Thursday, July 21, 2022

Imagining the Kraken vs. the Golden Knights in a real expansion draft

One year ago today, the NHL welcomed the Seattle Kraken with an expansion draft. It was the second draft in five years, with the previous one having been held in 2017 when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league.

I just lied to you. Did you spot it?

If not, don’t feel bad. It’s a lie that the NHL itself tells, and most of the media repeats. It’s the part about their being an expansion draft in 2021, or in 2017.

There wasn’t. There were no drafts either year, because a draft by definition involves more than one team. It’s two or more teams taking turns selecting eligible players. If there’s only one team involved, they’re not drafting – they’re just submitting a list.

That’s what we had in 2017 and 2021. The NHL hasn’t had a real expansion draft since 2000, when the Wild and Blue Jackets took turns picking (terrible) players. In the cap era? It’s never happened.

Until today. We’re going to redo 2017 and 2021, but we’re going to do it right. Vegas vs. Seattle, in an actual head-to-head draft.

To make this happen, we’re calling in a team meeting of the Thursday edition of The Athletic Hockey Show podcast. Representing the Golden Knights is Jesse Granger, while Ian Mendes handles the Kraken. Sean McIndoe will moderate, and also write the intro. He’s the handsome one.

Here’s how it will work:

  • We’ll be using the eligibility lists from both 2017 and 2021. Ian and Jesse are drafting those players at that moment in time, with full benefit of hindsight. So if they use a pick on 2017 Josh Anderson from Columbus, they’ll be getting a 23-year-old RFA who’ll sign a three-year bridge deal and is about to blossom into a consistent 20-goal scorer.
  • Vegas and Seattle will each draft 23 players, which must consist of three goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards (which should include a reasonable mix of centers and wingers, but we’ll leave that to the two GMs to sort out). Unlike the 2000 draft, we aren’t going in order of position, because it’s just way more fun this way.
  • No NHL team can lose more than two players. Once a team loses two, all their other players from both years are no longer eligible.
  • No side deals are allowed, and no side deals that were made in real life will be honored. If a guy is on the eligible list, he can be drafted. If he’s not, he’s not available to us.
  • The same player can’t be drafted from both 2017 and 2021, because gosh, that would be unrealistic.
  • Both rosters must fit under this coming season’s cap of $82.5 million, again based on cap hits that those players had at the time of the draft. In the case of free agents, their cap hit will be whatever they signed for that summer. Both RFAs and UFAs are allowed. (We did make one exception by agreeing not to take Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who was technically left unprotected in 2021 but who had a roughly 0% of ever signing with an expansion team.)
  • At the end of the draft, we’ll lay out both teams and readers will vote on who’d win a seven-game series. The losing GM will be fired from the podcast. Or maybe just shamed, we’re still figuring that part out.

And with that, it’s time for something modern fans haven’t seen in decades: A real expansion draft, the way the hockey gods intended it. Jess won the coin toss, so Vegas is on the clock.

The draft

1.1. Vegas takes Marc-Andre Fleury (2017) from the Penguins

Granger: You’re telling me I can pick a future first-ballot Hall of Famer with the hindsight of knowing he will have two of the best seasons of his career over the next five seasons? Sign me up. Not only is Fleury the best pick on the ice, he’s the perfect cornerstone to build a team around off the ice.

1.2. Seattle takes Matt Duchene (2021) from the Predators

Mendes: Now, I am going to do something a little shocking here. I’m taking Duchene with my first pick. Is he overpriced? Probably. But he’s coming off a 43-goal season. And there aren’t too many good centers available, so I’m starting with him.

2.1. Vegas takes Vladimir Tarasenko (2021) from the Blues

Granger: There were worries his shoulder could be a longer-term problem, but 82 points in 75 games this season says otherwise. Tarasenko gives me a perennial 30-goal scorer to build my top line around.

2.2. Seattle takes Jonathan Marchessault (2017) from the Panthers

Mendes: I’m going to continue with my pattern of drafting centers here with Jonathan Marchessault from the 2017 Panthers. And I get him at his 2017-18 salary of $750,000.

3.1. Vegas takes David Perron (2017) from the Blues

Granger: I’ll take Blues snipers with back-to-back picks to fill out the wings on the top line. Taking Perron from back in 2017, knowing he racked up 110 goals and 287 points over the next five seasons, is an easy pick.

McIndoe: And with that, just five picks in, the Blues are the first team off the board. You can turn off the draft, Vince Dunn. So can a young Jordan Binnington, who was available in 2017.

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