By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
In preparation for a warm welcome of the Seattle Kraken in the 2021-22 NHL season, the team is amping up to select one player that was left unprotected from each NHL club ahead of the NHL Expansion Draft. The Vegas Golden Knights aren’t participating, as they had their expansion draft and inaugural season in 2017 and exceeded expectations right from the get-go. Ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft, the Bruins released their protected player’s list.
The Vegas Golden Knights selected former Bruins defenseman Colin Miller in their own expansion draft, and now the Bruins will lose another piece of their own puzzle. Luckily so, they’ll have plenty of time to replace whoever they do lose, as the NHL Entry Draft and free agency both start soon after the expansion draft taking place on Wednesday. With the Bruins having a handful of noteworthy unrestricted free agents like Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask, the Kraken will also have the time to negotiate with upcoming free agents of their choice. As for their pick from the team, most of the bottom-six forwards and a selection of the young defensemen are available for the Kraken to choose from.
Currently, a restricted free agent for the Bruins, Ritchie lays for Seattle as probably the juiciest forward up for a possible selection. Ritchie posted a career-high 15 goals and 26 points in the shortened 2020-21 season but got demoted to the fourth line by the end of the playoffs. His inconsistency wasn’t worth negotiating a contract prior to the draft nor doing so to protect him, so the Bruins left the 6’2″ winger unprotected. Seattle could get a third or fourth-line winger if he’s picked up from the Bruins, and the Bruins could look to replace his production elsewhere.
It’s been a rough-go for Kase as a Boston Bruin, but a change of scenery could possibly hint at the untapped potential in the 25-year-old winger. Kase has suited up for only nine regular-season games and eleven playoff games for the Bruins over the last two seasons since being acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. In that span, he’s collected five assists but hasn’t really been able to find a consistent spot on the team. He spent much of last season dealing with a concussion and lingering symptoms that have lasted the last two seasons, making him a risky pick for Seattle. There lies the question, is it a risk worth taking?
Lazar would be an excellent fourth-line center or right-wing for the Kraken, but he’s not the best forward to choose from on the Bruins, in my opinion. Lazar was acquired prior to the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline as a part of the Taylor Hall trade, and he spent much of the end of the year and playoffs playing with Nick Ritchie, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Karson Kuhlman. Still just 26-years-old, Lazar would bring a steady effort to the Kraken’s fourth line, both offensively on the forecheck and defensively.
In his first full season with the Bruins, the 24-year-old defenseman had his ups and downs. He started the season on the first pair with Charlie McAvoy and slowly crept down the depth chart with the re-emergence of Matt Grzelcyk after his own injuries and the later arrival of Mike Reilly. If the left-handed defenseman can play more consistently night in and out and improve his strength over the offseason, he could be a steal for the Kraken to select from the Bruins. In 41 regular-season games last season, Lauzon collected eight points and a +/- of eight.
Speaking of young steals, Clifton fits that bill as well. The right-handed defenseman caught a lot of action this past season with separate injuries to Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller at various points, and he showed signs of brilliance. The New Jersey native collected career-highs in assists and points last season while starting the season as a healthy scratch. Like Lauzon, Clifton needs to be a more consistent defender when called upon to log minutes in the lineup, but starting fresh in Seattle may be a good place to do it.
The former 13th overall pick hasn’t seemed to find his place in Boston but showed signs of improvement this past season. He found consistent minutes prior to the arrivals of Jarred Tinordi and Mike Reilly and was excellent in the transition game on some nights. He even showed some flashes of offense, too, and finished his first NHL season with nine assists. If the Kraken feel Zboril has more to offer as a 24-year-old defender, they could take a swing on him.
The Kraken could use their pick from the Boston Bruins on an unsigned unrestricted free agent from the roster, but that seems unlikely as the Kraken will have a period to talk to those free agents to sign them on their own. Other names that could be of interest to the Kraken in the Bruins system include 25-year-old Karson Kuhlman and 24-year-old Zach Senyshyn. There’s a lot of moving parts to tend to heading up to Wednesday’s draft as Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could also make a side deal with the Kraken to select or avoid a certain player.
Ultimately, I think the Kraken will be narrowing their focus to Lauzon, Clifton, or Ritchie, depending on how they view the team’s needs and their other selections. Former Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach was hired as an assistant coach for the Kraken’s coaching staff as well, giving them some extra intel on youngsters in the Bruins system. Who the Seattle Kraken chooses from the Bruins will be left to be decided in Wednesday’s NHL Expansion Draft.