Building a Seattle Expansion Roster

The benefit of Vegas and Seattle’s entry to the league (besides the $500 expansion fees) has been the added intrigue they bring to the offseason. The debate over Carey Price has dominated the conversation over the past week, but there’s plenty of intrigue to come as Seattle makes their selections on Wednesday.

Like every other person who has access to Cap Friendley and discusses hockey on the internet, I took a shot at my own Seattle expansion roster. This is not a mock expansion draft in the truest sense of the world. I didn’t draft this from the perspective of what I think Seattle will do, so don’t interpret this as predictive. I built this roster as I would if I were running Seattle’s draft, with a couple of notable exceptions (Chris Driedger, for example). A couple of additional notes. First, I didn’t take into account any expansion deals that may be struck between Seattle and other teams. I didn’t want to go too far into fantasy land, so I left out any of those side deals which may protect some notable players that have been left exposed. I will add some notes along the way where I feel side deals could be struck, however. This is just how I’d draft for Seattle given the players that were left exposed around the league. I also followed the rules set forth by the league for the draft. That means 30 selections, a minimum of 14 forwards, 9 defensemen and three goalies and all between 60 and 100 percent of the cap.

My aim was to craft a team that would have the talent to compete early, and with a little luck pull off something close to what Vegas did in 2017-18. But I also worked to select younger players who were still bordering on prospect status. Specifically higher draft picks who haven’t popped at the NHL level yet but can still offer some longer-term promise. In the end I wound up with 15 players age 25 or under, a cap hit of $63.4 million prior to free agency and roughly $17 million to re-sign RFAs and make other moves down the line.

The picks are arranged by team, alphabetically.

Anaheim Ducks – Jacob Larsson

A young defenseman with a first round pedigree. Anaheim has a couple of intriguing players to consider, but Larsson fits my model for a few reasons. First, he’s still an RFA after this season and has just started to crack what has been a notoriously deep blueline in Anaheim. He’ll be a fringe player on this roster, but at 24 he would have room to grow into a contributor.

Arizona Coyotes – Christian Fischer

Fischer is an interesting player available on ax exposure list that isn’t teeming with talent. He spent one post-draft season in junior before jumping to the pro ranks which means he has five years of NHL experience at the age of 24. His offensive numbers won’t blow you away but some of his defensive underlying numbers are strong despite playing for a fairly inferior team in Arizona. He makes for a quality depth forward who could offer even more value if he rediscovers the 15+18 pace from his rookie year.  

Boston Bruins – Nick Ritchie (RFA)

Ritchie helps fill the grit quotient for my roster, while boasting strong underlying numbers and a bit of offense to boot. His numbers spiked with the Bruins last year and you have to wonder how much that has to do with the player vs. the team. That being said, Ritchie’s blend of physicality and skill make him a rare asset in today’s league, and it’s something Seattle could use right out of the gate.

Buffalo Sabres – Zemgus Girgensons

Sabres fans have devoted a lot of energy determining if Will Borgen will be lost in expansion. Up until I went through this process I didn’t think there was much risk for the Sabres to lose him. After building my team, I feel like the risk is much higher given the balance of available forward and defense talent on each respective exposure list. The reason I went with Girgensons here is that I felt quality defensive forwards with some positional flexibility was more vital to the roster I was trying to shape. The other benefit here is Girgensons’ contract helps fill out my cap figure without being a complete anchor.

Calgary Flames – Mark Giordano

This is the first move which I think could directly align with what Seattle does on Wednesday. Giordano is one of the few Flames truly worth selecting and he offers a real opportunity as a pick and flip candidate. You’ll see below that I don’t have the veteran on my projected lines and pairs as I expect the Kraken to ship him almost as soon as they pick him, so that’s the approach I’m following as well.

Carolina Hurricanes – Jake Bean (RFA)

Bean is one of the most promising talents available in expansion this year. He’s only 23 and boasts an excellent draft pedigree with the ability to blossom right out of the gate. He was the odd man out on an excellent blue line in Carolina but I can see him stepping right into a prominent role in Seattle. You can expect to hear a lot of comparisons to Shea Theodore if he’s selected on Wednesday.  

