No, we don't have any inside information on a team name, but that's the one I like the best, so I decided to roll with it. After four weeks of player protection breakdowns, we are finally at the moment of truth, a team is picked, but first, a couple of disclaimers. If you haven't read the four previous articles, you can check them all out here division by division:
When picking the team, I felt it was important to be as realistic as possible, so I decided to stick under the $81.5 million cap that will likely extend into next year. Having said that, Seattle will be required to pick 20 players that are already under contract for the 2021-22 campaign. Of course, at this point it's impossible to know for certain which players will and won't be under contract for that season since we're still a year away. Half of the 30 players I selected are set to become restricted free agents between now and Seattle's first season, but those contracts will be sorted out one way or another.
Lastly, the Kraken (name pending) will be selecting 30 players, but they'll have to comply with a 23-man roster once the season starts, so I needed to ensure there were enough players currently on two-way deals or entry-level contracts to make that possible. The team can't realistically pick the 30 best players available regardless of cap hit or the roster cap. Finally, one last shoutout to CapFriendly.com, without whom this project would have been near impossible. Without further ado, here is how it all shook out:
Between the Pipes
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
Washington Capitals: Ilya Samsonov
Much like when Vegas held their expansion draft, the focal point here was snagging a guy in the crease who could be the face of the franchise. King Henrik currently ranks sixth all-time in wins (second among active players) and likely still has a few good years left in the tank. Bringing his replacement in as well in Samsonov is the perfect mix of weighing the immediate on-ice product and planning for the future.
Patrolling the Blue Line
New Jersey Devils: P.K. Subban
Boston Bruins: Torey Krug
There's no arguing that Subban has had a disappointing, perhaps even disastrous, season in New Jersey this year. That still doesn't change the fact that he would lead Seattle's top top pairing, serve as a power-play quarterback and eat up significant minutes. Giving him a top-end partner in Krug would only serve to further bolster Subban's offensive contributions.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Justin Schultz
Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin
When he's at his best, Schultz is a lock for the No. 2 power-play unit. However, he has struggled with injuries over the past few years, which could allow Brodin to slot into that role instead. At even strength, having two blueliners who can move the puck up the ice and who aren't prone to significant defensive lapses on your second pairing would be a dream come true for Seattle's forwards.
Carolina Hurricanes: Brett Pesce
New York Islanders: Devon Toews
While Pesce and Toews would project as the third pairing initially, there is little doubt in my mind that both guys would be challenging for more minutes from the start of training camp and throughout the year. Toews' offensive upside would especially make him a dangerous piece to have out there against the opposition's third or fourth lines. Perhaps the Seattle coaching staff would be better suited calling this their 2b pair.
Detroit Red Wings: Patrik Nemeth
Nemeth offered the best combination of defensive ability – he was a minus-10 on a horrible Red Wings team this year – cap hit ($3 million) and age (28) among the Red Wings available for selection. His spot on the 23-man roster should be considered tenuous at best, though he likely gets the nod over the three blueliners designated for the minors (see below) coming out of training camp.
With this combinations of players, you have veterans in Subban, Schultz and Krug that can lead the way, youth in Pesce and Toews, as well as three combinations of right-handed/left-handed defensemen. The obvious albatross is the Subban contract at $9 million annually, but the Kraken would only be on the hook for his deal for one season and could then either renegotiate or let him walk in free agency.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Yanni Gourde
Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski
Edmonton Oilers: James Neal
These three guys have combined for 92 points this season and have all crested the 60-point mark at some point in their NHL career. Neal has already been through this once, so he would no doubt end up being a captain for the club and would provide the team with a top-end scoring talent. Gourde's speed would make this a dynamic first line that would likely rival any team in the league.
Montreal Canadiens: Paul Byron
Toronto Maple Leafs: Alex Kerfoot
Nashville Predators: Colton Sissons
Byron was plagued by injuries this year but remains a top-six forward in this league and would likely benefit from playing with dynamic youngsters in Kerfoot and Sissons. The center position is a little thin to have Kerfoot already taking on a second-line spot, though the team could opt to move Byron over to the middle instead if it felt it wanted a more established veteran anchoring the second line.
Calgary Flames: Sam Bennett
Colorado Avalanche: Tyson Jost
Columbus Blue Jackets: Josh Anderson
If you remove 2019-20 from the equation, this could be a group of second-line talents giving the organization quite the third line. Both Bennett and Anderson have seen their productivity limited due to injuries this season while Jost continues to be a consistent 20-point producer who would fit well into a third-line role. If he can get back to being 100 percent, Anderson is the most likely candidate to push for a spot in the top-six.
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Kahun
Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Laughton
Anaheim Ducks: Sonny Milano
Another trio of up and coming players, all of which have the capacity to produce, but who also offer the speed and tenacity to play against some of the top lines in the league. While most fourth lines figure to see 5-10 minutes per night, this group could certainly challenge for closer to 12-15. If there is a player that could move up from this group, it's likely Kahun who has experience playing with top talents in the league.
Arizona Coyotes: Christian Fischer
St. Louis Blues: Jordan Kyrou
Fischer has managed just 56 games this year while Kyrou has managed a mere 28 appearances, which is why they project to be healthy scratches coming out the gate. Both of these guys would see action at some point, even without the inevitable injuries during the NHL season, but they would no doubt need to hold off challenges from the team's three other minor-league designated forwards.
There's no doubt that I trended towards the younger side with the group, as there are only three players currently over the age of 30 in this forward complement. Despite this, the club wouldn't lack for leadership with Pavelski and Neal on the team. Looking ahead to the future, the seven pending restricted agents will all need new deals between now and July of 2021, which will certainly change some factors when trying to stay within the cap.
Headed to the Minors
Florida Panthers: Chris Driedger
Driedger put together a solid debut for the Panthers in relief of the injured Sergei Bobrovsky this season, going 7-2-1 with a 2.05 GAA in 12 outings. It's too soon for him to unseat the likes of Ilya Samsonov as the No. 2 netminder with this club. More likely than not, the 25-year-old becomes a trade chip for the club down the road once their minor-league system is a little more built out. If needed, Driedger is a solid third goalie to have waiting in the wings.
Ottawa Senators: Christian Wolanin
Los Angeles Kings: Paul LaDue
Vancouver Canucks: Jalen Chatfield
There's not much more you would want from your fringe NHL guys than to have a pair of players in Wolanin and LaDue who have NHL experience and an up and comer like Chatfield who could become a NHL regular within a season or two. In the case of injury, LaDue would likely be the first name on the call-up list and would be the most likely to pry the seventh defenseman spot away from Patrik Nemeth during training camp.
San Jose Sharks: Antti Suomela
Winnipeg Jets: Mason Appleton
Chicago Blackhawks: Matthew Highmore
None of these players has reached the 50-game mark during the 2019-20 campaign, with Appleton logging the most action with 46 contests, but that will likely change heading into 2020-21. If all three can play full a season with their respective clubs next year, they could find themselves factoring into the 23-man roster for the Kraken down the road.
If you are playing along at home, you'll notice that the overall cap hit for all 30 players is actually $85.2 million, but once you factor in the seven minor-league players, this would leave the team with approximately $1.8 million in cap space if it wants to make a run at another player. This is a club that could no doubt hit the ice running, probably not as good as Vegas did, while also being well setup for the future. Everything will change a year from now when we have more contract certainty and, no doubt, there will be deals made to see specific players taken, which is what makes the expansion draft one of the more exciting events on the upcoming NHL schedule.