Apr 25, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) handles the puck as Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop (30) defends during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Kraken are inching closer and closer to becoming a reality. Sure, they’re technically already in the fold as the NHL’s 32nd team, but the franchise still largely feels like a figment of our imagination thanks to the fact that there’s no real roster. Yet.

Seattle’s expansion draft will take place on Wednesday, at which point the Kraken will begin to take tangible form. The protected lists from the 30 NHL clubs forced to expose players in the draft (Vegas is exempt) were finalized over the weekend, meaning we now know which players will be available to the Kraken.

And you know what that means — it’s mock expansion draft time.

I’m no front-office guru and likely never will be, but that won’t stop me from putting on my hypothetical general manager hat and selecting a mock Seattle roster. After looking at each team’s protection list and gathering some info from around the league, I’ve done my best to theorize the 30 players that the Kraken might grab during Wednesday’s draft process.

And while the expansion draft may seem simple — Seattle will officially be able to draft one player from each team — teams can sweeten the pot to convince the Kraken to select (or not select) certain exposed players, as we saw during the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft a few years ago. There’s also a strong possibility that some players selected by Seattle could be quickly flipped to another team, so it’s fair to expect a flurry of moves across the NHL during and immediately after the expansion draft.

Let’s get to the mock.

Anaheim Ducks — Sonny Milano (LW)

Anaheim’s list doesn’t have a lot of enticing options, so taking a flier on Milano — a talented offensive player who has shown flashes but has yet to fully break out — at a low price point seems like it might have the most upside.

Arizona Coyotes — Christian Fischer (RW)

Fischer is a roll of the dice considering his struggles the past two seasons, but he was productive a few years ago and still relatively young and under team control. If Seattle wants more of an established option, it can go with Tyler Pitlick, but Fischer is younger and a bit cheaper.

Boston Bruins — Jeremy Lauzon (D)

I wavered between Connor Clifton and Lauzon here. Clifton is the better player right now, but Lauzon is a few years younger and has more upside and control.

Buffalo Sabres — Will Borgen (D)

Buffalo’s list of available players is pretty brutal, so a guy like Borgen — who is young, affordable and has a bit of upside — is probably the safest play. At the very least, he fills out some depth and can be stashed in the AHL.

Calgary Flames — Mark Giordano (D)

This one is a no-brainer. Giordano is a former Norris winner who still can play and gives the Kraken some leadership and a big name to market. He’s 37 years old but is only under contract for one more year at $6.75 million, so it’s not much of a risk. If they wanted, they could flip him at the trade deadline next season.

Carolina Hurricanes — Nino Neiderreiter (LW)

It’s between Neiderreiter and Jake Bean, who was a hyped prospect and has shown signs of being a solid contributor on the blue line. But Bean isn’t a sure thing and Seattle is going to need immediate impact players up front. That makes Neiderreiter a valuable commodity. Plus, he has one year left on his current deal and could be a trade chip.

Chicago Blackhawks — Nikita Zadorov (D)

Calvin de Haan is an intriguing choice here (especially as a potential flip), but Zadorov’s size will likely be enticing for a team looking to establish some toughness out of the gate. He’s a restricted free agent, so there’s some uncertainty about his next deal. But it’s not like the Kraken really have to worry about money in Year 1.

Colorado Avalanche — Joonas Donskoi (RW)

Donskoi is a versatile, reliable contributor on the wing that could give Seattle a strong depth presence right away. He has two years remaining at $3.9 million annually, which makes him an older, slightly more expensive alternative to an option like J.T. Compher, but I think Donskoi is a better bet.

Columbus Blue Jackets — Max Domi (F)

Domi could once again be in for a fresh start after a predictably frustrating year in Columbus, but he’s proven his worth as an offensively gifted player in the right system. With the Kraken starting from scratch and in need of playmakers, this could be a good fit to give Domi second (or third) life.

Dallas Stars — Ben Bishop (G)

It sounds like there’s a good chance Blake Comeau may be a low-risk play for veteran leadership, and that would make some sense. But if Seattle is feeling a bit spicier, it could take a chance on Bishop, who would give the Kraken a veteran presence in net at a lower cost ($4.9 million for the next two years) than some of the alternatives. Bishop is 34 and comes with some injury risk (he missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery), but he had a few very strong years in Dallas (including a runner-up Vezina campaign in 2019) and would be a nice chip if he can bounce back.

Detroit Red Wings — Troy Stecher (D)

Vladislav Namestnikov and Evgeny Svechnikov are both intriguing options up front, but Stecher is a solid second- or third-pairing defenseman that comes at a very affordable cap hit of $1.7 million next season. With one year left on his contract, he’s probably the option that gives Seattle the most flexibility.

Edmonton Oilers — Oscar Klefbom (D)

The Oilers list doesn’t have a ton of great options, so taking a chance on Klefbom could be the play. He’s a solid two-way defenseman, but he’s probably going to miss the upcoming season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Still, the Kraken could stash him on long-term injured reserve for the year and then see what he has in a contract year in 2022. It’s a risk, but it’s one that might be worth making.

Florida Panthers — Chris Driedger (G)

Driedger is fully expected to wind up in Seattle, as that has been reported well ahead of the expansion draft. However, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, Frank Vatrano is also expected to be going to the Kraken. Only one of those guys can end up as Florida’s official draft selection, but they’re both projected to land in Seattle one way or another.

Los Angeles Kings — Kale Clague (D)

Clague is a young defenseman that has shown offensive flashes in his development stages. The Kraken could choose to go for a RFA stage grinder like Austin Wagner or Brendan Lemeiux, but Clague is a long-term play that has more upside.

