There are rumors abound that the Seattle Kraken will be the official name of the NHL’s 32nd team. It seems to be the popular choice by fans, but Seattle has stated they still have a decision to make with the name. They will also have many other decisions to make when it is time to select players for the currently nameless team.
It may not seem like it but the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft will be here before we know it. It might be time to start thinking about who on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster will be protected or exposed. The rules for the expansion draft this time around will match those of the 2017 Expansion Draft. Teams have the option to protect eight skaters and a goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie.
Let’s delve into the Penguins lineup and make some predictions on who is going to be protected and exposed come the end of next season. These selections are based solely on the NHL roster as of Feb. 6. This list also doesn’t take into account recent call ups from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or guys who have been bounced back and forth as they are most likely being exposed.
First things first, the players that the Penguins have no choice but to protect. Those with a no movement clause must be protected by their team. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are the only Penguins with this clause. These three are players that would without doubt be protected by the organization regardless of clause. They are life-long Penguins and nothing will change that.
Who to Protect
In the 2017 Vegas Expansion Draft, the Penguins employed the option of protecting eight skaters and a goalie. This time around it might be best for the Penguins to take the other option and protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. The core has grown since 2017 and players like Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are pacing to be valuable pieces of the future.
Guentzel and Rust are a lock to be protected. They are not only huge pieces of the future but are coming to take the spotlight from Crosby and Malkin. The other forwards that should be protected are also important to the team’s future. Whether it be long or short term Jared McCann, Brandon Tanvev, and Teddy Blueger are proving to be assets this season and could be eyeing long stays in Pittsburgh. Protecting them will solidify their spots as core players going forward.
After Letang, there are two remaining defenders to protect. Brian Dumoulin and John Marino should be taking those slots. Dumoulin gets protected for obvious reasoning, such as being a number one defenseman and sharing a blue line with Letang. Meanwhile, the rookie Marino has turned a lot of heads this season with his play. He is a key component of the defensive core this season, and will be sticking around for many to come. It is unlikely he will win, but come this NHL Award season, Marino may be receiving a few votes for Rookie of the Year.
Deciding on a goalie to protect in the last expansion draft divided Penguins fans — expect the Seattle expansion to be no different. The way Tristan Jarry has played this season shows that he is fully capable of being a star in the NHL. If that continues, there will be some real arguments to be made for both him and Matt Murray to be protected. They are both skilled, young athletes that have bright futures in the NHL. At this moment, however, Murray should be the one that is protected. He is the goalie of the future for this team and should be protected as such. His numbers are always improving and he has the postseason experience to back up the protection.
That leaves the rest to be exposed for Seattle to pick up. Guys like Patric Hornqvist or Dominik Simon have been around the team for a while and are important pieces, but at the end of the day, it’s a business and the negatives outweigh the positives. Hornqvist is aging and injury prone, with multiple concussions since joining the team in 2014. Simon, while improving his game, has cold spells at times and can be very unimpressive. Nick Bjugstad is seen as a great player by teammates and management alike, but the Penguins have played phenomenally in the 42 games (and counting) that he has missed this season.
Exposing Jarry might be the biggest risk, but depending on how his next season plays out, maybe he won’t be as appealing to the Seattle franchise. Not saying he will decline, but putting him in a season-long backup role gives other teams with multiple talented goalies to prove more valuable than Jarry. The New York Rangers are shaping to have a very respectable pair of goalies in Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
It is another expansion draft where the Penguins’ most intriguing exposure might be a goalie, but a lot of teams are starting to host two, sometimes three, capable goalies. Seattle will definitely have to look throughout the league for the best goalies at their disposal.
As for the rest of the players, there is not too much risk. Seattle can only select one player from each team and being exposed does not automatically mean they are getting taken. In some cases, Seattle might be doing Pittsburgh a favor in taking a skater over one of the goaltenders.
F- Sidney Crosby (NMC)
F- Evgeni Malkin (NMC)
F- Jake Guentzel
F- Bryan Rust
F- Jared McCann
F- Brandon Tanev
F- Teddy Blueger
D- Kris Letang (NMC)
D- Brian Dumoulin
D- John Marino
G- Matt Murray
F- Patric Hornqvist
F- Alex Galchenyuk
F- Nick Bjugstad
F- Zach Aston-Reese
F- Dominik Kahun
F- Dominik Simon
F- Sam Lafferty
D- Justin Schultz
D- Jack Johnson
D- Chad Rhuwedel
D- Marcus Pettersson
G- Tristan Jarry
G- Casey DeSmith
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.