The Blackhawks were forced to part with 2015 Stanley Cup champion defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk in June of 2017 when the Golden Knights selected him in their expansion draft. The blueliner was then shipped off to the Carolina Hurricanes for a draft pick a day later.
The Hawks will again be tasked with deciding who to protect and who to prepare to part with ahead of the Seattle Kraken's expansion draft during the 2021 offseason when the Kraken, who received their team name on Thursday, will grab a player from the Blackhawks.
Each NHL club - minus the Vegas Golden Knights, who are exempt - is allowed to protect any combination of either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (any combo of forwards and defensemen) and one goalie.
It's noteworthy that up and coming Hawks like defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell, along with forwards Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik, will be exempt from the expansion draft because they would have played in two or less seasons ahead of it.
Here's the six players the Blackhawks would most likely end up releasing to the Kraken:
6. Olli Maatta
If the Hawks don't buy Maatta out this offseason, he'll most likely be exposed in the expansion draft. There's a new wave of young Blackhawks defensemen coming in, headlined by Mitchell, that will sooner or later see Maatta, who usually skated on the Hawks' bottom pairing, out of the lineup. With that said, an expansion team could certainly have use for the veteran defenseman.
5. David Kampf
Kampf's defensive game has been a benefit to the Hawks' bottom six forward group but they might gamble on finding a similar center with more of a scoring touch from within the organization or elsewhere. Seattle could go for a strong defensive forward, especially up the middle on one of their bottom two lines.
The Hawks wouldn't want Caggiula to be the one that got away in the expansion draft, but that could be the case. Caggiula is due for a new contract after this season and the Blackhawks may be forced to protect players ahead of him. The Kraken would be lucky to get their claws (does the Kraken have claws?) on the wrecking ball forward with a scoring touch.
Highmore, 24, has played in 49 games with the Hawks across the past two seasons, recording eight points (four goals, four assists). He looks to have a bright future in being an effective bottom-six forward in the NHL... Why not for Seattle?
2. Dylan Sikura
Hate to say it, it's been easy to root for Sikura as he's gotten a look from the Blackhawks over parts of the past three seasons, but he still hasn't fit in well enough to be an every night player. There's been flashes of offensive brilliance for the 25-year-old winger, but he's only been able to contribute one goal and 13 assists in 47 games with Chicago. That's just not enough for a skill player in a Hawks sweater. An expansion team like the Kraken might be able to throw Sikura more ice time with top players to see if he can regularly contribute offensively.
1. Collin Delia
The Blackhawks will only be allowed to protect one goalie in the expansion draft. Despite so many question marks around Corey Crawford's health and career longevity, he was one of the best goalies going into the NHL pause, recording a .928 save percentage in his past 20 starts. Crawford needs a new contract after this season, but whether or not he's able to take the net in Edmonton after missing the first 12 days of Phase 3 training camp due to a previous COVID-19 diagnosis, if he looks good during the 2020-'21 season they'll likely protect the two-time Stanley Cup champ over Delia.
That's no knock on Delia, who's locked up through the 2021-'22 season. He had a great second half of the season this year with the Hawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and has had a good summer camp. It's more so just the fact that he would be Crawford's back up if Crawford's brought back. But, if Crawford isn't re-signed, Delia only carries a $1 million cap hit. Whether it's down the line with the Hawks or on another team like Seattle, Delia is deserving of a shot to be a No. 1 goalie somewhere. He has some experience between the pipes for the Blackhawks, going 7-5-3 with a 3.65 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
6 Blackhawks most likely to be selected in Seattle Kraken expansion draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago