Updated: Jul 22
I wanted to write this up before the expansion draft this evening to get on the record with my final selections. The rumor mill is already rumbling and I've essentially gotten a couple of confirmations on my selections, but this will serve as a brief rationale for each . The team, in apparently random order. I'll go over a brief rationale for each selection below. I'm also disregarding side-deals here, which I'm sure will happen, but thinking about that complexity hurt my small brain.
Anaheim Ducks: Haydn Fleury
Fleury is a high-potential young defenseman that found himself on the outside of a stacked blueline in Carolina. Traded to Anaheim last year as a result, the on-ice product hasn't quite lived up to the hype just yet. The other option here is Kevin Shattenkirk, but at 32 and earning a tick under $4M per, Fleury makes more sense as a higher upside bet.
Arizona Coyotes: Christian Fischer
Arizona have done a hell of a job protecting the useful pieces on their roster (such as they are), exposing very little in terms of impactful players above NHL replacement level. Fischer is young enough at 24 and carries a manageable cap hit, played 4th line minutes for the Coyotes last season and has some upside.
Boston Bruins: Taylor Hall
One of 3 UFA's on this list without a contract, obviously this selection depends heavily on internal negotiations that I'm not privy to. If they can negotiate a reasonable deal with middling term for around the $7M per mark I'd be comfortable with this selection, but again, there's no guarantee he's even available. Failing this, I'd probably be looking at a depth defenseman; Kevan Miller or Jakub Zboril maybe.
Buffalo Sabres: Colin Miller
Two defensemen jump out at me here: Miller and William Borgen. With Miller you get a 28-year old bottom pairing guy making slightly too much money for that role, who is under contract for one more year. Borgen is only 24 and has more upside, but Miller allows us to fill one of our 10 required currently-contracted slots, so I've gone with him here.
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
One of a handful of no-brainer selections on this list, Gio is still capable of logging 1st/2nd pairing minutes at 37 and is under contract for one more year at $6.7M. Give him an A and let him bring a veteran presence to the locker room in the body of a guy who can actually still bring the results on the ice. Other intriguing options here would be Josh Leivo at league minimum or Jeremy Phillips who I watched tear up the WHL a few years back and set all the records for my hometown Victoria Royals.
Carolina Hurricanes: Morgan Geekie
This was the first truly tough decision point. Carolina are a really good team and have a glut of talent for selection here. As a Dougie Hamilton stan it's was really hard to pass up on picking him but again, contingent on negotiations that I'm not privy to. Jake Bean on D and Nino Niederreiter up front were also tempting. In the end I went with Geekie who seems to be another victim of a stacked forward group and could really shine given the opportunity. He scored two goals in his NHL debut after all. He's also only 23 and plays centre, a position that this roster is a bit shaky on.
Chicago Blackhawks: Adam Gaudette
I've watched a lot of Gaudette play while he was still skating for Vancouver and I'm convinced he's got another gear. Things haven't quite clicked yet for whatever reason, but I think this is a low-risk selection. At worst you get a very competent 4th line center with wheels. At best he evolves into an everyday top 9 guy with scoring upside. Others I considered here but ultimately dismissed were Calvin De Haan (cap hit) and Nikita Zadorov (age).
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
The second of my uncontracted UFA's, this just makes too much sense to ignore. Throw all the money and term at him and give him the C. From a marketing perspective this is perfect as he's a bona-fide superstar and lets you avoid that Price-y contract coming out of Montreal. Slam dunk pick here in my opinion, provided they've done the negotiation legwork up-front.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Max Domi
Jury is still out on whether Domi is a genuine top-6 guy, but I wouldn't be surprised if attitude and coaching played a role in his underwhelming past couple of seasons with the Jackets. Speaking of underwhelming, this list of players is just that, with only Domi really jumping out at me. He's 26, UFA at the end of next year and $5.3M is middling money for a genuine top-6 player if he can turn things around. Also a nice trade chip to have at the deadline if things don't pan out.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak
The 3rd and final uncontracted UFA on this list, Oleksiak would help shore up defensive depth and provide a presence on the back-end with his enormous frame. I'm expecting a cap hit in the ballpark of $2.5-3M on a shorter term for this one, being the least difficult of the UFA negotiations. The other option here was youngster Adam Mascherin who plays C and could help to build depth and jumpstart a prospect pipeline.
Detroit Red Wings: Troy Stecher
Troy from Richmond is a fan favorite in my neck of the woods, with a lot of folks (myself included) bitterly disappointed that he wasn't prioritised by an incompetent Canucks management group at the end of last season. A useful 2-way D, Stecher is probably a bottom pairing guy on a good team, but would likely skate on the 2nd pairing for the Kraken. Under contract for next season he's another slam-dunk pick from a very weak Detroit list.
Edmonton Oilers: Jujhar Khaira
Khaira is a physical 4th line centre who can also play the wing. At 26 years old he's still under RFA status for next season and should be well cost-controlled for the next few years. There was a couple of UFA options on the back end here as well, notably Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom. With Klefbom's injury history and cap hit for the next couple of years, Larsson would be the better alternative of the two, especially if he can be negotiated down from last year's contract at a tick over $4M per.
Florida Panthers: Chris Driedger
Another slam-dunk pick if the Twitter discourse is to be believed, I actually don't know a whole lot about Driedger, other than he helped drive a mediocre Florida team to the playoffs last year. Alex Wennberg is interesting up-front, but this selection is pretty cut and dry.
LA Kings: Kale Clague
I know nothing about any of the Kings players that have been left exposed. It was basically down to one of the 23-and-under crowd here and Kale Clague gets the nod to join the prospect pool. Blake Lizotte and Carl Grundstrom also in the conversation.
Minnesota Wild: Kaapo Kahkonen
Another popular choice with the analytics crowd yet a player I know very little about. Apparently in the Calder conversation last season, he's 24, RFA, waiver exempt and making league minimum. Slam dunk given what else is on offer here.
Montreal Canadiens: Cale Fleury
The second of our leaf vegetable crew and brother to Haydn from Anaheim. Another young defender with potential, rounds out some depth in the prospect pool. You couldn't pay me enough money/assets to take on that Carey Price contract, I don't care how well he played in the playoffs last year. Great dude, not worth $10.5M per season.
Nashville Predators: Nick Cousins
Depth forward. Wanted to avoid the anchor contracts of Duchene and Johansen but needed someone under contract to meet that criteria. As the youngest of that small group Cousins got the nod, though I know very little about him to be honest.
New Jersey Devils: Andreas Johnsson
Betting on a bounce-back year for Johsson after a fairly dire season on a fairly dire team seems pretty safe. Adds scoring punch to the middle six and is a relentless forechecker based on what I saw of him when he was with the Leafs. Not much else here to be honest.
New York Islanders: Jordan Eberle
I was surprised that Eberle was exposed, but I suspect the Islanders are looking for cap relief here just like everyone else. I wouldn't be surprised if Seattle can extract a sweetener for providing said relief. Would be objectively funny to see Hall and Eberle reunited all these years later as well. Josh Ho-Sang was my second choice here, as I'm convinced he simply hasn't been given the opportunity to show what he can do with the Islanders over the years. At only 25 there's still potentially an upside here with a change of scenery or a bump up the depth chart.
New York Rangers: Julien Gauthier
With the Rangers rumored to be extending Barclay Goodrow to the tune of about $3M per for four years, I would be avoiding that like the plague. Decent player, good forechecker, but not worth that kind of money or term. Julien Gauthier is a former first round draft pick who is only 23 and locked up on RFA status for another year at league minimum. Also counts towards our under-contract total.
Ottawa Senators: Marcus Hogberg
Depth goalie, nothing more. Interesting alternative: Chris Tierney but likely not at that kind of cap hit.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marcus Pettersson
Vast landscape of almost nothing here. Pettersson is under contract long term, likely for too much money. Brandon Tanev is as well, so either of these selections might be used as a bargaining chip to extract assets. In Pettersson you get a decent 2nd/3rd pairing defenseman who can be used as a trade chip in a pinch, especially so given the propensity for dumb GM's in this league to equate height with talent on the back end. Tall guy play good hockey.
Philadelphia Flyers: James Van Riemsdyk
Lot's of money tied up here but only a couple of years left on the contract. Becomes tradeable pretty quickly if Philly agree to retain any of that cap hit, plus fills a low maintenance top 6 scoring slot and can hit the ground running. Gostisbhere is another solid option here, but he's not quite the player he used to be, having cleared waivers last year without any interest.
San Jose Sharks: Dylan Gambrell
Horrible roster. Nothing here. I literally just picked the only young RFA centre who was on contract for next year. Moving on.
St. Louis Blues: Vince Dunn
This one is another tough one. Tarasenko is available, but old, frequently broken and expensive, as is Jaden Schwartz. Looking at the makeup of the roster to this point, it's hard to pass up on a guy who is RFA at only 24, can play both sides and can likely be locked up long term at a reasonable rate this off-season. Can play 2nd pair minutes now and may see that TOI grow as he matures.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Yanni Gourde
Tampa's embarrassment of riches is well-documented, already having traded away Goodrow to retain some assets through this process. The obvious choice here is Gourde, who can likely play a top 6 role and is objectively a good player locked in to reasonable contract until 2025. Tyler Johnson might be an interesting choice as a side deal involving taking assets to provide some cap relief, but that asset haul would have to be significant in my opinion. Mathieu Joseph is also an interesting option given he's got one more year on his entry-level deal and was able to crack an absolutely stacked Lightning roster last year on a few occasions.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jared McCann
Former Canuck who has blossomed since being traded, he's a 2nd liner these days on a decent contract with some ceiling to develop further. The Leafs basically gave away assets to dangle McCann as a carrot to Seattle, ostensibly aiming to keep them away from Kerfoot. Weird decision in my opinion, as McCann is the better player, but whatever. Sidebar: McCann and a 2nd for Erik fucking Gudbranson has to go down as one of the worst trades in history in retrospect, surely.
Vancouver Canucks: Matthew Highmore
Couple of depth pieces available from Vancouver here in Matthew Highmore and Zack MacEwen. Kole Lind is also available as a younger option with a potentially higher ceiling than either of MacEwen or Highmore. I like MacEwen's physical game, and Highmore is relentless on the puck and would make a good high-energy addition to a team's 4th line. Highmore again gives us under-contract certainty. Sven Baertschi is also an interesting one to me, as he was essentially run out of town in Vancouver after building some chemistry with Bo Horvat on Vancouver's second line, apparently having a falling out with coach Travis Green. Could be an interesting addition to a team's 3rd scoring line at the right price point.
Washington Capitals: Vitek Vanecek
Popular goalie choice out of a pool of players that contains an unsigned Ovi and a couple of good options on the back end in Justin Schultz and Brenden Dillon. Vanecek is under contract as an RFA and is only 25.
Winnipeg Jets: Dylan DeMelo
This one was genuinely tough, as Mason Appleton is probably technically a lower-risk, higher-reward pick with a higher ceiling. He's also RFA and under contract for another year at league minimum, which is very enticing. DeMelo should slot into a top-pairing role on the Kraken and is locked up for another 3 years at a very reasonable $3M per season.
That's it. I expect I'll be happy to be batting 0.500 once all is said and done, likely due to side deals that are made similar to what happened with Vegas. Leaks are already starting to come out and I've seen the roster is almost all completely public. Let's see what happens tonight!