Seattle Mock Expansion Draft: Win Now Team

What if the Seattle Somethings were joining the NHL for 2019-20 and the expansion draft were held today?

That draft is still two seasons away — slated for June 2021, following the 2020-21 campaign — so it is impossible to project the players that will comprise Seattle’s inaugural roster. So much will happen between now and then, to alter the makeup of any lineups compiled in the present.

Reality is, the team doesn’t even have a name yet — nor a general manager. But these are the dog days of summer — now that free agency is winding down — and who doesn’t enjoy a good mock to pass the time? Or a bad mock, for that matter?

Mocks are always a fun exercise, no matter how fruitless, but it’s much easier to envision the season to come — the immediate future.

The players that were good in 2018-19 will, by and large, be good again in 2019-20 — but may no longer be good by 2021-22, when Seattle takes to the ice for the first time.

Some will bounce back next season and others will break out, but both are predictable for the most part. And we can also assume, with a degree of confidence, which players will regress or decline from this past season.

There is no such certainty for 2021-22. That is too far off, in hockey years, to form or maintain any expectations pertaining to player performance. Let alone accounting for all the roster changes over the next two seasons leading up to the expansion draft — many of the moves made with that looming loss in mind.

Things will be much different by then — on so many fronts — so let’s keep the focus on 2019-20 for this series of mocks. A series of three to highlight the different strategies that Seattle could take towards the expansion draft: win now, build for the future, and best player available. The latter will be something of a hybrid between the first two, and all three will comply with the $81.5-million salary cap for 2019-20.

Setting Stage for Mock Series

To clarify, this series of mocks will be pretending that the expansion draft is today, with Seattle starting play this coming season, and that CapFriendly’s tool applies to 2019-20.

In reality, that tool is prorated for 2021-22, so there are some discrepancies for young players on entry-level contracts that would be exempt in 2019 but eligible in 2021 — these mocks assume those players are eligible in the present. And also with some no-move clauses that are in effect for 2019 but expired for 2021 — these mocks assume those NMCs are nonexistent in the present.

A tad confusing, but pretend the 2021 eligibility rules apply to 2019. Or pretend it is currently 2021 and Seattle is debuting this fall. Either way, apply CapFriendly’s tool to today.

Note that the same protected and exposed lists were utilized for each of these three mocks to maintain consistency in the selection process and were based on NHL rosters as of July 15.

Also note that Vegas is exempt from this expansion draft — as will still be the case in 2021.

Starting With Win Now Team

Vegas set the bar sky high for Seattle by advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in the Golden Knights’ debut season — against all the odds — and qualifying for the playoffs again as a sophomore franchise to debunk any fluke talk. That team is for real going forward thanks to the efforts of George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon.

For this win-now mock, Seattle’s goal is to replicate that Vegas success — to hit the ground running as a contender from Day 1.

Anaheim Ducks

Protected Forwards: Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, Max Jones

Protected Defencemen: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Brendan Guhle

Protected Goaltender: John Gibson

Exposed Forwards: Adam Henrique, Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, Daniel Sprong, Devin Shore, Kiefer Sherwood

Exposed Defencemen: Josh Manson, Jacob Larsson, Josh Mahura

Exposed Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Anthony Stolarz, Kevin Boyle

SELECTION: Josh Manson, RD, $4.1M for three seasons

Josh Manson Ducks
Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Manson’s shutdown ability is appealing, a steady second-pairing defender that can kill penalties and provide some toughness. Manson is coming off a down year and thus might not be protected as of today, especially with Anaheim entering a rebuild and more likely to protect one of Brendan Guhle, Josh Mahura or Jacob Larsson over Manson in addition to the Ducks’ two locks on defence in Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler.

Anaheim could protect four defencemen, but that would mean exposing three more forwards — presumably Jakob Silfverberg, Isac Lundestrom and Max Jones. Would the Ducks rather lose Lundestrom or Manson? That was the question that had to be answered with this protected list.

Manson was selected over Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase as top-nine forwards. It was between those three for the win-now team, but right-handed defencemen have the most value of any position and Seattle expects Manson to rebound while taking on a leadership role. If not, he should be tradeable with that contract.

Arizona Coyotes

Protected Forwards: Phil Kessel (NMC), Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Derek Stepan, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Nick Merkley

Protected Defencemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NMC), Jakob Chychrun, Kyle Capobianco

Protected Goaltender: Antti Raanta

Exposed Forwards: Carl Soderberg, Michael Grabner, Vinnie Hinostroza, Lawson Crouse, Conor Garland, Tyler Steenbergen

Exposed Defencemen: Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, Jordan Oesterle, Cam Dineen

Exposed Goaltenders: Darcy Kuemper, Adin Hill, Merrick Madsen

SELECTION: Darcy Kuemper, G, $1.85M pending UFA

goaltender Darcy Kuemper
Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Kuemper is coming off a very solid season, posting a .925 save percentage over 55 appearances in Arizona — shining in the starting role after Raanta got hurt again. Kuemper isn’t necessarily seen as a No. 1 goalie and Seattle might want to follow the Vegas blueprint by putting a big name between the pipes — the Golden Knights were backstopped by Marc-Andre Fleury from Day 1.

If the expansion draft were held today, there would be a number of potential future starters exposed, so the 29-year-old Kuemper could be a good fit to mentor and push a younger partner in a platoon system — passing off the reins when he heads off to free agency.

Kuemper’s familiarity with the Pacific Division also makes him attractive since he knows the shooters that he’d see most in Seattle’s net.

If not Kuemper for the win-now team, Seattle could take a veteran defender from Arizona in Niklas Hjalmarsson or Alex Goligoski, but both are expensive for what they bring. If Seattle is concerned that goals will be hard to come by, Michael Grabner and Carl Soderberg could also be considerations as third-line forwards.

