Still reeling from the effects of the Vegas Expansion Draft four years ago, the Anaheim Ducks must now maneuver their way through yet another expansion draft this summer as the Seattle Kraken officially become the NHL’s 32nd team.
We’re still a couple of weeks away from the actual expansion draft, and 30 members (one for each team, Vegas is exempt but could still facilitate trades) from our staff of talented writers were tasked with creating our own mock protection lists ahead of the real thing.
Each “general manager” could negotiate side deals with the Kraken, managed by Tony Wolak, to ensure that all assets were properly insured. Trades could also be made between the remaining 30 teams, of course, and many deals were, in fact, made, as well as teams found creative ways to work around the expansion draft’s requirements.
Why are the Ducks still feeling the impact of the Vegas Expansion Draft? It’s because the player they used as a sweetener to make sure Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen weren’t selected turned into a bonafide top-4 defenseman. That player is Shea Theodore and he’s been nothing but productive since arriving in Las Vegas.
This time around, the Ducks may not be hurt as badly. Most of it comes down to simply not having many assets of interest now, given the state of the team. Still, it’s also fortunate that players like Max Comtois, Trevor Zegras, and Jamie Drysdale are exempt from being selected.
Protection Thought Process
Because of the lack of solid contributors on the team, the Ducks could go in a couple of directions. The standard approach we saw from many teams in 2017 was to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. The other more unorthodox approach that could be implemented by more teams this time around is protecting eight total skaters and one goalie.
One benefit for the Ducks is that contrary to 2017, they’re not tied down to any no-movement clauses this time around as Ryan Getzlaf’s contract expired this offseason and Ryan Kesler’s no-movement clause converted to a modified no-trade clause. That means that they can choose between the 7-3-1 or 8-1 approach instead of being tied to the 7-3-1 method.
I went into this mock expansion draft with the idea that the Kraken wouldn’t quite be interested in Adam Henrique (poor season, bloated contract) or Jakob Silfverberg (offseason surgery, big contract) so leaving them exposed was a risk I was willing to take.
Getzlaf being a free agent means that protecting him isn’t extremely necessary. He’s a player who has been in the league for a long time and commands a lot of respect. I’m fully confident that he’ll return to Anaheim next season on a cheap, short-term deal and I’m betting that his representation has let Kraken general manager Ron Francis know that Getzlaf has no intention of relocating.
Derek Grant is also a player I had reservations about leaving exposed, but he’s not more valuable than the four I protected and players like Grant are a dime a dozen when it comes to who the real Kraken will have at their disposal.
Deciding who to protect from the defensive corps was a little bit more difficult. At first glance, it seems like a fairly easy decision. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson. Done and dusted. But Haydn Fleury impressed following his acquisition from Carolina and is just 25. Like Lindholm and Manson, his contract expires next offseason, but there’s a much higher chance that Fleury will still be with the team than the former two. I even entertained the idea of trading away Manson to fill the 7-3-1 format but found no takers.
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A notable absence from the protection list is this past offseason’s big fish, Kevin Shattenkirk. Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Shattenkirk was brought in with the idea that he could help strengthen both the blue line and the power play. To say he fell short of those expectations would be an understatement.
In fact, I was so underwhelmed with Shattenkirk’s performance that I tried to entice Tony into selecting Shattenkirk by offering a pair of second-round draft picks. A deal never materialized, but that’s how desperate I was to rid myself of Shattenkirk.
I’ve opted for the 8-1 format here:
Forwards: Rickard Rakell, Isac Lundeström, Troy Terry, Max Jones
Defensemen: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Haydn Fleury, Josh Manson
Goaltender: John Gibson
It wasn’t an easy decision to make as there are a few forwards I would have liked to protect. The most notable of those not on the protected list is Sam Steel, who ended up being Tony’s pick.
As I just mentioned, Steel was the odd man out and was the one packing his bags for the Pacific Northwest. There were a few options that I think Tony could have gone with here. Anthony Stolarz could have been the pick as a suitable backup on a cheap contract. The aforementioned Grant was another cheap option at forward, while the recently arrived Alexander Volkov was also there for the taking. Heck, maybe there’s a redemption arc to be had here where Shattenkirk is the pick and he reverts to the form of his St. Louis Blues days.
In the end, I think Steel is the pick with the highest ceiling. He’s still just 23 and while his career has stagnated a bit over the last season or two, I’m confident that he can still be a contributor if given playing time. I don’t think this would be another “Shea Theodore for pennies” scenario, but it’s not out of the question to say that Steel can’t be a solid No. 3 center or second-line winger in a few years.
As I said previously, there are a variety of ways that the real Ducks can approach this. There’s been little to no news regarding any moves leading up to the expansion draft aside from Adam Henrique supposedly being on the trading block. I don’t think that will necessarily impact who the Ducks protect, but I think Seattle’s pick would become extremely obvious if the Ducks were to go the 7-3-1 route.
I’m excited to see how the composition of the real Kraken turns out and I’m hoping that it won’t come at a huge expense to the Ducks.
Derek has been a hockey fan for almost a decade and has been a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
He graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. He spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff (both as a reporter and editor) and is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.