Chicago Blackhawks – Adam Gaudette (RFA)

Add another borderline prospect to my roster as Gaudette gives me some additional offensive talent and a player capable of playing center, something that looks to be in short supply for Seattle. He’s also affordable and cost controlled as an RFA. I like Guadette a fair bit and while I have him as an extra forward here, adding another offensively skilled center fills a need.

Colorado Avalanche – JT Compher

I wonder about Erik Johnson here when it comes time for Ron Francis to make his choices, but Compher’s ability to play center in the middle of the forward group was the more attractive option for me. You can flex him to the wing as well and he’d be a mainstay on the PK right off the bat.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Gabriel Carlsson

I suspect there will be a few punt picks for Seattle once they make their side deals with various teams. I don’t count this as a true punt selection as Carlsson’s age and draft pedigree make him a fine addition to the back half of my defense corps. That being said, I would call Columbus’ bluff on Max Domi and leave him unselected. I also think Carlsson offers a touch more than someone like Kevin Stenlund or one of the other lower cost forwards on Columbus’ list. He and Larsson were picked two spots apart in 2015 and I’d hope the pair can discover their games with more opportunity to crack the lineup than they’ve gotten to this point in their careers.

Dallas Stars – Blake Comeau

No one on Dallas’ list really wowed me and I felt it was a good opportunity to plug in some veteran leadership onto the roster. Comeau is a UFA after this season and if you’re looking for a Vegas comparable, he could fill the Deryk Engelland role for this team without needing to fill a prominent role.

Detroit Red Wings – Troy Stecher

Stecher should be a no brainer for Francis and the Kraken. He has strong underlying numbers and would be a steady, affordable addition to the right side of the blueline. There’s not much more to say in this case. I’m surprised he was left exposed in the first place, but Detroit’s loss is my gain.

Edmonton Oilers – Dominik Kahun (RFA)

Not too much to add on Kahun. He’s got a bit of offense to give and can fill a middle-six role nicely as you bridge the early years of the franchise. I have him slotted with Compher and Paul Byron on this roster, which I think is a line that you can trust to chip in a few goals without getting into trouble in their own end.

Florida Panthers – Chris Driedger (UFA)

I’ll take all of this week’s reports as gospel and select Driedger as it appears the Kraken will be signing him to a three-year deal. Goalie is the one area of my team I’m nervous about, but the other notable exposed goaltenders (Price, Bishop, Quick) don’t move the needle enough for me to invest the cap space they’d eat up. Bishop is the only one worth considering if you think you can trust his injury history. To that end, Driedger would be a pretty good insurance policy for Bishop.  

Los Angeles Kings – Kale Clague (RFA)

Blake Lizotte and Andreas Anthanasiou ofer some intrigue in this spot as well. Clague gives me a young defenseman who is waivers exempt. He has a decent draft pedigree and could grow into a decent asset if developed properly.

Minnesota Wild – Kaapo Kahkonen

My goalie depth chart is tough because in a perfect world Kahkonen would be in the NHL. But he’s waivers exempt and has shown a lot of promise early in his career. Maybe Vanacek gets flipped and that elevates Kahkonen. Either way, he’s got a ton of potential and is one of the easier picks to slot in.

Montreal Canadiens – Paul Byron

I may be out to lunch but I can’t fully buy the Carey Price smoke. His contract is so massive and I would be nervous about overrating his playoff performance in relation to his recent regular season play. Byron feels like a good fit here. Not only has he been wearing a letter but he’s still a good penalty killer and relatively affordable on a deal that runs through 2023. He’s not affecting any long term planning and ought to help this team compete in 2021-22.

Nashville Predators – Matt Duchene

This one really derivates from what Seattle is likely to do. But my view is that center talent is in short supply, as are finishers. I’d be worried about his offense falling off a cliff as his underlyings are on the down swing. But I think his offense is still a plus asset in the short term which is what I’d be hoping to capitalize on. One player I had a hard time passing on was Connor Ingram. He’s been a goalie in waiting for a few years now and will be in line to backup Juuse Saros this season. If I were Seattle and Nashville’s forwards don’t catch my interest, Ingram would be a flier worth taking.  

New York Islanders – Jordan Eberle

Copy paste from the above section. Eberle’s offense is still strong and his underlying numbers are great (due in part to Barry Trotz). Pencil him in as another veteran offensive contributor who, if things go right, could help Seattle compete right away.

