Senators Should Allow Kraken Free Choice of Unprotected Players

Teams around the NHL have submitted their protection lists, including the Ottawa Senators, who had some interesting decisions to make ahead of the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft on Wednesday. With the team being rather young, they are rather lucky to not have to lose any big names like some other teams around the league, but they are virtually certain to lose a player who would otherwise be useful to them.

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

As we saw when the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league, teams made moves to guarantee that a player left unprotected wouldn’t be selected. Those trades are certainly an option for the Senators, but it might not be the best option, especially considering some teams came out worse for wear in the Golden Knights Expansion Draft.

Who’s Available?

The Senators submitted their protected list with a few surprising names omitted. The names protected include Drake Batherson, Connor Brown, Logan Brown, Nick Paul, Brady Tkachuk, Austin Watson, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, Victor Mete, Nikita Zaitsev, and Filip Gustavsson. While there were no surprises, they are going to lose a solid player to the Kraken on Wednesday.

Available to the Kraken is a list of 22 players, including 15 forwards, three defencemen, and four goaltenders. (from ‘GARRIOCH: Dadonov, Tierney and Murray expected to be among the options available from the Ottawa Senators,’ Ottawa Sun, 07/17/2021) Of those available, there are only a couple of players that the Kraken should seriously consider. Evgenii Dadonov, Matt Murray, Chris Tierney, Josh Brown, and Joey Daccord are the players that the Senators are in immediate danger of losing; anyone else would likely be a throw-away pick for the Kraken.

As far as who the Senators are likely to lose to the Kraken, it’s not yet known and will likely be decided based on who they pick from the other teams. One of the leading contenders to be taken in the draft is Tierney, as he brings valuable experience to the table and consistency that you don’t get from Dadonov or Murray. Although he will never be considered one of the best players on your team, you know what you will get from him. Since the Senators acquired him in the Erik Karlsson trade with the San Jose Sharks, Tierney has scored 26 goals and added 78 assists and has become a fixture in their lineup.

Chris Tierney Ottawa Senators
Chris Tierney Ottawa Senators #71, November 27, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Kraken do have more high-risk, high-reward options in Dadonov and Murray, and no one should be surprised if the pick goes that way. Dadonov has been a very good player in the NHL before, and there’s a chance the Kraken could hope to help him find his stride once again. Murray, on the other hand, was a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins and showed he was still a capable goalie towards the end of the 2020-21 season with the Senators.

The wild card in all of this is young goaltender Joey Daccord. If Seattle wants to add some depth, they could decide that Daccord is worth their while, but with some of the other goaltending options around the league, this seems rather unlikely.

Not Worth Making a Trade

Teams around the league will be thinking about making a trade with the Kraken to protect the players they have left exposed before the draft on Wednesday, but this is something the Senators need to avoid at all costs. They won’t want to lose one of the players mentioned above for nothing and would certainly prefer for Seattle to take someone who doesn’t make an impact on their team, but it doesn’t make a trade worthwhile for them.

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Flashback to the Golden Knights Expansion Draft and the trade the Florida Panthers made to have Vegas pick Jonathan Marchessault. In the end, they lost both Rielly Smith, who they got a fourth-round pick in return for, and Marssesault in the expansion draft. No matter the reason for the trade, the Panthers lost two good players instead of allowing the Golden Knights to pick who they wanted. There is simply no reason for a trade like this to be made for the Senators this time around.

Let the Kraken pick who they want. If they take Murray, you have protected Gustavsson for a reason. General manager Pierre Dorion clearly believes that Gustavsson is the long-term answer in the crease, and you can have him step up and become the starting goalie come the start of next season. If you don’t think he’s ready for that, you can always sign a fringe starter for a year or two while waiting for him to develop. If it’s Tierney or Dadonov, the Senators have all the talent in the world coming up through the system to replace them very quickly.

Matt Murray Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No one really knows what the Kraken are asking for to ensure the safety of a player. But unless this ask is something so insignificant that the Senators would never notice it’s missing, they shouldn’t even consider making a trade. It’s almost certain that Seattle will be asking for some serious capital to take or not take a particular player, and it just doesn’t make much sense for the Sens to fall into a trap to protect a player that they can live without.