In less than 48 hours, the Kings will have one less player among their group of names. It could be an RFA, a UFA, or even a player under contract. Which player the Seattle Kraken ends up taking will then lead to other decisions regarding the players remaining. It’s a summer of dominos expected in Los Angeles, but first things first – the Expansion Draft on Wednesday.
As we reported previously, LA GM Rob Blake had no interest in cutting a side deal with his counterpart in the Pacific Northwest. He simply isn’t interested in losing additional assets in the process of growing the league to 32 teams. Instead, Blake and his staff put their list of protected players together (posted here last Thursday, along with a list of exempt prospects) and are content with allowing the chips to fall where they may. One player among their ‘exposed’ list will be taken and the Kings will move forward from there.
Before we look at who might be headed out of town, here’s a fun article if you missed it yesterday:
Now on to what lies ahead…
LIST OF KINGS PLAYERS AVAILABLE TO THE KRAKEN
Forwards – Andreas Athanasiou (RFA), Mikey Eyssimont (RFA), Martin Frk, Carl Grundstrom, 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), Olli Maatta, Kurtis MacDermid, Jacob Moverare (RFA), Austin Strand (RFA), and Christian Wolanin
Goaltenders – Jonathan Quick and Troy Grosenick
Last time around with Vegas, we put percentages on which players were likely to be selected by the Golden Knights:
Disagree with below take.
My odds on who Vegas takes from LA:
Nolan/Dowd/Clifford 10% https://t.co/65YDcIM4bH
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 20, 2017
Let’s follow the same format for Seattle.
For a little table setter, we’ll also share a simple to use visual from the team at ImPCT Sport using data from the 2020-21 NHL season. ImPCT is an engine that uses artificial intelligence to estimate the value of players based on a variety of measures. Below is a depth chart using data for Los Angeles Kings players who saw action in a minimum of 15 games this year (note: players exposed in the Expansion Draft are highlighted in red):
ODDS OF WHICH KINGS PLAYER THE KRAKEN WILL SELECT
As a reminder, Seattle only gets to select one player from each of the other NHL teams. Thus, LA stands to only lose one of these guys in the Expansion Draft.
Wagner (27%) – Several of our sources continue to indicate they expect Wagner to be the pick, so we’ll trust their intel and/or instincts. He would give the Kraken some speed in their bottom-6 and if they believe a change of scenery will get his offensive game going again, there could be upside in going with the Calgary native. He’s under contract for two more seasons; don’t discount that element of the selection.
More detailed analytics on Wagner via ImPCT Sport, can be found here.
MacDermid (23%) – Placing him second on this list is likely to blow some people’s minds, so allow us to explain. From what we understand, there is huge respect between Kraken GM Ron Francis and Paul MacDermid. It’s a relationship that goes back to them playing together in Hartford during the early ’80s. Knowing the family that well aids in knowing about the character of a player and provides confidence regarding what you’ll be bringing into your locker room. And if we’re being honest, having a legit heavyweight in your lineup should also help in moving some tickets too.
Clague (15%) – This is who the pick should be. He just turned 23 years old, can play both sides of the blueline, and can quarterback a power play. We did a whole write up on Clague here. In a vacuum, Clague is the easy selection. However, he’s only played 22 NHL games, so there is some risk in the pick. Clague is also an RFA this summer, so he’ll need a new contract. And he’s out of waivers; noteworthy because if they pick him, they need to have a guaranteed spot for him among their starting seven defensemen come opening night. They could also select him and try to flip him to another team this summer, yet that also comes with risk. If you believe in Clague, you’re likely pointing to Shea Theodore as a comparable from an Expansion Draft perspective. He only had 53 games of NHL experience when he joined the Golden Knights and he hasn’t looked back since.
