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Exposing The Islanders

Who will The Kraken get their tentacles on in the expansion draft next summer?

NHL: San Jose Sharks at New York Islanders
Next season will likely determined Bellows’s fate
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL expansion team in Seattle revealed on Thursday, their nickname, the Kraken, their logo and jerseys. Their final step before they take the ice at the Climate Pledge Arena will be filling out its roster, which will be determined next Summer.

The 2021 expansion draft will feature the same rules as the 2017 expansion draft. Each team will have their choice of protecting either seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. The Islanders protected eight skaters (Anders Lee, John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Travis Hamonic) in 2017. Boychuk and Ladd needed to be protected due to their no-move clauses. This time, the team will not be forced to protect any player.

Teams must leave two forwards and one defenseman with 40 NHL games in 2020-21 or a combined 70 NHL games in 2019-20/2020-21 unprotected.

Once again, players who have two years of NHL/AHL experience will be exempted. (Oliver Wahlstrom, Simon Holmstrom, Noah Dobson and Ilya Sorokin)

Former general manager Garth Snow made sure the Islanders did not lose a valuable member of the team to Vegas in 2017. Snow traded the Isles’ 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second, defenseman Jake Bischoff, plus Mikhail Grabovski’s contract to the Golden Knights so that Vegas would select goalie J.F Berube, who along with Grabovski, never played again. Vegas selected defenseman Erik Brannstrom 15th overall with the Islanders pick.

Current general manager Lou Lamoriello will unlikely make a deal with Seattle’s GM, Ron Francis, similar to the one Snow made with Vegas GM George McPhee. Unless the Islanders lose to the Florida Panthers in the Qualifying Round and win the second phase of the NHL lottery, New York will not have a first-round pick this season. Lamoriello will not trade his 2021 first round pick.

So who will get protected? I will predict Lamoriello will opted for the 7 F, 3 D, 1 G. Here are the givens

Forwards: Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle, J.G. Pageau, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson

No surprises with the above six names. One name missing though is Casey Cizikas, who will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2020-21 season. The case can certainly be made that Cizikas is the second-most important forward on the team. If Cizikas is signed before the end of next season then he’s a given to be protected. Does Lamoriello gamble and wait until next offseason to re-sign Cizikas, who has only played 80 games twice in his nine-year career.

If Cizikas is left unprotected, I’d expect Kieffer Bellows and Otto Koivula battle next season for the final spot.

What about Josh Bailey? The longtime Islander, who is just 259 regular-season games away of becoming the franchise leader will have three years at five million per, could be a little steep for the Kraken.

Defensemen: Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Devon Toews

Both Pulock and Toews are restricted free agents after the season and will be getting new contract. What the contracts will look like in the age of Covid remains to be seen. Nick Leddy, who was protected in 2017, will have one year remaining on his contract when Seattle takes the ice. Sebastian Aho and Scott Mayfield will likely be on Francis’s radar.

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Currently, Varlamov will be the only eligible goaltender under contract who would have to be protected in the draft. A real easy decision for Lamoriello.

Prediction - Islanders lose either Bellows, Koivula or Mayfield