The Seattle Kraken are about two months away from officially having a roster assembled, as the expansion draft is set for July 27th. Despite the limited data and information that we had at the time, we still had a great time covering the Vegas expansion draft on this site, and we plan on massively increasing the coverage for this one. Later this summer, we plan on going back in time with the data we’ve collected since then to produce a more in-depth analysis on Vegas and their strategies to help us better deliver new research on Seattle. However, after reviewing the basic, surface-level elements of Vegas’ inaugural season success, we couldn’t help but recognize the leadership and positive contribution to hockey in Las Vegas that Deryk Engelland provided to the organization. We believe it is crucial for Seattle to find their own version of Deryk Engelland in order to replicate any sort of instant success. Although, unlike Vegas, Seattle’s Engelland can potentially net them even more assets than just his productive services on and off the ice.
We’re talking about Tyler Johnson. Tyler Johnson is no stranger to hockey in the Pacific Northwest, as was born and played junior hockey in Spokane Washington, where he won the 2008 Memorial Cup with the Chiefs. Johnson has a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, as he makes $5 million AAV until the conclusion of the 2023-24 NHL season. We believe if this instance were to occur and Seattle take interest in him, that Tyler Johnson would be excited to come home to the Pacific Northwest and be a part of the Kraken’s inaugural season, as it would certainly be something special. The interesting part about the Tampa Bay Lightning, however, is they actively tried to move Johnson’s contract before the season to clear cap space for Nikita Kucherov to return from long-term injured reserve by placing him on waivers. However, because it’s the playoffs, the Lightning are allowed to spend over the cap, despite some controversy. Johnson will certainly be the odd man out in Tampa, as they can’t stash Kucherov on LTIR again for the entirety of next season, which could play out to Seattle’s advantage.
Tyler Johnson is an above-average player when it comes to AB, and he always has been. His career AB score is +5.44 over a nine-year span, which is simply outstanding. Up until this season’s -0.94, he had only registered one other negative individual AB season in 2016-17, when he was a -2.39. However, he had registered +13.32, and +19.38 scores in his sophomore and junior NHL campaigns in 2012-13 and 2013-14, which was among the higher scores in the league during that time. This season, he played fifty-five games, scoring eight goals, and registering fourteen assists for sixteen points. Johnson had a negative penalty taken to drawn ratio this season at 8:7, as well as a negative giveaway to takeaway ratio at 7:4. He was also a -1 in that span. His -0.94 was the fourth-lowest on the Lightning ahead of only Alex Killorn’s -1.16, Luke Schenn’s -4.27, and David Savard’s -15.69.
We’ve discussed Johnson’s production and situation with the Tampa Bay Lightning; however, this is where it could get interesting. In their expansion draft, Vegas accumulated 1st round picks to acquire contracts of aging veterans like Johnson, however not as AB valuable as he was. Some of these players were also injured and never played a game for the Golden Knights. We feel it is necessary to provide some background information on some of the trades the Golden Knights made that we feel are applicable to this situation. To take on the last year of Mikhail Grabovski’s contract ($5 million AAV), the Golden Knights acquired the 15th overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. To take on the final three years of David Clarkson’s contract from the Blue Jackets, the Golden Knights acquired Columbus’s 2017 1st round pick, a 2019 2nd round pick, and franchise center (not known at the time of course) William Karlsson. To avoid taking Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen, the Ducks gave the Golden Knights Shea Theodore, and to keep Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella, the Wild gave the Golden Knights Alex Tuch. While Johnson obviously isn’t a prospect like Tuch and Theodore were, he provides leadership in the locker room (as he is a Stanley Cup Champion with Tampa Bay in 2019-20), a familiar face to Pacific Northwesterners trying to get into hockey, and a serviceable NHL caliber player that won’t negatively impact the team’s success on the ice. If we were to project Tampa Bay’s expansion draft protection list today, we would suggest they go with the 7-3-1 option, as the list below displays (credit to Cap Friendly’s Seattle Expansion draft feature for helping accurately create this list.)
Forward 1- Nikita Kucherov (NMC)
Forward 2- Brayden Point
Forward 3- Steven Stamkos (NMC)
Forward 4- Anthony Cirelli
Forward 5- Ondrej Palat
Forward 6- Yanni Gourde
Forward 7- Alex Killorn
Defenseman 1- Victor Hedman (NMC)
Defenseman 2- Ryan McDonagh
Defenseman 3- Mikhail Sergachev
Goaltender 1- Andrei Vasilevskiy
Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman’s contracts expire at the end of the season, making them unrestricted free agents, meaning they don’t need to be protected. In this format however, Erik Cernak would be exposed, as well as RFAs Mitchell Stephens, Mathieu Joseph, and Cal Foote along with Johnson. It is reasonable to infer that the Lightning would protect Killorn over Johnson due to the fact his contract expires a year earlier, and that he makes a bit less money per year. Perhaps Tampa decides to protect Patrick Maroon over Alex Killorn, leaving both Johnson and Killorn exposed. However, it is a certainty in our mind that Tampa moves off one of these two contracts for cap-relief and Johnson makes the most sense. We see this as a situation that falls in between what Vegas did with their cap moves, as Johnson still is a legitimate NHL player. We believe Tampa will pay Seattle an asset to select Johnson, even if it is something small like a prospect or pick. Tampa is without its first and second round picks in this draft but has a first rounder in 2022. Maybe it’s that pick that goes to Seattle to select Johnson, and if so, we believe that’s more than enough incentive for the Kraken to accept the deal.
Vegas’ strategy of accumulating draft picks to take on salary proved to be beneficial, as they used some of these assets to acquire their franchise players like Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty later on. Not only would Seattle be doing that in this instance, but they’d be receiving a solid roster player from their region who could help further grow the game in the area similar to what Deryk Engelland did in Las Vegas. It is certainly going to be an interesting couple of months leading up to the Seattle expansion draft on July 27th, and this will be the first of many articles covering this topic coming soon. Much more to come.