Boston Bruins

Protected Forwards: Patrice Bergeron (NMC), Brad Marchand (NMC), David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, Danton Heinen

Protected Defencemen: Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo

Protected Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Exposed Forwards: David Backes, Sean Kuraly, Karson Kuhlman, Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, Brett Ritchie, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson 

Exposed Defencemen: Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, John Moore, Kevan Miller

Exposed Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Daniel Vladar

SELECTION: Sean Kuraly, LC, $1.275M for two seasons

Boston Bruins Sean Kuraly
Sean Kuraly of the Boston Bruins. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

ANALYSIS: Kuraly is trending up and took his game to another level in this year’s playoffs. He’s a late-blooming 26-year-old with good size and a good contract. A nice depth player for Seattle.

The decision came down to Kuraly or Grzelcyk from Boston, with the assumption that the Bruins would negotiate a small side deal to keep their captain Zdeno Chara. David Backes was deemed too expensive and past his prime.

Buffalo Sabres

Protected Forwards: Jeff Skinner (NMC), Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt

Protected Defencemen: Rasmus Dahlin, Henri Jokiharju, Brandon Montour, Rasmus Ristolainen

Protected Goaltender: Linus Ullmark

Exposed Forwards: Marcus Johansson, Kyle Okposo, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Evan Rodrigues, Tage Thompson, Victor Olofsson, Rasmus Asplund, Zemgus Girgensons, Vladimir Sobotka

Exposed Defencemen: Colin Miller, Lawrence Pilut, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe, Marco Scandella, Casey Nelson, John Gilmour, Brandon Hickey, Will Borgen, Devante Stephens 

Exposed Goaltenders: Carter Hutton, Jonas Johansson, Andrew Hammond

SELECTION: Colin Miller, RD, $3.875M for three seasons

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller
Colin Miller, now of the Buffalo Sabres, seen here as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Miller has been through the expansion process with Vegas, making him a valuable commodity to Seattle. His play and production slipped last season, resulting in a trade to Buffalo, but Seattle can bank on 30 points from Miller, which is also good value on his contract.

The Sabres are the first team to protect four defencemen in this mock — 4-4 instead of 7-3 — but they could expose Ristolainen rather than the recently acquired Miller. Or perhaps expose Ristolainen in order to protect three more forwards in Johansson, Olofsson and Asplund.

Difficult decisions with Buffalo’s current roster, but Ristolainen is also a candidate to be traded for a top-six forward this offseason. If that were to happen, the Sabres would likely protect 7-3 in order to keep their new forward, which means Miller would still be available for Seattle.

As is, at 4-4, Marcus Johansson was the other consideration for Seattle’s win-now team, but Miller’s experience from Vegas was the deciding factor.

Calgary Flames

Protected Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Dillon Dube, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund

Protected Defencemen: Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Juuso Valimaki

Protected Goaltender: David Rittich

Exposed Forwards: James Neal, Michael Frolik, Derek Ryan, Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane, Austin Czarnik, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Spencer Foo

Exposed Defencemen: T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Andrew Nielsen

Exposed Goaltenders: Cam Talbot, Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons

SELECTION: T.J. Brodie, LD, $4.65M pending UFA

T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Brodie would be another top-four defender for Seattle, but Calgary is another candidate to protect four defencemen at the expense of forwards Backlund, Bennett and Dube. That seems unlikely, with the Flames currently shopping Brodie and Hamonic — thus seeing them as expendable entering their final season before free agency.

Seattle could take either of them off Calgary’s hands, preferably Brodie, but the win-now team might also contemplate James Neal based on his success in Vegas.

Carolina Hurricanes

Protected Forwards: Jordan Staal (NMC), Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter, Julien Gauthier, Morgan Geekie

Protected Defencemen: Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Jake Bean

Protected Goaltender: Petr Mrazek

Exposed Forwards: Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel, Warren Foegele, Janne Kuokkanen, Lucas Wallmark, Jordan Martinook, Saku Maenalanen, Brock McGinn

Exposed Defencemen: Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, Haydn Fleury, Gustav Forsling, Trevor Carrick, Roland McKeown, Trevor van Riemsdyk

Exposed Goaltenders: James Reimer, Alex Nedeljkovic, Anton Forsberg, Jeremy Helvig, Callum Booth

SELECTION: Erik Haula, LC/LW, $2.75M pending UFA

Golden Knights left wing Erik Haula
Erik Haula was traded from Vegas to Carolina this offseason. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Haula also thrived with expansion Vegas, with Seattle certainly taking notice of that connection. He’s a versatile middle-six forward that can play centre or wing. He’s coming off knee surgery but shouldn’t be hindered going forward.

Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce and Ryan Dzingel could also help Seattle’s win-now team, but Haula checked a lot of boxes as the best fit.

Chicago Blackhawks

Protected Forwards: Jonathan Toews (NMC), Patrick Kane (NMC), Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Alex Nylander, Andrew Shaw, Dylan Sikura

Protected Defencemen: Duncan Keith (NMC), Brent Seabrook (NMC), Erik Gustafsson

Protected Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Exposed Forwards: Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Brendan Perlini, Drake Caggiula, David Kampf, John Quenneville, Aleksi Saarela, Alexandre Fortin, Matthew Highmore, Victor Ejdsell

Exposed Defencemen: Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan, Slater Koekkoek, Dennis Gilbert, Carl Dahlstrom

Exposed Goaltenders: Corey Crawford, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen

SELECTION: Brandon Saad, LW, $6M for two seasons

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks. (David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS: Saad is a 20-goal scorer with 30-goal upside in a top-line role for Seattle. He’s still in his prime, turning 27 in October.

If Seattle wants a proven No. 1 goaltender with Stanley Cups on his resume like Fleury, Crawford would be that guy. But Crawford has injury concerns, between concussions and vertigo, so he’s far from a safe bet. The Blackhawks might still protect Crawford over Lehner based on his Blackhawks’ legacy, with the latter also a quality option for Seattle as a Vezina finalist this past season.

