What Sharks fans need to know about the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft

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What Sharks fans need to know about the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It’s been a couple years in the making, but the NHL’s 32nd team, the Seattle Kraken, is almost here. 

The NHL Expansion Draft is set to take place, where players will be selected as the newest members of the Kraken. The draft is set up the exact same way as it was for the Vegas Golden Knights, who entered the league as an expansion team in 2017. 

Here is everything you need to know about the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. 

When does the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft take place?

The creation of the Seattle Kraken’s roster will take place on Wednesday, July 21. The selections will begin at 8 p.m. ET and air live on ESPN2. 

How many players are protected in the NHL expansion draft?

The Kraken will be picking one player from every team, with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights, who are excused since they themselves are a newer expansion team. So that is 30 players, with at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders, that will be founding members of the Seattle Kraken after the draft. 

When it comes to selecting players, Seattle doesn’t just get anyone. From the 30 teams the Kraken will be plucking a player from, each team gets to protect a certain amount of players from the expansion draft. A team can either choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters with any combination of forwards/defensemen and one goalie. 

What are the NHL expansion draft rules?

All NHL teams must expose one defenseman and two forwards who are all under contract for 2021-22 and played in at least 40 NHL games in 2019-20 or played in at least 70 games from the last two seasons. They also must expose a goalie that is under contract for next season or will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season. Each team must submit their protection lists by Saturday, July 17 and all will be announced the following day, Sunday, July 18. 

There are some exceptions. All first- and second-year players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection and will not be counted toward protection limits. So that rules out the Kraken being able to take a young star from a team. In addition, players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games may not be considered one of the players that are exposed unless the NHL approves of it. These players may be determined to be exempt from selection and won’t count towards the protection list. 

On the contrary, any player with a no movement clause in their contract that declines to waive it must be protected by their team. If the Kraken sign an impending free agent, that will count as the player selected from their previous team. 

In total, from the 30 players the Kraken select, at least 20 of them must be under contract for the 2021-22 season and take up between 60-100% of the Kraken’s $81.5 million salary cap.

Who from the Sharks could be taken by the Seattle Kraken?

There isn’t a ton of star power that the San Jose Sharks have available for the Kraken to take. Their big players, like Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns and Timo Meier, were protected and prospects like Mario Ferraro, John Leonard and Sasha Chmelevski are exempt, so it’s slim pickings for Kraken GM Ron Francis. 

Pending RFA Ryan Donato perhaps makes the most sense for the Kraken to gamble on. It would be his fourth team as he enters his sixth season in the NHL. In his one year in San Jose, Donato posted a career-high 14 assists but potted just six goals in a bottom-six role with the Sharks. Dylan Gambrell could be a solid fourth-liner for the Kraken to add. Matt Nieto also might be taken as a depth forward who could be used on the penalty kill. 

Ultimately, the Sharks won’t be losing much. There’s the possibility of GM Doug Wilson exposing a top player to get rid of a contract, but the Kraken would have to bite. Given their position, the focus will be on leveraging the expansion draft to possibly acquire other assets from teams.

Here's the list of protected Sharks:

Rudolfs Balcers (F),Logan Couture (F),Jonathan Dahlen (F),Tomas Hertl (F),Evander Kane (F),Kevin Labanc (F),Timo Meier (F),Brent Burns (D),Erik Karlsson (D),Marc-Edouard Vlasic (D),Adin Hill (G)

And here's the list of players available to the Kraken:

Ryan Donato (F),Kurtis Gabriel (F),Dylan Gambrell (F),Jayden Halbgewachs (F),Maxim Letunov (F),Patrick Marleau (F),Matt Nieto (F),Marcus Sorensen (F),Alexander True (F),Christian Jaros (D),Nicolas Meloche (D),Jacob Middleton (D),Greg Pateryn (D),Radim Simek (D),Martin Jones (G)

What other players could be selected by the Seattle Kraken?

Looking at the best options for the Seattle Kraken to select in the expansion draft, it starts and stops with the Tampa Bay Lightning. There are a plethora of slam dunk options for the Kraken to take from the defending back-to-back champs. Tyler Johnson, who could be a second-line center on most any other team, carries a hefty $5 million cap hit. Yanni Gourde was one of their best players centering the third line in the playoffs. 

There’s a duo of veteran Philadelphia Flyers who could be on the move -- James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. Both carry high cap hits, but would become the Kraken’s No. 1 winger. Speaking of big cap hits, Matt Duchene of the Nashville Predators is rumored to possibly be available, although he has not lived up to his $8 million AAV contract of which he has five years left. There is a ton of value in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bottom forwards who are unprotected -- Jason Zucker or Brandon Tanev. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Alexander Kerfoot would be another very good depth center to add. 

On the defensive side, St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn is a name that could that could be headed to Seattle. Dunn’s name has been in trade rumors for a couple of years now out of St. Louis. He’s coming off a one-year deal and will be an RFA this summer and it doesn’t appear likely that the Blues are interested in giving him the pay raise he’s due. At just 24 years old, he could be a key young piece for the Kraken that has proven NHL ability. 

A name no one thought would be available is Montreal Canadiens' Shea Weber, but he is on the available list. It’s very unclear the extent of his injuries, but it’s rumored that they’re severe and he could miss all of next season, with his future in the NHL up in the air. Would the Kraken take that risk? He’s a top-four defenseman and would immediately be a shoe-in to be first captain, but if the rumors are true, they’d be selecting a player that may not even play a game for them. 

Other defensemen that could be Kraken targets are Detroit Red Wings’ Troy Stecher and Edmonton Oilers’ Oscar Klefbom.

When it comes to the crease, there is a veteran option in Vancouver Canucks’ Braden Holtby. The Kraken needs three goaltenders and it seems like for a veteran, Holtby makes sense to take over for the time being, or even as a backup role. Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars has waived his no-movement clause and looks like he’ll be left unprotected. When healthy, Bishop is an elite goaltender but he missed all of last season. Chris Driedger, a UFA, is coming off a fantastic breakout year with the Florida Panthers and will have tons of teams calling up his agent, including possibly Seattle.