Could the Detroit Red Wings have a new rival soon?
Now that the Seattle Kraken have officially revealed their team name, the NHL suddenly has two octopus-affiliated franchises. There are two schools of thought on a potential Red Wings-Kraken rivalry: “Sure, why not” and “please don’t force this.” Personally, I’m with the former, because that implies the Red Wings will be competitive enough to have a rival at some point.
Before the Red Wings or Kraken can establish their tentacled dominance, the latter needs to add players to their roster. Seattle’s expansion draft will be held next summer and follow the same rules as the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights draft.
The Red Wings are in a good spot heading into the expansion draft. As a rebuilding franchise, there are only a handful of players who are truly indispensable. Let’s dive in.
Exempt Red Wings
Before we get into the protected list, it’s worth noting that several prospects will be exempt from the expansion draft. Per the NHL, “All first- and second-year NHL players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward protection limits).” This includes:
- LW Filip Zadina
- D Moritz Seider
- C Joe Veleno
- D Jared McIsaac
- G Filip Larsson
- D Albert Johansson
- G Victor Brattstrom
- C Chase Pearson
- LW Mathias Brome
Now let’s get Kraken on Detroit’s expansion draft protected list.
Red Wings’ Protected List
Given their organizational makeup, the Red Wings should opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie:
- F Dylan Larkin
- F Anthony Mantha
- F Tyler Bertuzzi
- F Robby Fabbri
- F Michael Rasmussen
- F Evgeny Svechnikov
- F Givani Smith*
- D Filip Hronek
- D Dennis Cholowski
- D Gustav Lindstrom*
- G Jonathan Bernier*
You probably noticed there are three asterisks above. We’ll get to those in a minute.
First, it’s obvious that the Red Wings should protect Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi, Fabbri, and Rasmussen up front. Those five forwards will have prominent roles in Detroit’s top-nine in 2021 and beyond. The same goes for Hronek, who was Detroit’s go-to defenseman this season and figures to be a fixture in the top-four for years to come.
Both Svechnikov and Cholowski need to join that “indispensable” group this season. Given Detroit’s lack of defensive depth at the NHL level, I can’t imagine the Red Wings would let another team scoop up Cholowski for nothing. That said, Cholowski needs to prove he can consistently cut it against the world’s best. As for Svechnikov, if the Red Wings sign a relatively young free agent or another prospect establishes himself as an NHL regular, he could be on the outside looking in during the expansion draft. The clock is certainly nearing midnight for Svechnikov.
Now onto the asterisks. Smith, Lindstrom, and Bernier would be fine choices to protect, but are not set in stone. Dmytro Timashov, Taro Hirose, Danny DeKeyser, Madison Bowey, and Patrik Nemeth (if re-signed beyond the 2020-21 season) could force Detroit to protect them with stellar play. The Red Wings could also add players between now and then, whether that’s through free agency or trade.
Red Wings Helping Other Teams
As I noted previously, the NHL’s implementation of a flat salary cap will have a notable impact on several teams. As a result, the Red Wings could look into acquiring players below market rate from cash-strapped teams. This could also be positioned as helping other teams narrow their list of players needing protection.
In addition, there will be plenty of teams with a surplus in one position and in need of depth elsewhere. For example, the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Columbus Blue Jackets each have multiple goaltenders worth protecting. Those teams have a few options:
- Risk losing an unprotected goalie for nothing
- Offer the Kraken assets not to select the unprotected goalie
- Protect one goalie and trade the other for assets
The Red Wings come into play with the third option. Steve Yzerman has a treasure trove of assets available if he wants to entertain this route. Note this doesn’t just apply to goalies, but other positions where teams have surpluses as well, like Carolina Hurricanes defensemen or Philadelphia Flyers forwards.
The Kraken Select…
If the protected list above does not change, the likeliest player to be chosen is Timashov. The forward offers the Kraken a cheap, talented player who could contribute some offense in a bottom-six role.
Similar to the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Tomas Nosek, this isn’t the end of the world. While it would be nice to keep depth players like Timashov, the Red Wings currently have plenty of bottom-six forwards and a handful of prospects who could step into similar roles as well.