Regardless, Seattle is going to need somebody to score and Saad is among the best scorers available in this mock.

Colorado Avalanche

Protected Forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher, Andre Burakovsky

Protected Defencemen: Erik Johnson (NMC), Samuel Girard, Cale Makar

Protected Goaltender: Philipp Grubauer

Exposed Forwards: Joonas Donskoi, Colin Wilson, Vladislav Kamenev, Matt Nieto, Matt Calvert, A.J. Greer, Ty Lewis, Igor Shvyryov, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Exposed Defencemen: Nikita Zadorov, Calle Rosen, Nicolas Meloche, Josh Anderson, Ian Cole, Kevin Connauton, Mark Barberio, Jacob MacDonald, Ryan Graves, Mark Alt, Anton Lindholm

Exposed Goaltender: Pavel Francouz

SELECTION: Nikita Zadorov, LD, $3.2M pending RFA

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov of the Colorado Avalanche. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

ANALYSIS: Zadorov is a big shutdown defender entering his prime at 24 years old. Colorado could protect him over forwards Jost, Compher and Burakovsky, but defence is an organizational stretch for the Avs, so they could absorb this loss better than most.

Zadorov was clearly the best player available for Seattle’s win-now team, so this was a relatively easy decision. No offence to Donskoi and Wilson.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Protected Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Protected Defencemen: Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray

Protected Goaltender: Joonas Korpisalo

Exposed Forwards: Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Dubinsky, Riley Nash, Sonny Milano, Lukas Sedlak, Kole Sherwood, Calvin Thurkauf, Paul Bittner, Markus Hannikainen

Exposed Defencemen: David Savard, Markus Nutivaara, Gabriel Carlsson, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Adam Clendening

Exposed Goaltender: Matiss Kivlenieks

SELECTION: Alexander Wennberg, LC, $4.9M for four seasons

Alexander Wennberg Blue Jackets
Alexander Wennberg of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Wennberg struggled this past season, with only two goals among his 25 points, but he’s a decent bounce-back candidate. Seattle would like to steal him much like Vegas stole William Karlsson from Columbus. Wennberg will turn 25 in September, so he’s definitely not washed up in terms of age.

A solid case can also be made for defenders David Savard and Markus Nutivaara on Seattle’s win-now team — they both have nice contracts too — but Wennberg is a good gamble as a middle-six centre.

Dallas Stars

Protected Forwards: Jamie Benn (NMC), Tyler Seguin (NMC), Alex Radulov (NMC), Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson, Denis Gurianov 

Protected Defencemen: John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell

Protected Goaltender: Ben Bishop (NMC)

Exposed Forwards: Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Andrew Cogliano, Corey Perry, Joel L’Esperance, Blake Comeau, Justin Dowling, Adam Mascherin, Nick Caamano

Exposed Defencemen: Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak, Julius Honka, Andrej Sekera, Ben Gleason, Gavin Bayreuther, Dillon Heatherington, Taylor Fedun, Roman Polak, Niklas Hansson, John Nyberg

Exposed Goaltenders: Anton Khudobin, Colton Point, Landon Bow

SELECTION: Corey Perry, RW, $1.5M pending UFA

Corey Perry Ducks
Corey Perry, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks, signed with the Dallas Stars this summer. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Perry would offer marketability as a bigger-name forward for Seattle, overcoming knee surgery only to be bought out by Anaheim. Perry got a Stanley Cup ring there and plenty of playoff experience that he could bring to Seattle without ever playing a game for Dallas. He’s lost a step, but he’s motivated to prove he can still score and make an impact.

Perry would be a low-risk, potentially high-reward addition for Seattle much like he will be for Dallas.

The Stars have several other options for Seattle’s win-now team, with Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano being safer bets as forwards, while Stephen Johns and Andrej Sekera have also been battling injuries as defencemen.

Detroit Red Wings

Protected Forwards: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov, Givani Smith

Protected Defencemen: Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom

Protected Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Exposed Forwards: Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Jacob De La Rose, Christoffer Ehn, Dominic Turgeon, David Pope

Exposed Defencemen: Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Trevor Daley, Patrik Nemeth, Madison Bowey, Joe Hicketts, Vili Saarijarvi

Exposed Goaltenders: Jonathan Bernier, Calvin Pickard, Kaden Fulcher, Patrik Rybar

SELECTION: Madison Bowey, RD, $1M pending RFA

Madison Bowey played 84 games for the Washington Capitals before getting traded to the Detroit Red Wings. (Sammi Silber/THW)

ANALYSIS: The salary cap factored into this decision, with Mike Green being a better win-now option as a fellow right-handed defenceman but carrying a $5.375-million contract as a pending unrestricted free agent next summer. That proved too pricey for Seattle.

Enter Bowey, a much cheaper option at the same position with plenty of upside at 24 years old — a decade younger than Green, who turns 34 in October.

Edmonton Oilers

Protected Forwards: Milan Lucic (NMC), Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyler Benson, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi

Protected Defencemen: Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Caleb Jones

Protected Goaltender: Stuart Skinner

Exposed Forwards: Sam Gagner, Alex Chiasson, Zack Kassian, Markus Granlund, Jujhar Khaira, Cooper Marody, Joe Gambardella, Colby Cave, Patrick Russell, Josh Currie, Cameron Hebig

Exposed Defencemen: Adam Larsson, Matt Benning, Ethan Bear, William Lagesson, Joel Persson, Kris Russell

Exposed Goaltenders: Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith, Shane Starrett, Dylan Wells

SELECTION: Adam Larsson, RD, $4.167M for two seasons

Adam Larsson of the Edmonton Oilers. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Larsson is the obvious choice from Edmonton, at least for Seattle’s win-now team. He’s a solid shutdown defender capable of logging top-pairing minutes and being a key penalty-killer.

