The Seattle Kraken will select 30 players during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN1, SN NOW).
The Kraken must choose one player from each of the 30 participating teams (the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt), including at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. Additionally, at least 20 of their selections must already be under contract for next season, with an aggregate value of at least 60 percent ($48.9 million) of the $81.5 million NHL salary cap.
Though we will soon find out which players will form the bulk of the inaugural Kraken roster (the Golden Knights had 18 expansion draft players on their opening night roster), we asked five NHL.com writers to identify the one player each believes is the must-draft candidate.
Here are the selections.
Jake Bean, Carolina Hurricanes
There are sexier and more accomplished names on the list, but I’m not sure there is a player with more potential upside than Bean, the 23-year-old defenseman who just finished his rookie season. The sample size is small, but there is clear evidence Bean could be an elite defender in a few years, and part of the expansion draft process is gambling on players who can thrive in bigger roles. Bean had 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 42 games this season, but played limited minutes (14:32 per game, fifth among Hurricanes defensemen who played at least 36 games). He was a monster in the American Hockey League for Charlotte, playing a No. 1 role, scoring 92 points (23 goals, 69 assists) in 129 career AHL games. Selected in the first round (No. 13) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Bean has the skills to develop into a top-pair defenseman and power-play quarterback around which you can build a team. Those opportunities don’t come along too often. — Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
I’m not going to argue that the Flames captain is the most talented player the Kraken could take. He’s not. But the defenseman could be the most important. There’s a tone that needs to be set on an expansion team, as the Golden Knights experienced with Marc-Andre Fleury, and that’s what Giordano could do. Not only would the 37-year-old provide an immediate gravitas and leadership boost, but the skills aren’t bad either. He’s coming off a season in which he scored 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 56 games, while playing 22:57 per game. He would provide an anchor on their first pairing and a locker room voice, while coming in with one year and a $6.75 million cap hit left on his contract. If I’m Seattle general manager Ron Francis, I’m taking Giordano. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild
Well-known goalies like Carey Price, Ben Bishop, Stanley Cup champions Matt Murray and Jonathan Quick, and potential unrestricted free agents Tuukka Rask, Petr Mrazek and Frederik Andersen jump off the page of the available player list. But many are forgetting Kahkonen, who at one point this season was arguably the most valuable rookie goalie from an outstanding crop that included eventual Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic, Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin, Vitek Vanecek, Kevin Lankinen, Jake Oettinger and, much later in the season, Spencer Knight. When veteran Cam Talbot was in NHL COVID-19 protocol, Kahkonen put together a 12-4-0 stretch, including a nine-game winning streak, with a 2.05 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and two shutouts from the start of the season to March 16. But not long after Talbot returned Feb. 26 and began to thrive down the stretch (16-6-5, 2.68 GAA, .914 save percentage, two shutouts in his final 27 games), Kahkonen’s winning streak ended and his role diminished, with a rough road loss to the St. Louis Blues on April 9 (nine goals allowed) undoubtedly affecting his confidence and place in the rotation. But the Kraken should still look at the big picture and select a goalie who will turn 25 years old Aug. 16 and has gone 19-9-1 in his first 29 NHL games. — Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Much in the same way Fleury became the face of the Golden Knights in 2017, Price could easily occupy the same role with the Kraken. The goalie has five years left on an eight-year, $84 million contract ($10.5 million average annual value), which would be a heavy financial burden to absorb. But he showed during the run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final that he has plenty left in his tank. The 33-year-old was 13-9 with a 2.28 GAA, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 22 games during the playoffs. While Price’s salary is a debating point, the impact of bringing in one of the best-known players in the NHL is not. He’s not the talkative type, but merely splashing his image across the city is the type of immediate publicity a fledgling pro sports franchise craves. For Price, there is personal enticement too: Seattle is 110 miles from the border of British Columbia, his native province. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning
You need a little bit of everything when you’re building a team, and Killorn provides that with his ability to play well in several areas, be it 5-on-5, penalty kill or power play. The 31-year-old is coming off a good Stanley Cup Playoffs in which he scored 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 19 games, helping the Lightning win the Cup for the second straight year. Two days after having surgery to insert a rod to repair a broken fibula sustained when he blocked a shot from Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Killorn was skating and hoping to play in Game 4. He didn’t play, but it’s impressive that he even gave it a shot. The forward scored 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 56 regular-season games and has scored 40 or more points in each of his prior three NHL seasons. Killorn would add guts, versatility and championship experience to the Kraken. — Tracey Myers, staff writer