The LA Kings have officially decided who they’re protecting — and who they aren’t — in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
The Seattle Kraken expansion draft is almost here. On Wednesday, fans of every other NHL team — other than the Vegas Golden Knights, but don’t even get me started on that — will finally find out which player they’re losing to the league’s 32nd team.
Each team announced its list of protected players on Saturday. The LA Kings opted to go with the format that allowed them to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie, rather than one that would have allowed them to protect only eight skaters, but of any combination of forwards and defensemen, in addition to a goalie.
There really weren’t any major surprises with who the Kings chose to protect. It’s perhaps somewhat noteworthy that they used one of their protected slots on Andersson. He didn’t have a big role with the Kings last season, but they apparently still see some potential in him. Perhaps that’s an indicator that they plan on giving him a bigger role next season. Andersson turns 23 in October and scored 17 points (6-11-17) in 15 AHL games last season, so it sure doesn’t seem like there’s much left for him to do in that league.
Considering Brown turns 37 in November and has just one year left on his contract, you might consider it a bit surprising that he was protected too. Just a few years ago, that looked like a contract the Kings were desperate to get rid of. Brown did lead the Kings with 17 goals last year, though, and is still a big part of their leadership group. Evidently, they didn’t want to lose him for nothing.
Now we know who won’t be going to Seattle, but we’re still waiting to find out who will. Here are some of the Kings players the Kraken will likely be considering.
Carl Grundstrom was pretty much a regular for the Kings last season, playing in 47 of their 56 games. He mainly played in a bottom-six role, averaging just 12:28 of time on ice per game and scoring 11 points (6-5-11) on the year.
Some may argue the Kings should have protected Grundstrom over Andersson or Brown. There’s some skill here, perhaps enough to intrigue Seattle. But the 23-year-old has yet to show he’s more than a depth forward in the NHL.
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Seattle would have to sign Andreas Athanasiou, as he’s a restricted free agent — and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent as soon as next year if he digs his heels in for a one-year contract.
Even if Athanasiou, 27 in August, is a few years older than Grundstrom, his talent still makes him a player that the Kraken will likely consider. He scored 23 points (10-13-23) in 47 games in his first year with the Kings this past season. His speed and skill haven’t always translated to results, but sometimes they have. For example, when he scored 30 goals for the Detroit Red Wings in 2018-19.
Blake Lizotte is a depth forward with very limited offensive ability. However, the 23-year-old is also a responsible and hard-working center who can win just over half his faceoffs and has earned the trust of his coaches. He’s probably a long-shot to be taken, but it’s not inconceivable that Seattle could really like Lizotte.
Austin Wagner’s production has been trending in the wrong direction. He hasn’t been able to replicate the modest output of his 2018-19 rookie season when he scored 21 points (12-9-21) in 62 games.
This past season he scored just eight points (4-4-8) in 44 games. If the Kraken are looking to add some speed, though, maybe they can talk themselves into thinking the 24-year-old has had some bad shooting luck and could benefit from a change of scenery.
Brendan Lemieux hasn’t shown much offensive potential in his career. The 25-year-old scored just 11 points (4-7-11) in 49 games between the New York Rangers and the Kings last year and has never scored more than nine goals or 18 points in a season.
That said, if the Kraken are looking to add a bit of truculence to their team, they could consider Lemieux. He’s somewhat of a modern-day enforcer with enough hockey ability to take a regular shift in your bottom six and not kill you, and also drop the gloves and stand up for a teammate when need be.
Despite the Kings’ issues on the left side of their blue line in recent years, Kale Clague hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity with the Kings. He has just 22 career NHL games under his belt, having recorded six assists. He scored 12 points (1-11-12) in 23 games with the AHL’s Ontario Reign this past season.
Now 23 years old, LA’s second-round pick in 2016 seems like a strong candidate to be taken by Seattle. We know our own Scott Kinville won’t be too happy if he is.
Despite his resume with the Kings, there was no question that the Kings would expose Jonathan Quick to Seattle and protect Cal Petersen.
Quick’s numbers over the last few years are ugly. He’s posted save percentages of .898, .904, and .888 over the last three seasons. Also ugly is the 36-year-old’s contract, which still has two years left at a $5.8 million cap hit.
There’s a chance the Kraken could see Quick as their Marc-Andre Fleury, but it’s a small chance.