Edmonton could protect Larsson by exposing a trio of young forwards in Benson, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, but the Oilers have lots of young defencemen in their system and not enough scoring wingers on the way, so that wouldn’t make much sense.

Florida Panthers

Protected Forwards: Jonathan Huberdeau (NMC), Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Evgeni Dadonov, Henrik Borgstrom, Mike Hoffman, Frank Vatrano

Protected Defencemen: Keith Yandle (NMC), Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson

Protected Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)

Exposed Forwards: Brett Connolly, Jayce Hawryluk, Denis Malgin, Noel Acciari, Colton Sceviour, Patrick Bajkov, Cliff Pu, Jonathan Ang, Juho Lammikko, Dryden Hunt, Anthony Greco, Sebastian Repo, Kevin Roy, Maxim Mamin, Dominic Toninato

Exposed Defencemen: Mark Pysyk, Anton Stralman, MacKenzie Weegar, Ian McCoshen

Exposed Goaltenders: Sam Montembeault, Philippe Desrosiers

SELECTION: Brett Connolly, RW, $3.5M for four seasons

Brett Connolly Washington Capitals
Brett Connolly had a good run with Washington before signing with Florida. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Connolly just signed in Florida this summer, but Seattle’s win-now team would also have interest in him as a middle-six forward. That’s a fair contract for the 27-year-old coming off a career-high 22 goals and being a good bet to net at least 15 for the duration of that deal.

Florida would have to decide between Connolly and 24-goal man Vatrano, who already has chemistry with the Panthers’ forward group. Seattle would likely take whoever is exposed between those two, but defenders Mark Pysyk and Anton Stralman could also enter the conversation if Connolly isn’t available.

Los Angeles Kings

Protected Forwards: Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo, Michael Amadio, Carl Grundstrom

Protected Defencemen: Drew Doughty (NMC), Alec Martinez, Kale Clague

Protected Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Exposed Forwards: Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Austin Wagner, Mikey Eyssimont, Sheldon Rempal, Martin Frk, Mario Kempe, Drake Rymsha, Brad Morrison

Exposed Defencemen: Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Sean Walker, Daniel Brickley, Joakim Ryan, Jacob Moverare, Austin Strand, Chaz Reddekopp, Kurtis MacDermid, Matt Roy

Exposed Goaltenders: Jack Campbell, Cal Petersen, Cole Kehler

SELECTION: Jack Campbell, G, $675,000 pending UFA

Kings goalie Jack Campbell
Jack Campbell of the Los Angeles Kings. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Kovalchuk and Brown were bandied about for Seattle’s win-now team as veteran scoring wingers, but the salary-cap implications ruled them out.

Campbell made a lot more sense — from a dollars-and-cents standpoint — and he’s coming off a breakout campaign at 27 years old, posting a .928 save percentage over 31 appearances during Quick’s injury absence.

Campbell could battle Kuemper for Seattle’s starting gig, with both being pending unrestricted free agents if they don’t pan out. If Campbell were to play well in the first half of 2019-20, Seattle could lock him up for the long term.

Minnesota Wild

Protected Forwards: Zach Parise (NMC), Mats Zuccarello (NMC), Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato

Protected Defencemen: Ryan Suter (NMC), Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon

Protected Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Exposed Forwards: Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Victor Rask, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Mason Shaw, Will Bitten, Dmitry Sokolov, Kyle Rau, Sam Anas, J.T. Brown

Exposed Defencemen: Jonas Brodin, Louis Belpedio, Brennan Menell, Greg Pateryn, Nick Seeler, Brad Hunt 

Exposed Goaltenders: Alex Stalock, Kaapo Kahkonen

SELECTION: Eric Staal, LC, $3.25M for two seasons

Eric Staal #12 Minnesota Wild
Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Staal is on the back nine of his career but should still be good for 20 goals and 50 points for Seattle’s win-now team. He’s one of the best and biggest-name centres available in this mock as another veteran with a Stanley Cup ring on his resume. He is also a former longtime captain who could be the first to wear the ‘C’ for Seattle.

Minnesota had a few quality options for Seattle’s win-now team, with Zucker and Brodin also getting serious consideration, but the lack of quality centres combined with Staal’s cheaper contract were the deciding factors here.

Montreal Canadiens

Protected Forwards: Brendan Gallagher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen

Protected Defencemen: Shea Weber, Victor Mete, Noah Juulsen

Protected Goaltender: Carey Price (NMC)

Exposed Forwards: Paul Byron, Joel Armia, Jordan Weal, Charles Hudon, Matthew Peca, Nick Cousins, Nate Thompson, Michael McCarron, Jake Evans, Riley Barber, Lukas Vejdemo

Exposed Defencemen: Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot, Brett Kulak, Mike Reilly, Christian Folin, Xavier Ouellet, Gustav Olofsson, Cale Fleury, Karl Alzner

Exposed Goaltenders: Keith Kinkaid, Charlie Lindgren, Michael McNiven

SELECTION: Jeff Petry, RD, $5.5M for two seasons

Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry
Jeff Petry of the Montreal Canadiens. (David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS: If exposed, Petry would be a no-brainer for Seattle’s win-now team. But Montreal could protect him over promising youngster Juulsen. The Canadiens could also protect four defencemen by exposing three more forwards in Tatar, Danault and Lehkonen. Or perhaps a side deal could be done to prevent Seattle from taking Petry or Juulsen.

Montreal has options to avoid this loss, but if he’s there, Petry would be Seattle’s selection for the win-now team as another top-four defender.

