Kraken Shouldn’t Hesitate to Draft Domi

The rumours came out Saturday morning that the Columbus Blue Jackets were likely to leave 26-year-old, left-shooting centre Max Domi available in the expansion draft, and today’s published protected lists proved that to be true. This news should excite fans of the Seattle Kraken. He’s a talented player who’s coming off a down year, and just entering what should be the peak period of his productive years. Kraken general manager Ron Francis will have to decide if a change of scenery is all the Winnipeg, Manitoba-native needs to thrive.

Max Domi Columbus Blue Jackets
Max Domi might not wear a Columbus Blue Jackets jersey in 2021-22. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Domi’s production has been all over the board in the first few seasons of his NHL career, and it’s right to question whether the Kraken would be selecting the 28-goal, 72-point player who posted a plus-20 in 2018-19, or the nine-goal, 24-point one who finished this past season at a sizable minus-18. The fact of the matter is, that lack of certainty is the very reason why a young, talented scorer is being exposed in the expansion draft, and it’s a bet the Kraken should absolutely make.

Blue Jackets Were a Team in Regression in 2020-21

It wasn’t a great season in Columbus. In spite of making a splash with their acquisition of elite goal scorer, Patrik Laine, the team struggled in the shortened season, finishing at the bottom of an admittedly tough Discover Central Division. Sellers at the trade deadline, the team as a whole wasn’t an easy place to generate positive statistics. While his cap hit at $5.3 million next season isn’t insignificant, it won’t take a miracle for him to provide value at that price either. Domi is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, meaning he could be moved as a rental if the playoffs look out of reach, or signed using some of the Kraken’s expected-to-be-significant cap room.

Canadiens left wing Max Domi
Domi is already on his third NHL roster, having played for the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes before landing in Columbus. (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Blue Jackets, on their way into a rebuild, might not see him as a part of their future, but Seattle stands a much better chance of being competitive in 2021-22, and Domi can help in that regard. His generally favourable advanced stats mean he’s the sort of player that aligns with what Seattle is looking for, and on top of that, he has demonstrated a scoring touch, which is the one skill most likely to be in short supply at the expansion draft. History suggests Domi won’t put 30 or more goals in the opposing net year after year, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to see him as a consistent 20-goal scorer. Seattle is going to need a roster that generates a mix of scoring from all of its lines.

Injury Status Will Be the Deciding Factor

Domi underwent surgery a short time ago for a labral tear of the right shoulder, and having so recently gone under the knife means it will be hard to track his recovery process. Taking a flyer on an injured player with upside isn’t the worst draft strategy, but it’s no way to construct an entire roster. With the news that Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues will be available, the comparable risk vs. reward equation suggests that might a better direction to take. However, Tarasenko is further along in his recovery, and if his healing process isn’t going well, then that fact combined with his age might make Domi the more attractive bet.

St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko
St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko is another injured player who might attract the Kraken’s attention. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Francis will have to review the other unprotected Blue Jackets, along with his pending selections from the other NHL clubs to see if Domi’s particular set of skills fits the puzzle he’s constructing on the west coast. Even if that answer turns out to be a no, it might benefit the Kraken to select Domi anyways and then look to move him to another team. There’s no question he has some perceived value in the league, or it wouldn’t be news that he’s been left unprotected.

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