General manager Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche will have some big decisions to make when it comes to the Expansion Draft. There are a number of key players that will be exposed based solely on the amount of depth and talent Colorado has been able to acquire and develop. There is also the possibility that Colorado will give up a draft pick in order to protect certain players from being selected. Here are five players that Seattle should consider selecting from Colorado’s roster during the Expansion Draft:
Projected Protected List:
There are two options Colorado can consider when creating the protected list. The first is to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goaltender. If they go down this route, it will require them to protect Gabriel Landeskog. Although teams usually do not protect UFAs, this protection move would be done to ensure the exposure rules for forwards are met. The other option is eight skaters and one goaltender. Here are two potential protected lists that the Avalanche could submit:
Must Be Protected Due To No Movement Clause:
Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog (UFA) André Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Joonas Donskoi and Valeri Nichushkin
Cale Makar, Erik Johnson, Samuel Girard
Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, André Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Cale Makar, Erik Johnson, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews.
Nazem Kadri is a player Seattle should be very interested in. A mobile center that can move up and down your lineup, Kadri would help Seattle’s special teams as he can play on the top unit power play. One reason Colorado might be keen on Seattle taking Kadri is his $4.5 million cap hit. With Makar, Landeskog and Jost all needing new contracts, they will need to move out some salary this offseason. His time on ice may have decreased this season, but Kadri can still produce and be a solid second-line center for the Kraken in their inaugural season.
This season, Kadri has produced a 56.7 Corsi for percentage while producing 28 points in 49 games. Part of this bump could come from increased offensive zone starts. This season, he has an offensive zone start percentage of 56.3%. Another place where Kadri can help is faceoffs. He currently has a 52.8% faceoff percentage and has not dropped below 50% in a season since 2016-17. Kadri brings leadership, tenacity and a will to win. He would be a great addition to the Kraken organization.
Colorado is so deep on defence that it means Ryan Graves will be exposed during the Expansion Draft. Graves (25) is a good second-pair right-shot defenceman who can chip in some offence without being a defensive liability. He registered a plus-40 plus/minus last season and has seen his minutes increase this season due to the number of injuries Colorado has suffered. Graves would be a great pickup for Seattle and could even play on their top pair from the start of the season.
This season, Graves has seen a dramatic rise in his on-ice play as well as his advanced stats. His CF% jumped from 50.7% to 57.8% despite being given more responsibility this season. Some may argue that this bump in Corsi may have to do with the teammates around him, but what needs to be mentioned is that Graves does not play on the power play. He is mostly a shut-down defender used in penalty kill scenarios. Also, Colorado is a team that has been plagued by injuries this season with players like Makar, Byram and Johnson, so Graves has been forced to step up and play key minutes for this team all year. In Graves, Seattle would be getting a young, developing player who is signed through 2023 and can eat up big minutes. Getting him would help to build a strong foundation for the future in Seattle.
The former 99th overall pick from 2010 has taken some time to develop but has turned into a dependable third-line winger for Colorado. Donskoi has had a breakout season so far with 15 goals and 29 points in 44 games. His hard work has even led to a spot on the first power-play unit. Another player that can move up and down your lineup, Donskoi could provide Seattle with strong defensive play along with the ability to score between 13-18 goals a season.
Donskoi’s 22.7% shooting percentage is one of the main reasons he has had such a successful season offensively. This percentage is not sustainable but if he is given a larger role with Seattle, he could still produce at a decent scoring pace. Coming into the season, he was still producing 14-16 goals a season despite never topping 16:15 TOI a season. With additional ice time, however, we could see him get close to that 20-25 goal range. Donskoi also knows how to play responsibly in his defensive zone. His cap hit of $3.9 million makes it flexible to move him if Seattle has to, and it looks as though he is finally hitting coming into his prime as a player. Donskoi would be an interesting choice for Seattle, but may only be available if the Avalanche choose to protect eight skaters instead of the seven forward, three defenceman model.
After a breakthrough season with the Islanders last season, Colorado traded for Devon Toews to help shore up their defence. Toews has thrived in Colorado and is currently playing with Makar. The 27-year-old left-shot defenceman is signed through 2024 and would help establish the Kraken’s blueline as one of the best in the league from the start.
Toews is the main reason Colorado may have to choose the eight skater model in the Expansion Draft. With Makar and Girard as locks and Johnson’s no-move clause, Colorado will have to decide if Toews is worth exposing some key forwards this offseason. They should protect him because if they don’t Seattle will be sure to take him in the draft. This season, he has been the backbone of the Colorado defence averaging 24:42 minutes a game.
He plays power play, penalty kill and matches up against the other team’s top players on a consistent basis. Despite the matchups, Toews has a plus-25 plus/minus this season and possesses a 59.2 CF%. Toews has become a star in Colorado. Being on a more offensively driven team has made Toews into a player that any team would love to have. If available, there is no question Seattle should select him.
Valeri Nichushkin is a cheap, young option that Seattle could deal at next year’s deadline for picks or prospects if they want. He is signed at $2.5 million through next season and could help Seattle’s power play and top-nine. Since coming back for Russia, Nichushkin has become a more mature player who can chip in 10-15 goals and even spend time on the penalty kill if needed.
This season, Nichushkin has rounded out his game well. He has seen an increase in blocks, hits and penalty kill time. His 60.6% CF% puts him sixth on the team of players who have played 15 games or more, and he is fifth on the team in takeaways with 16. Although he might not be lighting the lamp this season, Nichushkin has turned into a depth guy who is crucial to the team’s success. If he is given a larger role, the point totals should increase to a point where he could be a consistent 18-20 goal scorer. Nichushkin has potential and could be an option if Seattle wants a low-risk high-reward project next season.
Losing A Good Players:
Regardless of who Colorado protects, they will lose a key player from their lineup. Luckily, they have one of the deepest farm systems in the league so the loss will not be felt as hard as other teams in similar situations. Seattle could be getting a foundational piece as Vegas got with Shea Theodore from Anaheim or William Karlsson from Columbus in the last Expansion Draft. If Colorado was smart, they would try and arrange a trade with Seattle in order to protect some of their stars in the Expansion Draft.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.