Nashville Predators

Protected Forwards: Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, Calle Jarnkrok

Protected Defencemen: Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm

Protected Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

Exposed Forwards: Kyle Turris, Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, Miikka Salomaki, Rocco Grimaldi, Daniel Carr, Yakov Trenin

Exposed Defencemen: Dan Hamhuis, Steven Santini, Alexandre Carrier, Frederic Allard, Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin

Exposed Goaltenders: Juuse Saros, Connor Ingram

SELECTION: Colton Sissons, RC, RFA ($625,000 in 2018-19, approximately $2.5M for 2019-20)

Colton Sissons, Nashville Predators
Colton Sissons of the Nashville Predators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Turris was the original target from Nashville, but his $6-million salary for five more seasons proved too rich for Seattle’s win-now team. Despite coming off a down year with only seven goals, Turris was attractive as a right-handed centre since Seattle’s depth chart features the aforementioned left-handed centres Staal, Haula and Wennberg.

Alas, Sissons is a nice consolation prize as a fellow right-handed centre who outproduced Turris in 2018-19 with career highs of 15 goals and 30 points. That will earn Sissons a handsome raise as a restricted free agent this summer, but he’d be much more affordable for Seattle and still a contributor for the win-now team.

New Jersey Devils

Protected Forwards: Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod, Joey Anderson

Protected Defencemen: P.K. Subban, Damon Severson, Will Butcher

Protected Goaltender: Mackenzie Blackwood

Exposed Forwards: Travis Zajac, Wayne Simmonds, Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, John Hayden, Brett Seney, Nathan Bastian, Blake Speers, Yegor Sharangovich, Marian Studenic, Brandon Gignac

Exposed Defencemen: Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene, Mirco Mueller, Connor Carrick, Matt Tennyson, Josh Jacobs, Colton White, Colby Sissons

Exposed Goaltender: Cory Schneider

SELECTION: Wayne Simmonds, RW, $5M pending UFA

Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers
Wayne Simmonds, best known as a Philadelphia Flyer, is now a New Jersey Devil. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Simmonds has been trending down — due in part to injuries — but he’s scored 30 goals twice and should be able to net 20-plus in a top-six role with power-play time on Seattle’s win-now team.

That’s the bet New Jersey is making and, on a one-year deal, Simmonds will be extra motivated for 2019-20. He’s only turning 31 in August and, despite some hard miles, should have some good hockey left in him providing he’s healthy. Seattle also likes his chances of rebounding.

New Jersey had a few bounce-back candidates for Seattle to consider, including Vatanen as a power-play defenceman and Schneider as a goaltender who had been one of the league’s best before being hindered by hip injuries in recent years.

The Devils could protect Simmonds over Joey Anderson — especially with New Jersey wanting to shift into win-now mode and make some noise in 2019-20 — but the latter projects as a bigger part of their future. If Simmonds was protected, the debate would be between Vatanen and Schneider, but Zajac and Greene could also enter the conversation for Seattle’s win-now team.

New York Islanders

Protected Forwards: Anders Lee, Matt Barzal, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Kieffer Bellows

Protected Defencemen: Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Adam Pelech

Protected Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Exposed Forwards: Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Andrew Ladd, Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, Tanner Fritz, Scott Eansor, Otto Koivula, Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Martin

Exposed Defencemen: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey, Scott Mayfield, Sebastian Aho, Parker Wotherspoon, Mitch Vande Sompel, David Quenneville, Seth Helgeson

Exposed Goaltenders: Thomas Greiss, Linus Soderstrom, Christopher Gibson, Jared Coreau

SELECTION: Thomas Hickey, LD, $2.5M for three seasons

Thomas Hickey of the New York Islanders. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Hickey is something of a sentimental selection, having starred for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds during his junior career as the fourth overall pick back in 2007, but he could still have a role on this win-now team. Hickey’s contract is also cap-friendly, which can’t be discounted.

Seattle’s win-now team would have to consider fellow defenders Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk — who have been more accomplished than Hickey in their NHL careers to date — as well as bottom-six centre Casey Cizikas, who is coming off a career year with 20 goals in 2018-19. But Hickey is the cheapest of the three and the feel-good story, with the potential to still blossom back in Seattle as a 30-year-old.

New York Rangers

Protected Forwards: Artemi Panarin (NMC), Mika Zibanejad (NMC), Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden

Protected Defencemen: Jacob Trouba, Brady Skjei, Libor Hajek

Protected Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Exposed Forwards: Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Strome, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, Boo Nieves, Vinni Lettieri, Ville Meskanen, Ryan Gropp, Tim Gettinger, Dawson Leedahl, Ty Ronning, Greg McKegg, Matt Beleskey, Steven Fogarty, Danny O’Regan

Exposed Defencemen: Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Lindgren, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Brandon Crawley, Sean Day, Darren Raddysh

Exposed Goaltender: Alexandar Georgiev

SELECTION: Ryan Strome, RC, $3.1M pending RFA

Ryan Strome
Ryan Strome of the New York Rangers. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

ANALYSIS: Strome gives Seattle another much-needed right-handed centre. He took a big step forward for the Rangers after struggling in Edmonton — netting 18 goals in 63 games, prorated to 23 goals over a full season with the Rangers.

If Seattle’s win-now team wanted a power-play specialist on defence, Shattenkirk could fill that role better than the previously discussed Vatanen, but his $6.65-million salary is too steep.

Ottawa Senators

Protected Forwards: Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Chris Tierney, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Rudolfs Balcers, Vitaly Abramov

Protected Defencemen: Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Max Lajoie

Protected Goaltender: Filip Gustavsson

Exposed Forwards: Bobby Ryan, Mikkel Boedker, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Connor Brown, Anthony Duclair, Tyler Ennis, Jonathan Davidsson, Filip Chlapik, Nick Paul, Morgan Klimchuk, Jack Rodewald

Exposed Defencemen: Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, Christian Wolanin, Christian Jaros, Mark Borowiecki, Cody Goloubef, Andreas Englund

Exposed Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Anders Nilsson, Marcus Hogberg, Mike Condon

SELECTION: Anthony Duclair, LW, $1.65M pending RFA

Senators left wing Anthony Duclair
Anthony Duclair of the Ottawa Senators. (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS: Duclair is another budget-conscious decision as a buy-low candidate that could net 15-plus goals in a depth role for Seattle’s win-now team.

