We’re now less than a month away from the most important date surrounding this summer’s Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. While most of the talk is about the actual event scheduled for July 21, NHL General Managers are actually hyper-focused on a different date coming just a few days prior. On July 17, teams must submit their protection lists to the league office.
And while trades aren’t usually allowed during the Stanley Cup Final, there are expected to be some pre-Expansion Draft deals that go down before the cutoff. With the Cup scheduled to be awarded no later than July 15, it could lead to a wild 48 hour period.
As there are really only a few more weeks to go for the Kings to make their final decisions, it’s time to update our LA Kings Protection List Power Rankings. We’ve also now included a ‘trade’ section at the bottom of this article to address how certain scenarios could impact LA’s list.
2021 NHL EXPANSION DRAFT RULES
For those just now jumping into the conversation — or for those perhaps needing a quick primer — we encourage you to read the original article in this series, as we answered every conceivable question possible about the Expansion Draft.
In the spirit of brevity, here are the two most salient points:
1. NHL teams must decide if they want to protect (A) seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or (B) eight skaters total – regardless of position – and one goalie?
After regularly checking in with all of our team sources, it appears the Kings will opt for choice A. While this leads to the them exposing Kale Clague, part of the rationale here is that he’s out of waiver options anyway. Which means, come training camp next season, he’d either need to make the Kings opening night roster or be placed on waivers before being reassigned to the AHL.
This is obviously a tricky move, as Clague will have just turned 23 years old at the time of the Expansion Draft. He’ll have three years of AHL experience under his belt after a stellar junior career. This season, he’s split time between the NHL and AHL. At different points this season, Clague was up with the Kings, making his final push to be protected.
From a Seattle perspective, it would leave their most likely choice as taking either Clauge (the younger player with more upside) or Olli Maatta (a 26-year-old established defenseman with one-year left on his contract). To truly evaluate which player would better serve the Kraken in 2021-22, you’d need to review the list of players they’re taking from other teams.
2. The best news for LA is that nearly all of their top prospects will not be eligible for the Seattle Expansion Draft.
Exempt Forwards – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Quinton Byfield, Martin Chromiak, Aidan Dudas, Sammy Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Kasper Simontaival, Johan Sodergran, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, and Gabe Vilardi
Exempt Defensemen – Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Sean Durzi, Brock Faber, Helge Grans, Cole Hults, Kim Nousiainen, Markus Phillips, and Jordan Spence
Exempt Goaltenders – Jacob Ingham, Lukas Parik, and Matt Villalta
LA KINGS PROTECTION LIST POWER RANKINGS – JUNE 2021
1. Cal Petersen
1. Drew Doughty – even without a contract stipulation requiring he be protected, there would be zero chance Doughty wasn’t protected
2. Matt Roy – Steady Eddie is part of LA’s future on the blueline
3. Sean Walker – as mentioned on KOTP recently, could eventually be included in a trade for a top-4 LHD this summer, yet that is more likely after the Expansion Draft
1. Anze Kopitar – nothing surprising here, LA’s captain isn’t going anywhere; and contrary to reports elsewhere, he does not have a contract that requires protection
2. Alex Iafallo – the Matt Roy of forwards; nothing flashy, yet certainly effective
3. Adrian Kempe – he made the most of trust placed in him by coach Todd McLellan during 2021, showing he can be effective at multiple positions in the lineup
4. Trevor Moore – with double digit goals this season there might not have been a bigger surprise on the team’s NHL roster, he’s gone from a ‘throw in’ in the Kyle Clifford trade to a productive bottom-6 forward
5. Lias Andersson – management has been patient with the 22-year-old Swede after acquiring him via trade in October; was a point-per-game player in the AHL this season, where he was sent to round out his game while being transitioned from a center to left winger
6. Dustin Brown – (more below)
7. Carl Grundstrom – (more below)
A couple of important notes here to pass along:
— From everything we’ve heard of late, Andreas Athanasiou will not be protected. The team is still interested in bringing him back and they’ve talked about a few different contract options. In general, it’s sort of a ‘here’s our best offer’ type of situation. He’ll be an RFA this summer with arbitration rights and the team isn’t interested in going down that path. If he likes the Kings offer (we’ve previously reported it would most likely be a two-year deal), they’re happy to have him back. If he feels he’d rather test his luck in free agency, the team will not be qualifying him and will allow things to play out that way.