Minnesota Wild — Kaapo Kahkonen (G)

Kahkonen still has a lot to prove after his rookie NHL season, but Seattle needs goaltending depth. He offers them a younger second or third option at low cost and some control.

Montreal Canadiens — Phillip Danault (C)

All the talk has been about whether the Kraken should take on the risk of Carey Price, but I think it should be considering another gamble. Danault is a pending UFA and could walk away from the team in about a week, but it might be worth the danger — especially considering there aren’t many great centers available. Danault’s offensive capabilities are limited, but he’s a shutdown force down the middle. If Seattle is looking to make the safe play, defenseman Brett Kulak is probably the guy.

Nashville Predators — Calle Jarnkrok (C)

There may be some temptation to take Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen, but those contracts are a burden and the Kraken would be doing Nashville a huge favor by taking one of those guys. Instead, Jarnkrok is a good two-way depth option down the middle with almost no risk. With one year remaining at $2 million, Seattle can choose to keep him or flip him.

New Jersey Devils — Nathan Bastian (RW)

Outside of Andreass Johnsson and Will Butcher, there aren’t many enticing options here. I don’t know if either one of those guys beats some of the other alternatives on the board, so Bastian has been mentioned as a strong possibility. He has some size and upside in a low-end depth spot. He’s only 23 and brings low-cost control. It’s essentially a no-risk flier.

New York Islanders — Jordan Eberle (RW)

Eberle is 31 and signed for three more seasons at $5.5 million, so it’s a significant investment if the Kraken take him. That being said, he’s still a strong player and would provide some offensive firepower up front. They could also go for Josh Bailey, who is the same age and slightly less expensive.

New York Rangers — Colin Blackwell (C)

Blackwell is a solid bottom-six guy who scored 12 goals last season. With a year left on his deal at league minimum, why not?

Ottawa Senators — Chris Tierney (C)

I thought about picking Evgenii Dadonov here because he’s a top-six talent that would offer some firepower, but he’s a relatively expensive gamble. Instead, Tierney is a valuable bottom-six guy that kills penalties. And, with one year remaining at $3.5 million, he would be an easily movable asset.

Philadelphia Flyers — Jakub Voracek (RW/LW)

Playing it straight, It’s probably either Voracek or James Van Riemsdyk here. Both are overpriced veterans but also impact players that give Seattle some immediate presence up front. The Flyers have reportedly been trying to move Voracek and might be willing to sweeten the pot if it means the Kraken taking him off their hands.

Pittsburgh Penguins — Zach Aston-Reese (LW)

Jason Zucker is a scoring option that will have some appeal, but there’s some risk given his decline and contract (two years left at $5.5 million). Aston-Reese has proven to be a very valuable bottom-six shutdown forward, and he’s younger.

San Jose Sharks — Dylan Gambrell (C)

The Sharks list isn’t anything special, and there’s been some speculation that Radim Simek may be the guy that goes here. Instead, I’m going to point toward Gambrell, who is younger, cheaper and a Washington native.

St. Louis Blues — Vladimir Tarasenko (RW)

I’m torn between Tarasenko and Vince Dunn, but I think it’s just too hard to pass up on Tarasenko’s value. Sure, there’s some risk given his shoulder issues, but he only has two years remaining on his contract. Also, at the very least, there would be a market to flip him. Dunn has been rumored to be on the block for a few years now, so there’s a chance Seattle could scoop him up in a supplemental deal if it really didn’t want to choose.

Tampa Bay Lightning — Mathieu Joseph (F)

The Lighting’s most intriguing offerings are Gourde and Ondrej Palat and, with the weak center field, it seems as though Gourde might be the more enticing option. Gourde has four years left at $5.16 million, while Palat has one year left at $5.3 million. But if the Kraken don’t feel like doing Tampa a favor and alleviating its cap crunch (or committing that much term for Gourde), then they could go with Joseph, who is making the minimum for one more year before RFA and is trending toward a top-six role. With that strategy, they may leverage a deal to acquire Gourde or Palat at minimal return.

Toronto Maple Leafs — Jared McCann (F)

It seems as though it’s going to be McCann or Alexander Kerfoot here, and I would lean McCann. He’s a versatile, two-way, middle-six guy who is younger and cheaper than the other option.

Vancouver Canucks — Kole Lind (RW)

The book on Lind is largely still unwritten, but Vancouver’s list is not great. And it seems like a decent spot to make a play for a 22-year-old winger with some upside.

Washington Capitals — Nick Jensen (D)

Given the goalie market, it’ll be really enticing to take Vitek Vanecek. That being said, Jensen is a reliable back-end guy at a very affordable ($2.5 million) cap hit for the next two seasons. That’s also quite tempting.

Winnipeg Jets — Dylan DeMelo (D)

Mason Appleton is worth some consideration, but I think DeMelo is the strongest value play. He’s a 28-year-old who’s capable of being a first- or second-pairing defenseman and is only making $3 million for the next three seasons. That’s too much of a steal to pass up.

Forwards Aston-Reese, Bastian, Blackwell, Danault, Domi, Donskoi, Eberle, Fischer, Gambrell, Jarnkrok, Joseph, Lind, McCann, Milano, Neiderreiter, Tarasenko, Tierney, Voracek
Defensemen Borgen, Clague, DeMelo, Giordano, Jensen, Klefblom, Lauzon, Stecher, Zadorov
Goalies Bishop, Driedger, Kahkonen

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