Duclair, who only turns 24 in August, is already on his fifth NHL team and has developed a bad rap among coaches. If Seattle is worried about his coachability or potentially having a negative impact on the culture of the expansion team, Ottawa has several other options including four more forwards to consider in Boedker, Pageau, Smith and Brown.

Bobby Ryan would be a big ticket, at $7.25 million for three more seasons, but his production is unlikely to warrant that salary — even for a win-now team. Craig Anderson could be a goaltender of interest as one of the few proven starters available in this mock, but his best years are likely behind him too.

Philadelphia Flyers

Protected Forwards: Claude Giroux (NMC), Kevin Hayes (NMC), Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny

Protected Defencemen: Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere

Protected Goaltender: Carter Hart

Exposed Forwards: Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Michael Raffl, Tyler Pitlick, Mikhail Vorobyov, German Rubtsov, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Carsen Twarynski, Pascal Laberge, David Kase, Andy Andreoff

Exposed Defencemen: Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers, Sam Morin, Andy Welinski, Chris Bigras, T.J. Brennan, Tyler Wotherspoon

Exposed Goaltenders: Brian Elliott, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom, Jean-Francois Berube

SELECTION: Oskar Lindblom, LW, $925,000 pending RFA

Oskar Lindblom Philadelphia Flyers
Oskar Lindblom of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Lindblom netted 17 goals in 2018-19 — his first full NHL season — but he’s turning 23 in August and should be hitting his prime after a few strong seasons in Sweden and the AHL. So he could be a contributor in the present — for Seattle’s win-now team — and the future.

Philadelphia’s new defenders Niskanen and Braun were also considered as veteran rearguards and Laughton could have been a quality bottom-six centre for Seattle’s win-now team, but Lindblom was too good to pass up.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Protected Forwards: Sidney Crosby (NMC), Evgeni Malkin (NMC), Jake Guentzel, Alex Galchenyuk, Jared McCann, Nick Bjugstad, Patric Hornqvist

Protected Defencemen: Kris Letang (NMC), Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson

Protected Goaltender: Matt Murray

Exposed Forwards: Brandon Tanev, Bryan Rust, Dominik Kahun, Dominik Simon, Teddy Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson

Exposed Defencemen: Justin Schultz, Erik Gudbranson, Jack Johnson, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel

Exposed Goaltenders: Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry

SELECTION: Bryan Rust, RW, $3.5M for three seasons 

Penguins right wing Bryan Rust
Bryan Rust of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Rust has a reasonable contract and two Stanley Cups to his credit. He’s also coming off a career-high 18 goals in 2018-19 and has scored some clutch playoff goals for Pittsburgh over the years, making him attractive to Seattle’s win-now team.

Schultz also had some appeal as a power-play specialist, but Rust proved to be a better fit for this mock’s lineup.

San Jose Sharks

Protected Forwards: Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Dylan Gambrell, Marcus Sorensen

Protected Defencemen: Erik Karlsson (NMC), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (NMC), Brent Burns

Protected Goaltender: Martin Jones

Exposed Forwards: Melker Karlsson, Barclay Goodrow, Lukas Radil, Antti Suomela, Jonny Brodzinski, Jonathan Dahlen, Jayden Halbgewachs, Alex True, Manuel Wiederer, Max Letunov

Exposed Defencemen: Brenden Dillon, Tim Heed, Jeremy Roy, Kyle Wood, Radim Simek, Nick DeSimone

Exposed Goaltenders: Aaron Dell, Josef Korenar, Antoine Bibeau

SELECTION: Brenden Dillon, LD, $3.27M pending UFA

Brenden Dillon
Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Dillon is another former Seattle Thunderbird, having played his entire four-year junior career there and captaining the WHL team in 2010-11. He could, theoretically, play the ambassador role that Deryk Engelland had in Vegas. Dillon isn’t as tough as Engelland, but he could also do some enforcing for Seattle if necessary.

If not for Dillon’s history in Seattle, Goodrow and Heed would have got more consideration from San Jose, but this was a pretty easy decision.

St. Louis Blues

Protected Forwards: Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou

Protected Defencemen: Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn

Protected Goaltender: Jordan Binnington

Exposed Forwards: Alex Steen, David Perron, Ivan Barbashev, Robby Fabbri, Sammy Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, Zach Sanford, Nolan Stevens, Tanner Kaspick

Exposed Defencemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, Robert Bortuzzo, Jordan Schmaltz, Jake Walman, Mitch Reinke, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin, Joey LaLeggia

Exposed Goaltenders: Jake Allen, Ville Husso, Evan Fitzpatrick

SELECTION: David Perron, LW/RW, $4M for three seasons

St. Louis Blues David Perron
David Perron of the St. Louis Blues. (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Perron is yet another veteran of the Vegas expansion — a popular theme for constructing Seattle’s win-now team. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Final in two consecutive seasons, winning in his return to St. Louis. That experience, on all fronts, would be welcomed in Seattle.

The reigning champs have several players of interest for Seattle’s win-now team, including Allen as an intriguing goaltending option. Steen, Bouwmeester and Edmundson would be decent additions too, but Perron is the best of this bunch.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Protected Forwards: Steven Stamkos (NMC), Nikita Kucherov (NMC), Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson

Protected Defencemen: Victor Hedman (NMC), Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Cal Foote

Protected Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Exposed Forwards: Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Killorn, Mitchell Stephens, Alex Barre-Boulet, Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne, Alexander Volkov, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Dennis Yan, Danick Martel

Exposed Defencemen: Erik Cernak, Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta, Luke Schenn, Oleg Sosunov

Exposed Goaltenders: Louis Domingue, Curtis McElhinney, Scott Wedgewood, Spencer Martin, Marek Mazanec

SELECTION: Anthony Cirelli, LC, $728,333 pending RFA

Lightning center Anthony Cirelli
Anthony Cirelli of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY)

ANALYSIS: Tampa Bay would have a very interesting protected list as of today. The Lightning are protecting four defencemen for this mock — to avoid losing Foote, their 2017 first-rounder coming off an impressive AHL debut — but that meant exposing quality forwards like Gourde, Palat and Cirelli.

