary cap expected for each of the next four seasons, that much dead money means the Wild will need to operate with a significant number of players on low-money contracts. These buyouts make for an incredibly aggressive move from general manager Bill Guerin and a sign that Guerin is confident in the long-term building of the Wild into a perennial contender. It could make him look like a genius or it could set the franchise back a decade.

Beyond the newfound flexibility with the Parise and Suter, the Wild also has an interesting choice to make with goaltender protection. Conventional wisdom says protecting the younger asset in Kaapo Kähkönen would be the smart choice. But after Kähkönen struggled late in the season, particularly against St. Louis and Colorado, and after a strong playoff showing from Cam Talbot, recent rumors have Minnesota opting to protect Talbot instead.

Notable Exposed Players: Kähkönen, Carson Soucy, Victor Rask, Nick Bjugstad.

 

Nashville Predators Expansion Draft

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Filip Forsberg Roman Josi ** Juuse Saros
Luke Kunin Alexandre Carrier
Colton Sissons Mattias Ekholm
Ryan Ellis
Dante Fabbro

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

 

Nashville is one of the few teams to opt for the 8-1 protection route in this exercise, and with one of the top defensive groups in the league, I’m going with the Predators protecting FIVE of their defenseman.

For years, Nashville has built their success from the net out. Pekka Rinne, who announced his retirement Tuesday, was a mainstay in net for the last 15 years. Now that he’s handed the reins over to Juuse Saros (and with Yaroslav Askarov in the pipeline as well), protecting the defensemen in front of Saros is essential.

Forsberg and Kunin are locks for protection, but for the last spot, Colton Sissons got the nod over Calle Jarnkrok. Sissons is under contract through the 2025-26 season while Jarnkrok becomes a UFA next summer. Jarnkrok has been more productive offensively, but after watching Predators GM David Poile opt to protect the younger Jarnkrok signed longer term over the older yet more productive James Neal in 2017, calling it a “business decision,” the logic tracks that Poile would protect Sissons over Jarnkrok this time around.

Notable Exposed Players: Jarnkrok, Mikael Granlund (UFA), Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Erik Haula (UFA).

 

St. Louis Blues Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Jordan Kyrou Justin Faulk Jordan Binnington
Ryan O’Reilly Torey Krug
David Perron Colton Parayko
Brayden Schenn
Oskar Sundqvist
Vladimir Tarasenko
Robert Thomas

 

St. Louis has two MAJOR wildcards with the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. First is what to do with Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko has requested a trade after alleging the Blues’ medical staff mishandled his injury treatments over the past several seasons. St. Louis should still protect the star winger, lest they lose him to Seattle and get nothing in return. However, the return won’t be very high, whatever it ends up being, given Tarasenko’s injury history and his contract (two more years at $7.5 million per, which is incredibly expensive if he’s unable to play at full health.

The other key factor is what to do with UFA Jaden Schwartz. While I would expect Schwartz and the Blues eventually get a deal done, it may not happen until after the draft. If that’s the case, Schwartz could be left unprotected to secure longer-term assets. Seattle could also select Schwartz and negotiate a deal beforehand if left unprotected, which would instantly give the Kraken a first-line caliber forward.

Decisions, decisions…

Notable Exposed Players: Schwartz, Ville Husso, Sammy Blais, Vince Dunn.

 

Winnipeg Jets Protection List

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

 

FORWARDS
DEFENSEMEN
GOALTENDERS
Blake Wheeler ** Dylan Demelo Connor Hellebuyck
Kyle Connor Josh Morrissey
Andrew Copp Neal Pionk
Pierre-Luc Dubois
Nikolaj Ehlers
Adam Lowry
Mark Scheifele

 

** = player has an NMC and must be protected

 

Winnipeg is in relatively good shape for the expansion draft. They won’t lose a player in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft who will immediately impact their core and close their window. They also may not have to give up draft picks to encourage Seattle to take on a bad contract or to move them away from a more prized player.

However, there are two very tempting pieces available for the Kraken to take. Mason Appleton had a strong season and is looking like a quality power forward on the wing. Defenseman Logan Stanley is an appealing player as well after a strong season at the NHL level after preseason expectations were that Stanley would play in the minors for most of the year.

Winnipeg’s defensive group as a whole is rather thin, so losing Stanley may hurt a bit more, but the Jets also only have eight forwards from last year’s lineup under contract for 2021. Expect Winnipeg to be particularly active in the trade market and free agency to tweak the roster for another playoff run next season.

Notable Exposed Players: Appleton, Stanley, Dominic Toninato, Nathan Beaulieu, Jordie Benn.

 

Stay tuned for Part Three on Wednesday!!

 

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft – Projecting the Pacific Division Protection Lists: Click Here.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft – Projecting the Atlantic Division Protection Lists: Click Here.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft – Projecting the Metropolitan Division Protection Lists: Click Here.

Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft – Projecting the Seattle Kraken Roster: Coming Friday, July 16

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Dan Bradley is a hockey broadcaster and sportswriter originally from New Brighton, MN and currently living in Cincinnati. Dan graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with a B.S. in Sports Communication in 2014. He previously worked in television in Duluth, MN, as well as in youth and adult sports administration in St. Paul. When not watching or writing about sports, Dan enjoys making music, fishing, and watching Jeopardy, where he hopes to someday be a contestant.