This is one in a continuing series of articles outlining the options available to the Seattle Kraken during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. To learn more about the draft, please see our Expansion Draft Primer.
I know, I know, you’re saying, “Do we really have to take somebody from the Wings?” The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, technically, we must choose a player from the Detroit list of exposed players, just like every other team. But if the options available are so useless or expensive or both, Seattle can choose somebody who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the current season, and then decline to negotiate a new deal for them, thus allowing them to enter free agency. No harm, no foul.
But I’m as surprised as anyone to inform you that there is one (count it, “1”) decent option from the Red Wings that the Seattle Kraken would be wise to consider.
In arriving at our expected list of protected players, we have drawn on a number of sources, and made a few assumptions. First, there’s no point in protecting a player that you don’t own the rights to, or that you don’t have under contract. This is particularly true with Detroit, who are in re-build mode and will likely let nearly every UFA walk at the end of this year. Thus, our first assumption is that UFA players will be left exposed.
Additionally, anyone under contract for next season who is currently in your top-six forwards or top-two defense pairings will be protected. To do otherwise would be shooting yourself in the foot.
Beyond that, we have leveraged the opinions from Detroit media sources — print, broadcast, and online — who are intimately familiar with the team and its players, management, coaches, and history with cap management.
Thus armed, we have assumed that the Red Wings will adopt the 7-3-1 protection scheme, and the following players will be protected:
Forwards: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Vladislav Namestnikov, Adam Erne, Taro Hirose.
Defense: Danny DeKeyser, Christian Djoos, Filip Hronek.
Goaltender: Thomas Greiss.
No Thank You
There are players that we expect to be left exposed that are either 1) too expensive, 2) not performing, 3) too old, or 4) fall into two or more of the aforementioned categories. As such, we will be dismissing the possibility of selecting any of the following players:
Forwards: Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Sam Gagner, Bobby Ryan.
Defense: Marc Staal.
Goaltender: Jonathan Bernier.
It should be noted that everyone on this list will be UFA at the end of the current season, except for Frans Nielsen who is signed for another year.
We will also state here that the two players not previously mentioned but who are having a terrific start to the season — Mathias Brome and Filip Zadina — are exempt from the draft.
When you sweep away the chaff, there is very little wheat left on the Detroit roster. There are a host of AHL regulars, including what may be the worst goalie pipeline in the entire NHL; but in the final analysis two players in the current lineup could potentially serve the Kraken in targeted roles.
RD Troy Stecher, $1.7 million AAV, signed through 2022. Right-handed defensemen are a sought-after commodity in the NHL, so having Stecher available warrants attention right out of the gate. Stecher rotates through the bottom pairing for Detroit at the moment, at times filling the “seventh defenseman” role.
Stecher comes to Detroit from Vancouver where, after a couple of seasons getting his legs under him, he had two solid seasons with the club. He is not a factor offensively, chipping in just a dozen or so points in any given year. But he kept his plus-minus numbers in positive territory, something that any team can never get enough of from their blue line corps.
Ultimately, however, it is Stecher’s price tag that rules him out in this instance. Defensemen of his age and production levels can be had for less than $1.7 million. Thus, he is not our preferred choice for selection in the expansion draft.
C Luke Glendening, $1.8 million AAV, UFA. Already I hear the squeals of disbelief going up. “Overpriced!” “Not enough goals!” “Terrible plus-minus!” I’m not going to disagree with you on any of those statements; I’m going to instead assert that you’re looking at the wrong metrics.
The first matter to dispense with is his salary. He is coming off a 4-year deal with a $1.8 million cap hit, which everyone involved acknowledged was above market value. But that number is irrelevant; Glendening is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and it’s highly likely that he can be signed to a short-term deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Glendening had his worst year last season, posting only 9 points, and in a remarkable feat he managed to notch a minus-29 in just 60 games. Usually you need an 82-game season to be that much of a liability in your own zone. But once you remember that he plays for Detroit — a team that let in nearly twice as many goals as it scored — you can forgive that aberration on the stat sheet. (It should also be noted that two of his fellow centers were below minus-40 for the year, one of whom did it in only 46 games played.)
What you can’t see in the numbers — unless you dig hard — is that Glendening is a penalty-kill specialist and a face-off wizard. He has placed first or second on the team in PK TOI during his entire tenure in Detroit, exceeding even defensemen in most instances. And so far this young season his face-off win percentage is an other-worldly 66.2%. That will inevitably revert to the mean, but over the last 5 seasons the mean for Glendening is 55.6%. That puts him among the league leaders in that category.
All of a sudden $1 million doesn’t look so bad.
Glendening would slot in as the 3rd or 4th line center, where he can offer veteran leadership for 1-2 years on a budget-friendly contract. He’s never going to make the highlight reel, but he fills a couple of specific and highly-desirable roles at a reasonable price.
What About A Deal
Detroit is going to finish near or at the bottom of the league this year, meaning their draft position in the first round will likely be in the top 5 picks. Why not try to cut a deal with the Red Wings to grab that pick?
This scenario is almost certainly impossible. In order for a team to want to cut a deal with the Kraken, they have to have something more valuable than a draft pick to lose. That’s not even close to being the case with the Wings.
Detroit is in re-build mode, and GM Steve Yzerman knows the value of these high-position, early-round picks. In preparation for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft he has crafted his roster such that there is nothing he can’t walk away from. So even if Detroit were to expose every single eligible player, I doubt the Kraken could entice them into giving up any draft picks.
You Don’t Have To Be A Star
Not all of the 23 players on a given roster are Connor McDavids, Shea Webers, or Carey Prices. No team is comprised exclusively of stars. Successful teams have players that fit a variety of profiles, with significant variance in skills and experience, and in a wide range of salaries.
The Seattle Kraken will be no different; Ron Francis and his scouts will be looking to fill out the roster with guys that excel in different areas, so the club is not left out to dry in one way or another. The expansion draft will not be conducted with the same philosophy as the entry draft, where the “best player available” mentality is often the rule. Here, we have to fill an entire team all at once. That means shut-down wingers, stay-at-home defensemen, backup goalies, and “energy guys” will be just as important to select as the top point producers.
With nobody on the Detroit roster, protected or otherwise, qualifying as a player worth betting the farm on, the Kraken will be forced to look deeper into the list of role players that the Red Wings have available, and choose somebody who can slot in to fill a need on the opening night roster.
For that reason, and given the facts as outlined above, it’s our belief that Luke Glendening will be the Seattle Kraken’s selection from the Detroit Red Wings.