The latter is cost-controlled for the foreseeable future and Tampa is facing a cap crunch, so perhaps Cirelli would be protected over Tyler Johnson, who hails from Washington State and could be a poster boy for Seattle.

Johnson is making $5 million for five more seasons, which isn’t bad for what he brings but would provide cap relief for the Lightning going forward, with Cirelli slotting in behind Stamkos and Point on their centre depth chart.

Johnson is a right-handed centre too, so he’d be a perfect fit for Seattle’s win-now team — perhaps between former Vegas teammates Haula and Perron on the second line. If Tampa is willing to listen on Johnson, Seattle should make a push for his services.

Tyler Johnson
Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY)

Failing that, if Cirelli is exposed under this mock’s scenario, the 22-year-old would be a wise target coming off a promising rookie campaign with a year left on his cheap entry-level contract. Not to worry, he’s ready to contribute for Seattle’s win-now team and has been a clutch performer throughout his career — highlighted by scoring the overtime-winning goal in the 2015 Memorial Cup final.

Gourde and Palat are more proven options for Seattle’s top-six forward group, while Coburn could anchor the blue line. But, all things considered, if Johnson isn’t available, Cirelli seems like the right choice here.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Protected Forwards: John Tavares (NMC), Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Alex Kerfoot

Protected Defencemen: Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie, Jake Muzzin

Protected Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Exposed Forwards: Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza, Trevor Moore, Jeremy Bracco, Nic Petan, Frederik Gauthier, Adam Brooks, Dmytro Timashov, Pierre Engvall, Mason Marchment, Aaron Luchuk, Kenny Agostino

Exposed Defencemen: Cody Ceci, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Andreas Borgman, Jesper Lindgren, Ben Harpur, Kevin Gravel, Martin Marincin

Exposed Goaltenders: Garret Sparks, Michael Hutchinson, Kasimir Kaskisuo

SELECTION: Zach Hyman, LW, $2.25M for two seasons

Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Zach Hyman of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

ANALYSIS: Hyman can play up and down a lineup, providing both offence and energy for Seattle’s win-now team. Mike Babcock would certainly miss him in Toronto and Seattle’s coach would be happy to have him as a puck hound that sets a good example for his teammates.

Ceci and Spezza, who are both new to Toronto this summer, could also help Seattle to some degree, but Hyman’s versatility made him the most attractive option.

Vancouver Canucks

Protected Forwards: Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Micheal Ferland, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette

Protected Defencemen: Tyler Myers, Alex Edler, Olli Juolevi

Protected Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Exposed Forwards: Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson, Sven Baertschi, Nikolay Goldobin, Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte, Kole Lind, Zack MacEwen, Jonah Gadjovich, Petrus Palmu, Lukas Jasek, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Tim Schaller 

Exposed Defencemen: Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Jordie Benn, Oscar Fantenberg, Alex Biega, Guillaume Brisebois, Jalen Chatfield, Ashton Sautner

Exposed Goaltenders: Thatcher Demko, Zane McIntyre, Richard Bachman

SELECTION: Thatcher Demko, G, $1.05M for two seasons

Vancouver Canucks' goalie Thatcher Demko
Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

ANALYSIS: Demko could be Seattle’s goaltender of the future, with this selection setting up a potential Campbell-Demko all-American tandem starting in 2020-21 following Kuemper’s departure as a free agent.

Seattle’s win-now team might have more interest in Baertschi or Tanev, Sutter or Stecher, and perhaps Pearson too. But even win-now teams need to keep an eye on the future and Demko looked like the ideal pick here.

Vancouver might protect Demko over Markstrom, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer after making $3.66 million in 2019-20. If that’s the case, Markstrom would make the most sense for Seattle’s win-now team, with the potential for a contract extension to become their longer-term starter ahead of Kuemper and Campbell. Either way, the Canucks would be losing a goalie to their new regional rival.

Washington Capitals

Protected Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nick Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller

Protected Defencemen: John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler

Protected Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Exposed Forwards: Richard Panik, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd, Nic Dowd, Shane Gersich, Garrett Pilon, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

Exposed Defencemen: Michal Kempny, Radko Gudas, Nick Jensen, Christian Djoos, Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs

Exposed Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov, Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek

SELECTION: Lucas Johansen, LD, $925,000 pending RFA

Lucas Johansen remains a top prospect for the Washington Capitals. (Sammi Silber/THW)

ANALYSIS: Tight against the cap for these last two teams and weighing the available win-now options, Seattle decides to go young.

Johansen, the younger brother of Nashville centre Ryan Johansen, was a first-round pick in 2016 but has yet to make his NHL debut ahead of his 22nd birthday in November. He’s not a bust and has been performing reasonably well through two AHL seasons, so this Johansen could be a player for Seattle in the future.

He’s from the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, so his family and friends wouldn’t have to travel far — only a couple hours — to watch him play, which could boost Seattle’s attendance if and when Johansen cracks the roster. All things being equal, the B.C. boys aren’t bad options.

Leipsic would have been another cost-effective option for Seattle as another original member of the Vegas Golden Knights. He didn’t stick there — or in Vancouver or Los Angeles — but Leipsic could still become a player for Washington. Shockingly, Leipsic is already on his sixth NHL team, including pre-Vegas stints with Nashville and Toronto. Seattle could be lucky No. 7 and he would come cheap for 2019-20 at only $700,000 on a one-year contract that ends in RFA status.

