The Seattle Kraken are officially a member of the National Hockey League. They have found their head coach in Dave Hakstol and their first player in Luke Henman. However, the rest of their roster has yet to fill out. The expansion draft is quickly approaching and teams are trying to figure out who to leave exposed. The New York Rangers are no different than any other team. Luckily, many of the players the Rangers will protect are obvious. In addition, many of their youngsters are exempt from the expansion draft. Therefore, they do not need to protect the likes of Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Vitali Kravtsov. The Rangers are in a good position when it comes to the expansion draft because they do not need to expose anyone of major impact. The Golden Knights did them a favor by picking Oskar Lindberg instead of Jesper Fast. They do not need to expose anyone nearly as talented as Jesper Fast. Who are some of the names the Seattle Kraken may pluck from the New York Rangers.
The Rangers officially came to terms with restricted free agent, Brett Howden on a 1-year contract earlier today. It was no guarantee that the Rangers would expose Howden in the first place. However, with it only being a 1-year contract, Howden is a prime candidate for exposure. Brett Howden was a first round draft pick of the Tampa bay Lightning a couple years ago. He was acquired when the Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller. Howden comes with the draft pedigree but has never lived up to that draft position. David Quinn was very fond of Howden for whatever reason and always gave him a longer leash than Kakko and Lafreniere. Personally, I would LOVE it if the Kraken took Howden. He tends to only get his cardio in every night instead of contributing to winning hockey.
Libor Hajek was also acquired in the McDonagh and Miller trade. The package seemed underwhelming at the time (Mikhail Sergachev would have been a nice return) and it has only gotten worse. Howden has underperformed and Hajek has seemed lost on the ice at times. Hajek honestly looked really good in his first couple NHL games and then he suffered a severe shoulder injury. He has never played near the level he did in those first NHL games. Hajek has been one of the more popular picks in mock drafts for the Kraken. There are at least 3 players competing for the bottom pair on the Rangers defense and Libor Hajek is the most expendable.
Kevin Rooney was one of the Rangers biggest surprises last season. He lived in the bottom 6 and contributed way above his line position. In 54 games played, he contributed 14 points. He had 8 goals and 6 assists, contributing far more than Brett Howden every did. Rooney, along with Colin Blackwell, are unfortunate casualties of the expansion draft. They were highly effective players for the Rangers, but they possess many more players who should be prioritized in protection.
Now do not get me wrong here. I am not saying the Rangers will expose Chris Kreider in the expansion draft. However, one option thay may explore is trading Kreider to the Kraken in exchange for draft picks. The Kraken currently have the most cap space in the NHL. Kreider comes with a north of $7 million a year cap hit and the Rangers will have to make some tough decisions in the next few offseasons. Kreider would provide the Kraken a household name. The Kraken are going to want to compete with what the Golden Knights did in their first season and Kreider can help them do that.
The expansion draft is always a bittersweet time for fans. They unfortunately have to say goodbye to some fan favorites, but in the Rangers case, the Kraken may do them a favor. I would be disappointed if the Rangers had to say goodbye to Colin Blackwell or Kevin Rooney, but would be thrilled if the Kraken took Brett Howden. The Rangers would “win” two expansion drafts in a row if the Kraken took Howden. Oskar Lindberg did not turn out well for the Knights and I doubt Howden would do any better for the Kraken. Per Elliot Friedman, teams are expected to announce their protected list on July 18th. Hopefully the protected list does not include Brett Howden and he will soon be playing for the Seattle Kraken.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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