Maatta (15%) – Things start to get interesting down in this area of the board. Vegas’ original plan in 2017 was to take a bunch of players on expiring contracts and then flip them at the Trade Deadline. They would then build their team through the Draft. When they caught lightning in a bottle, they had to pivot during their inaugural season. Now, if Francis opts for a similar strategy, Maatta could be his guy. He’s that prototypical defenseman teams look for mid-season to stock up for a deep playoff run. He’s only 26 years old, has won a pair of Stanley Cups, and brings a ton of international experience. He’ll be on an expiring contract, with Chicago retaining part of the money. Although the Bromance with Doughty didn’t work out as planned, he’s more than serviceable in a second or third-pairing role. Analytics on Mattaa, as provided by the team at ImPCT Sport, can be found here.
Athanasiou (8%) – Yes, he scored 30 goals in 2018-19 with Detroit. He also went scoreless over the final 12 games this past season and had an earlier 15-game stretch with the Kings resulting in just two goals. He’s suited up for over 300 NHL games at this point. Put his defensive game aside for a second, though. If Seattle was to take him for offense, it’s not the slam dunk some make it out to be. He could be Jonathan Marchessault. He could just as easily end up being Oscar Lindberg too. Athanasiou’s 2020-21 analytics report can be found here.
Frk (7%) – If Francis is content with the players he’s taking from other NHL clubs and he ends up using his LA selection to take a gamble, Frk should be the pick. The potential upside here is huge. For everything we just said about Athanasiou being a feast or famine type selection, the same could apply here. They’re about the same age, yet Frk has barely played 100 NHL games. This past season was supposed to be his breakout year, where he was penciled in for a full-time role with the Kings; an idea that was derailed due to a groin injury. Now fully healthy and ready to show what he can do., Frk is just waiting for an opportunity. Will Francis give him another one?
Wait… another one? Yes, Seattle’s GM and Frk already have some history. A few years before Frk blasted his record setting shot at the AHL All Star Game in 2020, Francis — then serving as Carolina’s GM — liked him enough to claim the Czech-born winger off waivers from Detroit. Soon thereafter, Frk made his NHL debut while wearing a Hurricanes sweater.
Grundstrom, Lizotte, Luff, and Strand (4%) – With all due respect to this trio of forwards, there is simply better offensive value in one of the other assets LA has offered up. All of them are serviceable bottom-6 players, but those are readily available in the free agent market every single summer. That said, Lizotte’s character is off the charts and he’s a high-culture guy. He’d be great at helping forge an identity for the Kraken during training camp. Coaches love having him around. For those reasons, we may have slotted him a tier or two too low. Even if we doubled his chances, though, he’d still be outside the top-3 of likely picks Francis makes from LA.
In Strand, they’d be getting a defenseman with ties to the area, as he played junior hockey in Seattle and was a big part of those Thunderbirds teams. At 24 and standing 6-foot-3, there’s enough to work with and see some promise. It’s a bit of a stretch to take him over Clague, but stranger things have happened in the NHL.
Quick (1%) – We discussed this at length on a recent Kings Of The Podcast. Essentially, the comparable simply isn’t there to when the Golden Knights selected Marc-Andre Fleury. Back in 2017, Fleury was three years younger than Quick is now — that’s huge in goalie years — and the Penguins were coming off winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. Seattle is already primed to take Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger. There are several intriguing young goalies who have also made available, as well. Even if the Kraken opt to pass on Carey Price, there are still several experienced netminders who would be a more likely option than Quick. If they were to take LA’s former Conn Smythe winner, the idea of flipping him at the deadline is possible, yet not very probable. The much safer pick would be one of the top three players listed above.
Wednesday morning, the Kraken will submit their final selections to NHL headquarters and then their 30 picks will be officially revealed in a made-for-television special airing on ESPN2 at 5pm PST that evening.
In the end, regardless of who Seattle ultimately selects from Los Angeles, the Kings still end up putting as many as five players on waivers unless some trades are made this summer. We broke down the entire lineup situation in an article linked below.
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