There are plenty of games that Seattle Kraken fans should take the time to watch as the regular season gets close to its conclusion. The coming week is no exception. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM Eastern should be particularly intriguing.
The Penguins managed to squeeze out a 1-0 win on home ice Sunday night. However, the final score may not have been all that indicative of the quality of play. Per MoneyPuck.com’s Deserve To Win O’Meter, largely based on expected goals, the Penguins had approximately a 68% chance at winning.
With the win, the Penguins moved past the idle Washington Capitals and into first place in the MassMutual East Division. With the New York Rangers making up ground for the fourth playoff spot in the division, a spot that Boston currently occupies, the Bruins will have plenty of motivation to come out hard and play a better game on Tuesday night.
Both teams have some fascinating options that the Kraken should be scouting now in preparation for the upcoming expansion draft. As a reminder, each team can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender, or eight skaters and one goaltender. Let’s take a look at some players who may be of interest to the Kraken come July 21.
Given the Penguins’ long and ongoing window of contention, it’s no surprise that they have a surplus of players whom they would probably like to protect. Their flexibility is also hampered by three veterans with no-movement clauses: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang – though all three would most likely be protected regardless.
Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, and Tristan Jarry will almost certainly be protected too, leaving two more forward spots to be filled. Players in the mix are Jared McCann, Kasperi Kapanen, Teddy Blueger, and Zach Aston-Reese.
All four of these players would be welcome additions to the Kraken. The first two have untapped offensive potential while the latter two are defensive stalwarts. Regardless of which ones are made available, Seattle will be getting a great young player.
It’s also worth acknowledging the fact that backup goaltender Casey DeSmith will be left unprotected. Although he is unproven in a starter’s role, he’s been highly successful in his limited minutes. In 19 games this season, he has a .913 Save Percentage (SV%), a 2.42 Goals-Against Average (GAA), and 4.94 Goals Saved Above expected (GSAx).
Similar to the Penguins, the Bruins have had a long period of contention and have three players under no-movement clauses in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Massachusetts native Charlie Coyle. Again, fortunately for Boston, all three players would probably be protected anyway.
On defense, the Bruins are in a fairly simple position; only three defensemen are truly key parts of the team’s corps. Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brandon Carlo will each be protected. The only blueliners who may be difficult to lose are Jakub Zboril and recent deadline acquisition Mike Reilly, who is a free agent at the end of this year.
At forward, Bergeron, Marchand, and Coyle will each receive a protection slot, along with David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk. Wingers Craig Smith and Ondrej Kase are also likely to be protected. Of course, these conclusions are reached while operating under the assumption that Boston will not have a contract extension in place for deadline acquisition Taylor Hall. While Seattle will not have a lot of players under contract to choose from, there are plenty of pending free agents for them to negotiate with, including Hall, David Krejci, and pending restricted free agent Trent Frederic.
Both of Boston’s goaltenders will be unrestricted free agents at year’s end, putting that position in limbo at the moment. However, Tuukka Rask has been a staple in net in Boston for the better part of a decade, so it feels safe to think he will be the Bruins’ choice. That leaves Jaroslav Halak, who has performed exceptionally well in a 1B role, and young goaltending prospect Dan Vladar available to Seattle.
The Penguins and Bruins are not often talked about as impressive options for expansion draft picks, but there are intriguing depth players on both rosters. It’ll be fascinating to watch them go head to head this Tuesday, not only for the playoff implications but also for the players that could find their way onto Seattle’s roster this summer.
I’ll be contributing as a writer for the Seattle Kraken at The Hockey Writers. I attend high school in New York City and I have written for my personal Substack page in the past. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @jakezrihen_ to see my latest articles and more!