This week, we learned that the NHL will officially welcome Seattle as its 32nd franchise, but not until 2021-22. That’s plenty of time for teams to prepare and shape their rosters for yet another expansion draft. What if the draft were this summer, though? For this week’s power rankings — voted, as always, by ESPN’s panel of experts — we considered which player might get plucked if Seattle got to choose this June, using the same rules as Vegas in 2017.
It’s all imaginary, of course. But it’s also an interesting peek into current roster constructions.
Previous ranking: 2
Here’s where being one of the deepest teams in the league presents a problem. With so many talented players to protect, important middle-six forwards such as Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn might have to be exposed.
Previous ranking: 1
Juuse Saros is supposed to be the goalie of the future in Nashville. But thanks to Pekka Rinne‘s longevity (and no-movement clause), the 23-year-old Finn could be the goalie of the much-sooner future in Seattle.
Previous ranking: 3
The Leafs are strapped by tough future contract decisions. Stocked with forward talent, perhaps it’s best for a center such as Frederik Gauthier to leave and see what he can do with a larger opportunity.
Previous ranking: 5
Forward depth is still an issue in Colorado, though the Avalanche must part with one of their grinding third-line wingers: Matt Calvert or Matt Nieto. They aren’t known as huge point producers, and neither has cracked double-digit points yet.
Previous ranking: 6
Michal Kempny revived his career with the Capitals after being an odd man out in Chicago, but he could find himself in a numbers game yet again. Or does pending restricted free-agent Andre Burakovsky get exposed from this deep roster?
Previous ranking: 9
The Jets still have to allocate some big money this summer, which could mean the versatile Mathieu Perreault is on his way out (if only because of his $4.125 million cap hit).
Previous ranking: 4
Buffalo has a ton of young players not yet signed to bad contracts. But the one who might be most attractive to Seattle — and, unfortunately for the Sabres, available — is 25-year-old goaltender Linus Ullmark.
Previous ranking: 11
Previous ranking: 7
Over the past two seasons, Charlie Coyle has been struggling to find his game. Being exposed in the expansion draft could be the motivation he needs to find confidence again.
Previous ranking: 8
Previous ranking: 10
These days, Oliver Bjorkstrand is fighting for a third-line winger spot in Columbus. If the expansion draft were this summer, he could contend for a larger role with the new team. And hey, we hear the last struggling Blue Jacket to find a new home with an expansion team did OK for himself …
Previous ranking: 12
With so many players on entry-level contracts in big roles, the Bruins are well-positioned to save cornerstone contributors. But to protect Torey Krug, the ascending Matt Grzelcyk and the affordable John Moore, it might be blueliner Kevin Miller who gets plucked.
Previous ranking: 14
With Ben Bishop‘s injury issues, the Stars would hate to see their terrific backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin, go. However, Dallas might be forced to do so, thanks, in part, to Bishop’s no-movement clause.
Previous ranking: 18
Lucky Vegas, they don’t have to give up a player in the expansion draft! They also don’t get a cut of the $650 million expansion fee.
Previous ranking: 20
Anaheim has a pretty obvious list of keepers, and unfortunately, Andrew Cogliano just misses the cut. His middle-class contract ($3.25 million per year) is expendable for a team in transition.
Previous ranking: 16
Matthew Peca has a plucky underdog story. The young center might be available, and he might just fit the mold if the Seattle team is trying to replicate Vegas’ “Golden Misfit” profile.
Previous ranking: 13
With a pair of no-movement clauses for Marc Staal and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers will have to make tough calls on the blue line. Perhaps Brady Skjei falls so out of favor this season that it culminates with a change of scenery.
Previous ranking: 15
With an abundance of exciting young defensemen, the Canes will likely go for the eight-skater approach and protect most of their blueliners. Just like in the Vegas draft, Trevor van Riemsdyk could be left vulnerable yet again.
Previous ranking: 17
Leo Komarov, 31, was a very Lou Lamoriello signing this summer. Thanks to his versatility and experience, he would be a good addition for an expansion team.
Previous ranking: 24
There are lots of ELC-exempt players on the Coyotes’ list, which leaves Seattle scrambling. Perhaps they pick up an expiring contract, such as Richard Panik‘s.
Previous ranking: 19
Previous ranking: 21
Previous ranking: 28
Our best bet for who might be plucked? It’s going to be slim pickings, but grinder Luke Glendening is versatile, rounds out the bottom six and comes cheaply, at $1.8 million per season.
Previous ranking: 22
The Flyers made a surprising move and opted to protect Scott Laughton in the previous expansion draft. The center might get exposed this time around and could be a smarter option for Seattle than the older Dale Weise.
Previous ranking: 23
Might the Canucks escape the Antoine Roussel contract via exposure in the expansion draft? We wouldn’t rule it out.
Previous ranking: 25
Mirco Mueller was protected last go-around. However, the 23-year-old defenseman could be exposed this time despite his promise, thanks to his pending RFA status.
Previous ranking: 26
Previous ranking: 29
Seattle might have to use this as a dead pick and select a player with an expiring contract. Which might be OK, considering Ottawa’s overall talent level.
Previous ranking: 27
Artem Anisimov is a center who, increasingly, might benefit from a change of scenery. By exposing him in the expansion draft, Chicago could get his $4.55 million contract off the books as it continues to transition.
Previous ranking: 30
David Perron again? The forward doesn’t get to finish his third stint with the Blues after the Seattle team remembers how well he fit in as a Golden Misfit (including a career-high 66 points).
Previous ranking: 31
The Kings are a team hamstrung by bad contracts. Although they might try to expose someone such as Dustin Brown (34 years old and signed through 2021-22), Alec Martinez could be the one heading north.