One week ago, the Seattle Kraken had a tough expansion draft decision on their hands when it came to the Dallas Stars — do they take the young forward in Jason Dickinson, hoping for a possible top-six breakout? Or do they hope for a bounce back season from Anton Khudobin to help solidify their pipeline?
There’s two primary ways to look at the Stars’ lack of appealing players available for selection. The first is that Nill was able to shrewdly protect his team’s (eligible) core players while limiting Seattle’s options to players he could afford to lose. The second is that the Stars’ roster of (eligible) players is just plainly underwhelming. You decide which mindset helps you sleep at night.
But I digress. At the end of the day, the Kraken have to select someone from the Stars, so now it’s a question of who. Today, let’s break down the possible picks for Seattle, starting from most to least likely.
A dark-horse candidate even before the flurry of moves last week, Mascherin has emerged as a seemingly favorite to be selected by Seattle. Originally a second round pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Mascherin opted not to sign an ELC with Florida and re-entered the draft in 2018, where he was selected by Dallas in the fourth round. After a solid rookie and a decent sophomore year in the AHL, Mascherin broke out this past season with 34 points in just 37 AHL games, earning him a spot on the Central Division All-Star team.
Mascherin is knocking on the NHL door, and would likely get a chance to play bottom-six minutes with Dallas this next season. Only 23 years old, he would provide Seattle with a young winger who has the potential to become a solid middle-six scorer. At worst, he would serve as a solid depth forward who could provide a nice boost to their AHL farm team when they begin play in 2022.
Losing Mascherin would sting a little for the Stars — he has many fans who believe in his potential — but would ultimately not hurt them too much. Compared to expansion draft casualties around the league, he would be an easy pill to swallow.
When it was first announced that Bishop was waiving his NMC, the initial reaction from most onlookers was that it was doubtful he would be selected by Seattle. But now that each team’s protection lists have been finalized, things might have changed.
For starters, there aren’t too many attractive goalie options out there. Bishop’s exposure means Anton Khudobin is protected, and Carey Price similarly waived his NMC to allow the Montreal Canadiens to protect Jake Allen. The Arizona Coyotes, meanwhile, traded Adin Hill to the San Jose Sharks and several teams (such as the Ottawa Senators) opted to protect younger, less proven goaltenders and instead expose underperforming and/or overpaid veterans.
Secondly, as mentioned previously, the Stars don’t have many other appealing options. Taking Bishop would obviously be a risk for Seattle given his major health concerns as he missed the bubble playoffs and Stanley Cup run last year and the entire season this year due to a knee injury, but the reward would be phenomenal. He’s a Vezina-caliber goalie when healthy, plus a great locker room presence and fan favorite. There are plenty of young forwards like Adam Mascherin for the Kraken to choose from — there’s only one Ben Bishop.
Losing Bishop would hurt the Stars, but it might ultimately be a good outcome for them — it would allow the team to move forward with Khudobin and Jake Oettinger as the NHL tandem without complications plus free up some cap space to spend in free agency.
If Bishop’s health concerns take him off the table for Seattle, then the most talented player the Stars have available is Jamie Oleksiak. Despite a slow start to his NHL career after being drafted 14th overall by Dallas in the 2011 NHL Draft, Oleksiak has developed into a legitimate top-four defenseman, serving as a solid defensive partner for the recently extended Miro Heiskanen.
In fact, Oleksiak would be a slam dunk pick for the Kraken if it wasn’t for one teensy weensy detail — he’s currently a pending UFA. By selecting him, Seattle would get a small, exclusive negotiation window with Oleksiak, but there’s no guarantee that he would sign with the Kraken. In fact, he could already have a handshake deal done with Dallas as I type this, and would simply return to the Stars in free agency.
Still, thanks to a plethora of talent available at forward and a weak Pacific Division, the Kraken have a legitimate opportunity to be playoff contenders from the get-go, much like the Vegas Golden Knights. And thanks to starting from scratch, they would have plenty of cap space to offer Oleksiak more money than he could get in Dallas, not to mention the allure of earning more impactful minutes. With a lack of appealing options from Dallas, it could be worth rolling the dice.
Assuming he did not return in free agency, losing Oleksiak would hurt the Stars the most. They would have to either replace him on the free market with another defenseman, or hope that one of their internal options such as Thomas Harley could rise to the occasion and re-configure the top six in Dallas.
Let’s say Seattle doesn’t feel like gambling with Bishop’s health or Oleksiak’s UFA status. Let’s also assume they aren’t that high on Adam Mascherin, and/or that they have plenty of other young forward to choose from across the league. So now what?
Well, there’s still a few options the Kraken could take. Blake Comeau and Andrej Sekera are both veteran options who could provide some leadership in the locker room, and their cheap contracts could make them excellent trade deadline bait if Seattle’s season turns out how most expansion teams should go.
The Kraken could instead opt for a young forward besides Mascherin, one whom actually has NHL experience such as Joel L’Esperance or Nicholas Caamano. Ben Gleason is an option on the defensive side, and while they aren’t exactly young, Tanner Kero and Joel Hanley are each under contract for two more years and would provide cheap depth pieces. And if none of your options seem appealing, why not just take a “washed up” prospect such as Julius Honka or Colton Point, cross your fingers, and hope for the best?
Dallas wouldn’t bat their eyes if any of the above mentioned players were selected (although maybe in shock). Comeau and Sekera were in part re-signed to meet exposure requirements, and could easily be replaced in free agency (perhaps by one of the team’s own pending UFAs like Andrew Cogliano). Any other player is a fringe or bottom line NHLer at best, and could similarly be replaced by all the others who weren’t taken by Seattle.
So that just about does it for Seattle’s available options from Dallas. Slim pickings, but they’ve got to work with what they have.
Who do you think Seattle will end up taking? Who would you select if it were up to you? Leave your comments below!