Thoughts on the expansion draft and who the Oilers should protect

Jun 14, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) skates onto the ice before the start of game one of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) skates onto the ice before the start of game one of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken is set for just over a month from now, on July 21. As the NHL always does, they’ve bungled things a bit in their communication.

They initially said they were going to use the same rules as the Vegas expansion draft, but with the shortened season you got a feeling they were going to change the games played criteria. Sure enough, I stumbled upon this by accident in the comments section of another blog during a google search.

How they came upon this document is a major mystery to me (you have to go to page 21 for the portion that pertains to the expansion draft). This changes the games played rules to 27 NHL games played in the past season or 54 NHL games over the previous two seasons. If you haven’t heard of that until now, it’s because the NHL never seemed to make this document public anywhere.

They know people like me love to give the league publicity and it would behoove them to communicate properly to the world, but the league’s higher-ups don’t seem to possess this kind of common sense and missed out on a marketing opportunity. At least they had the good sense to put the formula right in the rules so you don’t have to think too hard on the math.

I’ve got one player in mind for the Kraken to take, but before I do the reveal let’s see who might be protected and who wouldn’t be. As a disclaimer, bear in mind it’s very early in the off-season here and this is subject to a lot of changes prior to the submission of the lists. This is largely why I will include an “unknown status” category in each area of the team.

The Oilers are going to be rumored to be using a 7-3-1 protection scheme but for the sake of this blog, because we have so many unknowns as far as the free agents to be signed, I’m going with an eight skaters protection scheme as I believe it makes more sense at this point in time. That could change depending on who gets re-signed.


Oilers protect: Connor Mcdavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto

Exempt status: Ryan Mcleod, Raphael Lavoie, Ostap Safin, Jakob Stukel, James Hamblin, Devin Brosseau, Kirill Maksimov, Dylan Holloway

Unknown status: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alex Chiasson, Juhjar Khaira, Tyler Ennis, Dominik Kahun, Patrick Russell, Alan Quine, Joe Gambardella, Adam Cracknell

Exposed status: James Neal, Zack Kassian, Kyle Turris, Josh Archibald, Devin Shore, Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson, Adam Cracknell, Seth Griffith, Brad Malone, Luke Esposito


  • The 4 guys the Oilers protect are pretty obvious at this point. Four of our top-six forwards. I know Kailer Yamamoto technically doesn’t have a contract for next year which normally would put him in the unknown status category, but he’s such an obvious choice to re-sign I protected him. That’s the exception to my “what is their contract status now” rule for this blog.
  • Nuge would be a slam dunk for the protected list should he be re-upped prior to the submission deadline.
  • I’m tempted to put Josh Archibald in the protected list, but the bottom 6 guys are pretty replaceable.
  • It stinks a little to expose two of the top 10 scorers in the AHL this season in Marody and Benson, but neither player has established himself in the NHL yet, so we don’t know if they’re AHL bubble players, full-time NHLers, or bottom/top 6 forwards. All of that will have to be determined with more experience and training camp. I predict more attractive targets at D and goalie for the Kraken that are more proven. Seattle will use the expansion draft mostly for their present needs, they can always sign free agents to fill out their farm team.
  • Dominik Kahun would also likely be moved into the protected list as one of the seven forwards in a 7-3-1 scheme if he gets re-upped.
  • All 3 of Khaira, Ennis, or Chiasson would be moved to the exposed list should they re-sign. All 3 are replaceable as bottom six forwards go.
  • The Condors had a lot of rookie forwards in their lineup, which is why they make up the bulk of the exempt players. Ryan Mcleod has a mere two seasons of pro hockey under his belt, which explains why he’s exempt (the 5 playoff games he played for Bakersfield at the end of the 2018-19 season don’t count).
  • Not a lot of quality guys to pick from in the exposed list, although it would help us immensely if Seattle would take James Neal in the draft should we roll the dice in it.


Oilers protect: Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones

Exempt status: Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Max Gildon, Mike Kesselring, Phil Kemp, Vincent Desharnais, Yanni Kaldis, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Niemelainen, Filip Berglund

Unknown status: Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Dmitry Kulikov, Slater Koekkoek, Theodor Lennstrom

Exposed status: Oscar Klefbom, Kris Russell, William Laggeson, Kevin Gravel, Ryan Stanton


  • If Adam Larsson and/or Tyson Barrie gets re-signed, you better believe Caleb Jones is coming off the protected list and onto the exposed list. I’d bet on Barrie not coming back.
  • The exempt status list is no surprise. Fortunately, our best prospects are on that list. Not enough pro hockey experience.
  • Lots of rookie pros on D in Bakersfield as well.
  • I’m not protecting Oscar Klefbom because his status in coming back from injury is so up in the air. Rumour has it that status will not be certain by the time the expansion draft rolls around. Klefbom would be too risky a pick for Seattle, so he’s safe to leave exposed.
  • The prime targets for Seattle here would be Kris Russell (the veteran D man who can play both sides and play regularly on the 3rd pairing) or Laggeson (the young stay-at-home guy whose career is just starting and could grow along with the rest of the team). I would hate to lose either of them but I get it, and it’s not like they’re irreplaceable.
  • Should he be re-signed, Koekkoek will be exposed.
  • Seattle would do us a solid if only they would sign Tyson Barrie or Dmitry Kulikov as free agents during their 48-hour window to sign free agents. Barrie I can’t see signing there, but Kulikov might. He could play on their second pairing until somebody better supplants him, and he wouldn’t cost a lot to sign. If they do, the Oilers don’t have to worry about anybody getting picked from their list.


Oilers protect: Mike Smith

Exempt status: Olivier Rodrigue, Ilya Konovalov

Unknown status: Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells

Exposed status: Mikko Koskinen, Alex Stalock


  • Just like Yamamoto, Mike Smith is technically not signed for next year, but Holland has publicly said he’ll be coming back, which is not a surprise to anyone. They’ll sign him and protect him, book it. The only other exception to my “go with their current contract status” rule.
  • I suspect Skinner will be re-signed as well to a short-term two-way contract. Wells’s career has been terrible, so he’ll be free to walk. It would be great if Seattle would sign him as a free agent, but that’s unlikely to happen.
  • Stalock may go to the Kraken, but it’s unlikely. He’d force their starter to play too many games, and chances are they’re looking for a tandem for their inaugural season as that’s the way most teams do it these days.
  • Koskinen is far and way the best goalie target for them. He can tandem there with less pressure to win then here, so his mistakes won’t be magnified as much. He’s only signed for one more season anyway, so he’s a low risk bet if he doesn’t work out. If he does, they can re-sign him to keep the seat warm until a prospect is ready. He was a signing by the previous GM, and we know Tippett likes Smith better.  Koski has a target on his back right about now, and the Oilers would love to be rid of his contract for sure.

If I’m Ken Holland, I stack the deck to the team by trading Seattle our third-rounder in 2022 to take Koskinen in the expansion draft – heck, throw in the fourth-rounder this year, too.  We would love to be rid of his contract, and Koskinen is not exactly an all-star but he still has enough talent to help them in the short term.

The Oilers would love to move on from Peter Chiarelli’s final mistake the day before he was fired so Holland can get one of his own preferences to tandem with Smith. There are some intriguing names available in both free agency and trade, and it wouldn’t be hard to find an upgrade on Koskinen for a lower cap hit.

If Seattle agrees to this or signs one of our free agents then it doesn’t matter who we submit in the expansion draft because Edmonton’s commitment in regards to the draft would be fulfilled.