In deciding which Detroit Red Wings player to pluck from the expansion draft, the Seattle Kraken must weigh present value against future potential.
The NHL’s newest team pieces their roster together Wednesday night. The Kraken must choose at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders from the lists of available players submitted by 30 teams. The Vegas Golden Knights are exempt, but they’ll figure prominently in Seattle’s decisions because of the watermark set in 2017-18, when the Knights rode their expansion draft all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season.
Multiple teams made side deals with the Knights to pre-arrange who was selected and some of those deals backfired spectacularly. One example was the Minnesota Wild, who traded then-prospect Alex Tuch to the Knights to secure Erik Haula’s selection in the expansion draft. Haula scored 29 goals for Vegas in 2017-18, and Tuch, a 6-foot-4, right-shot forward, has emerged as a 20-goal scorer.
Any trades made by Seattle general manager Ron Francis will be announced Wednesday during the expansion draft event.
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The Kraken have to choose one player from each team. The club has an exclusive window leading up to the draft to negotiate with pending unrestricted free agents; if such a player is signed, he counts as the expansion draft selection.
For the Wings, the the unrestricted free agent list includes goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and forwards Luke Glendening and Bobby Ryan. Bernier has played very well the past two seasons, but there are more enticing options for the Kraken in net , including Montreal’s Carey Price (though he carries a hefty cost with five years left on a contract with a $10.5 million salary cap hit).
The Wings protected forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith; goaltender Thomas Greiss, and defensemen Filip Hronek, Gustav Lindstrom and newcomer Nick Leddy.
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Players made available include veteran forward Vladislav Namestnikov and veteran defenseman Troy Stecher, 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov and 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski.
Namestnikov (signed through 2021-22 with a $2 million cap hit) is coming off a disappointing season (eight goals, 17 points in 53 games) and won’t appeal to the Kraken. Svechnikov, a 24-year-old restricted free agent, had three goals and eight points in 21 games. He was exposed twice on waivers this past season, and while that didn’t give the Kraken a shot at him, he’s an unlikely choice, too.
That leaves Cholowski, 23, and Stecher, 27.
Stecher makes sense because he’s signed through next season at a very reasonable $1.7 million salary cap hit. The 5-feet-10, 186-pound right-shot defenseman is from just across the border in Richmond, British Columbia, and he played four seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He would help make the Kraken competitive right away.
Cholowski’s appeal is that maybe a change of scenery will galvanize the potential he obviously has. Cholowski is a gifted skater, excellent shooter, and passer. In five years, the Wings have stressed impress upon Cholowski that he needs to be assertive if he wants to play in the NHL, and the response has come in flashes, not consistency. (Cholowski isn’t alone on the list of 2016 first-round picks on the available list: The Carolina Hurricanes did not protect defenseman Jake Bean, who was the No. 13 pick. He’s projected to become a top-pair defenseman.)
Weighing everything, the Kraken are best served to select Stecher. He’s got more than 300 NHL games to his credit, he’s just entering his prime, and his contract is attractive. That would work well for the Wings, too: Moritz Seider, is poised to join the team this fall, so the depth down the right defense would number him, Lindstrom and Filip Hronek.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.