Red Wings Expansion Draft Preview: Kraken Bait & Trade Scenarios

Simply put, the Detroit Red Wings have a lot on their plate right now. 

By the end of the month, they’ll have navigated the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, the 2021 NHL Draft, and the opening of free agency season. Steve Yzerman will certainly be a busy man.

But today, we’re going to focus solely on the expansion draft. After much anticipation, the Kraken finally get to select their team. In Detroit, Yzerman and the Red Wings are in good shape going into the expansion draft, more so now than when we began to project Detroit’s protected list back in January 2020.

So, with the expansion draft around the corner, let’s take a look at where the Red Wings stand with who they’ll protect, expose, and target as trade bait.

Related: THW’s Ultimate Mock Expansion Draft: Meet Our Seattle Kraken

Red Wings’ Protected List

I’ve gone through several iterations of Detroit’s protected list, as evidenced by the multiple versions linked above. But now that the 2020-21 season and after-season events are over, here’s my final projection for Detroit’s projected list:

  • F – Dylan Larkin
  • F – Tyler Bertuzzi
  • F – Jakub Vrana
  • F – Robby Fabbri
  • F – Michael Rasmussen
  • F – Adam Erne
  • F – Givani Smith
  • D – Filip Hronek
  • D – Troy Stecher
  • D – Gustav Lindstrom
  • G – Thomas Greiss

Exposing Frans Nielsen, Richard Panik, Danny DeKeyser, and Kaden Fulcher satisfies the expansion draft’s games-played exposure rules.

Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Moritz Seider, Jonatan Berggren, and several other Red Wings prospects are exempt from the expansion draft.

Detroit’s Trade Opportunities

There are three types of trades that we’ll see in the coming weeks:

  • Positioning trades – prior to the expansion draft
  • Salary cap trades – after the expansion draft and before the entry draft
  • Hockey trades – before, during, and after the entry draft

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the first two. 

Starting with positioning trades, the Red Wings should be strategic about the deals they pursue. If a young player who fits Detroit’s rebuild timeline is available—say Vince Dunn, Jake Virtanen, or Travis Dermott—sure, go for it. But requests for Red Wings picks and/or prospects in exchange for older roster players should not be entertained.

Potential Detroit Red Wings trade target Vince Dunn.
Vince Dunn would certainly bolster Detroit’s blue line. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Alternatively, salary cap trades should be Detroit’s priority. Heading into the expansion draft, teams are hoping Seattle will help resolve their salary woes. But in all likelihood, that won’t happen. Seattle will acquire a few bad contracts for sweeteners, but not all of them. As a result, some teams will need to shed salary to either get under the 2021-22 cap ceiling or have enough funds to pursue meaningful free agents. That’s where Detroit comes in.

Like they did with the Marc Staal trade last year, the Red Wings should absolutely inquire about hefty contracts that Seattle did not pick up in the expansion draft. Teams will need to pay a price, of course, but this is a great way for Detroit to add to their stockpile of picks and prospects.

Potential trade targets could include Loui Eriksson, Jake Gardiner, Leo Komarov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Reilly Smith, and Marcus Pettersson.

Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if any of these players are scooped up by Seattle first.

Seattle’s Top Choices

Back to the actual expansion draft. Two Red Wings stand out as likely candidates to be selected by the Kraken: Vladislav Namestnikov and Dennis Cholowski.

Namestnikov gives Seattle a versatile forward who had decent enough possession and expected goals-for numbers last season. He also has a palatable contract, with one year at $2 million remaining. The Kraken could easily flip Namestnikov to a team looking for depth – now or at the trade deadline. Plus, he was Seattle’s choice in THW’s mock expansion draft.

Vladislav Namestnikov of the Detroit Red Wings
Has Vladislav Namestnikov played his last game in Hockeytown? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

On the other hand, Cholowski could be appealing due to his youth, offensive abilities, and skating. He’s only 23 and could benefit from a change of scenery – perhaps joining a team in the same state where he played his last year of junior hockey is in his best interest. 

Both players have drawbacks, though, such as Namestnikov’s age and Cholowski’s defensive deficiencies. But that’s Seattle’s prerogative to weigh, not ours.

Related: Red Wings’ Top 25 Prospects

Evgeny Svechnikov and Richard Panik could be considered here as well. It’s possible one of the two is selected, but unlikely. Then again, no one expected the Vegas Golden Knights to choose Tomas Nosek over Petr Mrazek and Riley Sheahan.

Final Word

If the Kraken are debating between a third-line center and the second coming of Jakub Kindl, take that as a sign that the Red Wings are in good shape. Well, for the expansion draft at least – their lack of NHL depth is concerning.

But for now, rest easy knowing Yzerman and the Red Wings have the high ground when it comes to the expansion draft and salary cap management.