Hagelin, Panik, Gudas, Jensen and Kempny could all contribute to Seattle’s win-now team — more so than Johansen and Leipsic in the present — but those five weren’t able to force their way into this mock based on what they could bring in comparison to Seattle’s previous selections. In saying that, those five would all be serviceable for less than $3 million.

Samsonov also stands out, but it’s assumed that Washington would be willing to make a side deal to prevent Seattle from picking its goaltender of the future — especially with Holtby entering his final season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Still in win-now mode for 2019-20, Washington wouldn’t want to risk protecting Samsonov over Holtby either, so the Capitals need to negotiate a way to keep them both.

Winnipeg Jets

Protected Forwards: Blake Wheeler (NMC), Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nik Ehlers, Bryan Little, Jack Roslovic

Protected Defencemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey, Sami Niku

Protected Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

Exposed Forwards: Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, Michael Spacek, Skyler McKenzie, J.C. Lipon

Exposed Defencemen: Neal Pionk, Nathan Beaulieu, Dmitry Kulikov, Tucker Poolman, Logan Stanley, Luke Green, Nelson Nogier, Anthony Bitetto

Exposed Goaltenders: Laurent Brossoit, Eric Comrie, Mikhail Berdin

SELECTION: Mason Appleton, RW, $741,667 pending RFA

Mason Appleton Winnipeg Jets
Mason Appleton of the Winnipeg Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANALYSIS: Winnipeg does have a handful of win-now options worthy of consideration — Lowry, Copp and Perreault as forwards, Pionk and Beaulieu on the blue line — but with the funds running low, Appleton’s upside was appealing.

At 23 years old, he’s managed 10 points in 36 games to date — and produced close to a point per game in the AHL the past two seasons — so Appleton could be a full-time NHLer for 2019-20. If not, if he needs a bit more seasoning, Seattle could let Appleton simmer in Palm Springs, Calif., which will be home to their AHL affiliate.

With a little more leftover cap space, Seattle’s win-now team may have taken Lowry ($2.917M for two years) or Copp (RFA likely to make $2M for 2019-20) from Winnipeg. They could both make more of an immediate impact at the NHL level for the expansion franchise, but Appleton projects as a piece of the future puzzle.

Win Now Team ($81.23M)

Forwards (17)

Brandon Saad-Eric Staal-Wayne Simmonds

David Perron-Erik Haula-Corey Perry

Oskar Lindblom-Alexander Wennberg-Brett Connolly

Zach Hyman-Ryan Strome-Bryan Rust

Anthony Duclair-Anthony Cirelli-Colton Sissons

Sean Kuraly/Mason Appleton

Defencemen (10)

T.J. Brodie-Adam Larsson

Nikita Zadorov-Jeff Petry

Thomas Hickey-Josh Manson

Brenden Dillon-Colin Miller

Lucas Johansen-Madison Bowey

Goaltenders (3)

Darcy Kuemper

Jack Campbell

Thatcher Demko

Roster Thoughts


The top line has good size and a power element, with Eric Staal between Saad and Simmonds. They can all shoot and get to the net, so scoring shouldn’t be a problem for that trio. There isn’t a playmaker among them, so their offence would likely come from forcing turnovers on the forecheck and through a strong cycle game, though they would also be tough to contain individually off the rush.

The second line has some pre-established chemistry between Haula and Perron from their time together in Vegas, while Perry could be a nice complement to their playing style. As a trio, they should cause the opposition fits and be able to finish their chances.

The third line has offensive upside in soft-minutes situations, with Wennberg flanked by fellow Swede Lindblom as well as Connolly. They should be fairly responsible defensively and might be able to make the most of their opportunities in favourable matchups.

The fourth line is more of a third line — and a good one at that — with Strome between Hyman and Rust. Most teams would be envious of that depth — which was also Vegas’ biggest advantage in its expansion season — and it doesn’t stop there for Seattle.

The fifth line could be passable as a second line on some teams and certainly a third line for half the league, with Cirelli centering a pair of shooters in Duclair and Sissons. And if they happen to be shooting blanks for a stretch, Kuraly could replace Duclair and Appleton could sub in for Sissons on any given night.


The top pairing has Battle of Alberta flavour, featuring Calgary’s Brodie and Edmonton’s Larsson. Their styles should work well together, with Brodie a rover and Larsson a stabilizing force on the back end.

The second pairing could also handle tough minutes and perhaps even tougher matchups, with Zadorov being a physical presence and Petry competent at both ends of the ice.

The third pairing could work well, with the smooth-skating Hickey getting more room to grow offensively alongside the rugged Manson.

The fourth pairing is essentially another third pairing — again showcasing Seattle’s depth — with Miller more offensive-minded and Dillon a defence-first type.

The fifth pairing features former junior teammates, with Bowey and Johansen coming from the defence factory that is the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.


This is the only position of concern for Seattle’s win-now team, with three backups forming the depth chart in goal, but Kuemper and Campbell both proved capable of starting for significant stretches in 2018-19 when Raanta and Quick were hurt.

Demko represents the future, but he could take over the crease sooner than later if Kuemper or Campbell were to falter in the present.

All three goalies have familiarity with the Pacific Division, which became a key factor in the selection process.


Goaltending might be seen as a weakness for Seattle’s win-now team — despite Demko’s potential and the strong seasons turned in by Kuemper and Campbell in 2018-19 — but the overall depth at forward and on defence should ensure this roster earns a playoff berth for 2019-20.

Seattle would rely on scoring by committee while attacking in waves, which were also calling cards for Vegas in the Golden Knights’ inaugural campaign. There is enough experience here to go on a run, but Seattle’s win-now team would be hard-pressed to go as far as Vegas in Year 1.

Fisher’s Mocking History