The awarding of the Stanley Cup last week officially marked the conclusion of the 2020-21 NHL season. While a brief summer of recuperation is on the docket, the league calendar never sleeps as the busiest part of the offseason will be upon us shortly.
The NHL has designated this Saturday, July 17th, as the deadline for each franchise to submit a final player protection list ahead of the expansion draft on the 21st, with several teams facing the conundrum of losing a useful roster player for nothing or being forced to trade them for pennies on the dollar to recoup assets.
With the knowledge that trades and waiving of No-Movement clauses may alter the expansion landscape ahead of Saturday, let’s take a look at one forward, defenseman, and goaltender who may find themselves perusing real-estate near the Space Needle in a few weeks.
1. Mark Giordano – D, Calgary Flames
The Flames’ captain will likely be the most recognizable and decorated skater to be exposed to Seattle and would be an inspired choice to take on the same role with the fledgling franchise.
Over a 15-year NHL career entirely spent with the Flames, the Toronto native is 2nd in total games played and 8th in total points in franchise history, and 3rd among all defensemen.
Giordano is three years removed from being awarded his first and only Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, scoring 74 points in 78 games during the 2018-19 season.
Giordano led all Calgary blueliners in scoring with 26 points in 56 games this season. He continued to impact while defending positively, as his pairing with Chris Tanev ranked 3rd in expected goals percentage and 9th in shot-share among defensive pairings with at least 100 minutes played together at 5-on-5 while starting a majority of their shifts in the defensive zone.
For those reasons, his inclusion on this list may be surprising, but his role on the Calgary blueline has gradually shrunk in recent seasons, and the franchise may be looking to transition to a younger crop of players.
Despite turning 38 this October, Giordano has only appeared in 23 total playoff games over his career. The Flames have struggled to achieve significant post-season success, with the franchise only advancing past the second round once during his tenure.
The rearguard has seen a reduction in his average ice-time since the aforementioned Norris season and was displaced as the main defenseman on the power play by Rasmus Andersson as the season progressed.
While some risks are surrounding his age-related decline, his contract expires next summer, and the associated $6.75 million cap hit would help Seattle reach the cap floor.
Even if Giordano performs poorly, the contract is short enough to make his selection a worthwhile gamble for the Kraken.
2. Jake Allen – G, Montreal Canadiens
With franchise icon Carey Price backstopping the organization to an unexpected Stanley Cup Final appearance this past season, Allen is almost guaranteed to be exposed by the Canadiens.
However, without Allen’s regular-season contributions, Montreal may not have even qualified for the playoffs in the first place.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old netminder played in more games than Price this season and outplayed his counterpart to keep Montreal in the playoff hunt with an 11-12-5 record, and a .907 save percentage.
Allen’s current contract dictates that he will be owed just under $3 million for the next two seasons, which would be entirely manageable for the Kraken and could be more affordable than some of his comparables in free agency.
His career results have been solid but unspectacular, with Allen posting a career save percentage of .912, roughly resembling the league average.
Although he is likely at his best in a backup role, Allen has shown he can handle a starter’s workload by playing most of his team’s games in 5 of the past 6 seasons.
He is perhaps most infamously known for being benched in favor of rookie sensation Jordan Binnington in 2018-19, who took over the St. Louis net at midseason and led them from last place in the NHL to the Stanley Cup Final, where they defeated the Boston Bruins in 7 games.
Surprisingly, Allen has had strong showings in the playoffs, as his career .924 save percentage in 29 career playoff games is well above his regular-season average.
Allen’s favorable contract situation and dependable career performance suggest he could form part of a competitive goaltending platoon for Seattle next season. He could also be flipped at the trade deadline for future assets to a team looking for insurance in goal, giving the Kraken greater flexibility in roster construction and making his selection all the more likely.
3. Tyler Johnson – F, Tampa Bay Lightning
For all of the Lightning’s cunning maneuvering around the salary cap this season, it will be near impossible to keep all of their Cup-winning roster intact for next year, as key contributors such as Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman will likely receive large paydays in free agency.
Johnson’s name has been floated around as a Seattle target from the moment the new franchise was announced, with many already inserting the undersized forward from Spokane into the Kraken lineup well before the expansion draft.
His contract is a bit rich for the Lightning, as his contract worth $5 million a season for three more years is untenable for a cap-strapped franchise and especially for a player who has seen his role greatly diminished in recent seasons because of poor play and the emergence of younger, cheaper teammates.
Johnson was 10th among regular Lightning forwards in 5-on-5 ice time this season, the lowest usage of his career since his rookie season. His age (about to turn 31), reduced role, and the fact that he was placed on waivers this season are probable indicators of his future in Tampa.
Despite his unsavory contract, Johnson remains a serviceable player in the right situation. As Seattle will have tons of cap space, his salary is palatable for a franchise not expected to contend for a Cup immediately.
Johnson boasts 4 seasons of at least 20 goals on his resume, and his 2014-15 playoffs, where he tallied 23 points in 26 games during Tampa’s run to the final, shows he can elevate his play in high-pressure situations.
He is also a decent face-off man, hovering around 50% for his career, and still positively impacts the run of play for his team when on the ice.
Tampa will likely need to swing a deal with the Kraken to select Johnson over Yanni Gourde or Ondrej Palat, but the undrafted forward is a prime candidate for a career rejuvenation on the west coast.
All data courtesy of Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick. Contract information from CapFriendly.