— Barring a pre-Expansion Draft trade, and more on that next, the only real decisions GM Rob Blake needs to make involve the sixth and seventh forwards to protect. For now, Brown and Grundstrom are in the drivers seat. On one hand, protecting a 36-year-old winger seems to fly in the face of traditional thinking. However, he led the Kings in goals this season despite missing the last few weeks of their 56-game campaign. The injuries that sidelined him are said to be a non-factor going forward and we hear he’s essentially already recovered, having had time for plenty of rest and rehab. Additionally, the team is looking to add offense this summer, not jettison it away. While there may be a less than 10% chance the Kraken would actually take Brown, it still doesn’t appear to be a game of chicken that is worth playing at this stage.
— Grundstrom is also likely to get the nod here, despite ‘only’ being a bottom-6 forward. The Swedish-born 23-year old had a nice showing this season, is versatile, and plays a physical style that seems to be lacking in the organization. That should be enough to give him the edge over other candidates, namely: Martin Frk, Blake Lizotte or Austin Wagner.
LIST OF LA KINGS PLAYERS AVAILABLE TO SEATTLE
Using the above protected rankings, below is a full list of which Kings players would be eligible for the 2021 Expansion Draft:
Forwards – Andreas Athanasiou (RFA), Mikey Eyssimont (RFA), Martin Frk, Boko Imama (RFA), Brendan Lemieux, Blake Lizotte, Matt Luff (RFA), Drake Rymsha (RFA), and Austin Wagner
Defensemen – Mark Alt (UFA), Daniel Brickley (UFA), Kale Clague (RFA), Kurtis MacDermid, Olli Maatta, Jacob Moverare (RFA), and Austin Strand (RFA)
Goaltender – Jonathan Quick
On July 21, Seattle will only get to select a single player from each of the NHL teams — sans Vegas, they’re excluded from the entire process (a rule that was created before VGK ever played their first NHL game, largely because they don’t get to share in any of the Seattle expansion money) — so the Kings only stand to lose one guy from the entire pool of players they leave exposed.
LA KINGS TRADE SCENARIOS
Again, to minimize word count here, make sure you’re up to speed with the Kings plans this summer. We outlined what they’re looking to do with two articles linked here for your reference:
Essentially, the Kings have two forward spots to play with. For example — and these are all just hypothetical for sample purposes only — they could trade picks and prospects to Buffalo for Sam Reinhart and not have to worry about finding a protection spot for him. He’d simply slide onto the list in place of Brown or Grundstrom.
Additionally, if a deal for — again, just an example — Tyler Bertuzzi included Adrian Kempe as part of the package, there would be minimal disruption to LA’s protected list, as Bertuzzi would simply take Kempe’s spot.
Things get trickier out on the blueline. If the Kings swung a deal with Columbus for Zach Werenski or Seth Jones prior to July 17, they would almost certainly need to include Matt Roy or Sean Walker in the trade to maintain their preference of protecting seven forwards and three defensemen. If the deal somehow didn’t include either of those guys, they’d then need to pivot and now protect eight skaters; which would be four defensemen (Doughty, Roy, Walker, and the newly acquired player from the Blue Jackets) along with Kopitar, Iafallo, and two other forwards. Thus, things become much more difficult in that scenario because a player like Andersson gets squeezed out and becomes a prime target for Seattle.
Once the Kings get past the Expansion Draft, they’re fully open for business, with eyes on several additions planned before camp opens in September — as noted in the above linked Summer Shopping List article.
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