New York Rangers – Colin Blackwell

A depth addition who offers some sneaky offense as well. He’s exceedingly affordable for the production he can offer and could round out a fourth line you wouldn’t be afraid to give regular minutes to. Blackwell’s career arc has been impressive and I’m sure there’s some intangible value he adds along with a somewhat underrated offensive punch.  

New Jersey Devils – Will Butcher

Tossing a puck mover into the mix here adds some variety to the blueline I’m building. Butcher’s underlying numbers have been tanking and I’d be worried that he’s a little more eye test than actual substance, but as a middle or bottom pair player, he’d be able to grab some power play time and in a perfect world he looks at least a little bit like his rookie year self.

Ottawa Senators – Joey Daccord

If the Comeau pick is a borderline punt, this one definitely is. Ottawa’s skater group is pretty thin and short of burning $5m of cap on Evgeni Dadonov, a depth goalie at least offers some organizational value. Daccord is waiver exempt and slots in as a firm organizational number four in this scenario.  

Philadelphia Flyers – James Van Riemsdyk

JVR has been a popular pick among pretty much anyone prognosticating the draft and I’ll follow suit as well. Shayne Gostisbehere doesn’t make my short list here and Jakub Voracek’s cap hit and contract is too much to take on since I’ve already decided to add Duchene. JVR has been thought of as a captain candidate in Seattle and he still has the goal scoring acumen to offer value as the pick from Philly.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Marcus Pettersson

Pittsburgh has actually left a few pretty big names on their exposure list and unless there’s a side deal cooking, I find it hard to imagine passing on Pettersson. He’s on an affordable deal for four more seasons and boasts the type of steady underlying numbers an expansion team could rely on.

San Jose Sharks – Ryan Donato (RFA)

None of San Jose’s options were overly impressive and Donato combines youth and offense enough to justify a flier here. I don’t have him cracking my top 12 but as a depth scoring piece, he’d be an acceptable choice to me given the lack of choices available from the Sharks.

St. Louis Blues – Vince Dunn (RFA)

The obvious caveat here is any potential Vladimir Tarasenko deal the Kraken may have lined up would shift the focus for Ron Francis. For my purposes, Dunn could be a potential cornerstone for this roster as I’d be lining up a proper extension for him after selecting him. His underlying defensive numbers are really good, though his offense might be a tad overrated. Either way, he’d be in line to play a major role on this roster.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Yanni Gourde

Throw a dart and you’ll find a quality player on Tampa’s list. Gourde offers the most as a center and at 29 he should have a little more time before his aging curve catches up. With Duchene in the mix here, Gourde won’t have to play too high in the lineup, so he should be a key contributor in forming a formidable center spine.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Jared McCann

I’ll be amazed if McCann isn’t the choice from Toronto. He’s a swiss army knife who can flex between wing and center. He’ll play on the PK and I have him filling a top six role. McCann’s offense isn’t anything to sneeze at, and if he wound up as a power play fixture, he’d have a good shot at blowing his career high figures out of the water.

Vancouver Canucks – Kole Lind (RFA)

Another young prospect-type pick here. Lind is only 22 and as a top-60 pick, he can grow into an NHL role without eating any significant cap space. Vancouver’s is another list that isn’t overflowing with options so grabbing a young prospect adds a bit of runway to the pipeline or even a trade chip for the future.

Washington Capitals – Vitek Vanacek

Vanacek has been mocked to Seattle a whole lot and with reports surfacing that they may consider taking a couple of goalies in order to flip them to other teams, I wonder if he is selected if he even plays a game in Seattle. I pick him here at the very least to serve as a backup because I’m not overly confident in Driedger’s ability to play 50-plus games.

Winnipeg Jets – Dylan DeMelo

Another key piece to the team I tried to shape. Excellent underlying numbers and a steady presence to add on the right side of the blue line. He, Pettersson, Bean and Dunn will form a diverse top-four that would help buoy a fairly deep but unspectacular forward group.

You’ll see below I’ve included the JFresh roster simulator that gives a look at what this roster would be projected to do in the standings. I don’t know if it’s a 107 point roster, but I think my blueline is the strength of the team and I’m relying on the ability to run four lines to make a forward group that lacks high-end talent a formidable group.   

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