A Final Look Ahead to the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft for the Bruins

This coming Tuesday, July 21st, after years of waiting, the Seattle Kraken will finally have their expansion draft. For those who don’t know the rules or need a refresher, check out the first few parts of this article. Now, without further ado, it’s time for my final look ahead to the expansion draft for the Bruins.

Protection Locks

Thankfully, the Bruins are in great shape for the expansion draft. They can easily keep all of their key players because several, including David Krejci, Taylor Hall, and Tuukka Rask, are unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and don’t have to be protected. As for the rest, there are enough protection slots for them. 

But anyway, my locks to be protected are Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle (who has a no-move clause, so it’s required, but they’d protect him anyway), Craig Smith, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk. There’s simply no way any of them get exposed, because they would almost certainly be taken. 

There’s one more protection lock for the Bruins, but for a different reason. Dan Vladar is guaranteed to be the goaltender protected by the Bruins unless they decide to sign one between now and Tuesday. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are both UFAs and therefore don’t have to be protected. As for Jeremy Swayman, he’s going into just his second pro season and is therefore exempt from the expansion draft. Kyle Keyser is exempt as well since he is just finishing his second pro season. That leaves the Bruins with Dan Vladar and Callum Booth, and it’s a no-brainer to protect Vladar over Booth.

What About Jake DeBrusk?

Another player that I believe to be close to a lock is Jake DeBrusk. I know, I know. He had a really rough year. But he was candid about struggling with the isolation brought on by COVID, and I think that was a huge part of why he wasn’t the same player we’d seen in the past. Because of that, contrary to popular belief, I’m not sure the Bruins are ready to give on him yet. At the very least, they won’t give him up for free. If the right trade comes along, then I can see it a lot more, but they won’t leave him exposed to the Seattle Kraken. They would undoubtedly take him, and the Bruins would end up regretting giving him up for nothing. So, while not as sure of a bet as the others, DeBrusk is pretty close to a lock to be protected.

That leaves the Bruins with one more forward protection slot since they’ll be following the 7-3-1 format. Who will get it?

What Other Forward Will Be Protected?

In my opinion, there are two forwards vying for the final protection slot: Nick Ritchie and Trent Frederic. I’m not so sure either is a huge risk to be taken by the Seattle Kraken. So, it probably doesn’t matter too much who’s left exposed. But, one will be protected, so let’s take a look. 

Nick Ritchie

Nick Ritchie got off to a strong start this year scoring-wise, and while he still set a career-high in goals, he disappeared for a lot of the season and in the playoffs. He’s a big body who’s not afraid to be physical. But, I can’t honestly say I noticed him in that way very often either. He’s at his best in front of the net on the power play, but outside of that, he doesn’t bring a lot to the table. So, I’m not so sure the Kraken would take him given what else they’ll have available, particularly since his qualifying offer as an RFA is $2 million, and he’ll likely want more than that.

Trent Frederic

As for Frederic, he had earned a fairly consistent spot in the lineup until he came down with an illness that kept him out for a while late in the season. After that, he just couldn’t seem to break back into the lineup. However, I still think he has a bit of a better case to be protected than Ritchie. 

For starters, he’s younger and cheaper. The Bruins signed him to a two-year, $2.1 million ($1.05 million AAV) contract not too long ago. He brings less offense than Ritchie. But, given his age and the fact that he’s played 300 fewer NHL games than him, I think it’s safe to say he has more upside. Ritchie pretty much is what he is, but Frederic could still improve. He’s also typically more noticeable at 5v5 than Ritchie is due to his reckless disregard for his personal safety (a trait Bruins fans and management love). Because of all this, I think he’d be a bit riskier to expose given his age and contract. So, for that reason, I think the Bruins will end up protecting him over Ritchie. 

Who Will the Seattle Kraken Take?

In my opinion, there are three options for the Seattle Kraken will take: Nick Ritchie, Jeremy Lauzon, and Connor Clifton.  I think it’s much more likely Lauzon or Clifton goes based on past play and, in Lauzon’s case, potential upside. Jakub Zboril is a possibility as well since he could still have a higher ceiling than Lauzon and Clifton. But those two are lower-risk picks, so I think one of them will go instead unless the Kraken want a project. The only way anyone else goes is if the Kraken find enough good defensemen elsewhere since Lauzon and Clifton will be the best players available.

It’s hard for me to predict whether Lauzon or Clifton will go. Clifton is currently the better, more consistent player. But, Lauzon likely has a higher ceiling. They’re both young, hard-nosed, physical defensemen. But, Clifton has more of a puck-moving/offensive element to his game, which Lauzon is still working on. So, I’m not sure I can pick which one would be better for the Kraken right now. It really depends on what they get for elsewhere. Will they want a more consistent and reliable third-pairing defenseman right now in Clifton. Or, will they be willing to go through more growing pains with Lauzon in hopes he can put it all together and someday be more than he is now?

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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