Normally this is about the time when NHL regular seasons wrap up, but we’ve got another 25% or so to go this season. Things have been different for a couple of seasons now, and it’s going to be a little bit different for at least a little bit longer.
The NHL is prepared to welcome their 32nd club to play in the 2021-22 NHL season with the Seattle Kraken. Kraken GM Ron Francis will help navigate two drafts for his club this year; the expansion draft and the NHL entry draft.
Starting from scratch on an expansion team is a daunting task. Doing it during a year where there’s considerably less hockey at the junior level makes it all the more difficult.. So how do you make the most of your maiden NHL draft when you might not have all of the information you’d like?
Draft picks are currency. Ron Francis’ plan? Acquire as many of them as you can.
“My philosophy over time has been that the more darts you get to throw at the board, the better chance you have for success...We’re open to anything and everything as we build this team, from draft picks to players to RFAs left unprotected by teams, to UFAs we’re looking to sign.”
That’s Seattle GM Ron Francis on his upcoming strategy to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
If Ron Francis is looking for an extra draft pick, I think you know where I’m going with this. I’d be more than happy to oblige. I hope Ken Holland is equally happy to oblige, even after a relatively quiet deadline day that saw him unwilling to part with draft capital.
FIRST THINGS 1ST
The Oilers are going to lose a player in the expansion draft. It might be Caleb Jones, it might be William Lagesson. It could be someone else entirely. If only there was a way to influence Seattle’s selection, perhaps by coaxing them to select a specific player by sending them a draft pick to do so...
I’m not suggesting that the Oilers spring their first round pick to Seattle for them to eat a bad contract. But, what if the Oilers were to entice Seattle with a draft pick to get them to pick a player with a sizeable contract?
Edmonton doesn’t have a lot of picks in this year’s upcoming entry draft (they’ve got a 1st, a 4th, two 6th round picks and a 7th). Francis might show interest in an additional draft pick while picking up a player in the process. If the Oilers could ship a hefty deal to Seattle at the cost of a draft pick this year (or ideally, next year), it could work to benefit both clubs.
The two deals that come to mind are Zack Kassian (3 more years @ 3.2MM) or James Neal (2 more years at 5.75MM). Would Francis be open to taking on the Neal contract for a sixth round pick in 2021, or an earlier pick in 2022? Freeing up nearly six million in cap could go a long way in free agency. It would do most of the heavy lifting in re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it could go towards a Yamamoto deal and a pair of bottom six players. Regardless, getting a sizeable deal off the books and having it cost a draft pick is a tantalizing option for the Oilers, one that’s light years more desirable than a buyout. (A Neal buyout would cost 1.9MM cap space each year for the next four years, a Kassian buyout would cost a total of nearly 7MM over the next six years.) With the cap staying flat for at least the next couple of years, buyouts are an especially odious way of biting the bullet on a bad deal.
The price of acquiring one of these deals might be too rich for Francis, but it’s definitely worth looking into. With cap space coming at a premium, the Oilers could potentially free up some extra breathing room as they enter free agency this offseason, all while escaping the loss of a coveted asset via the expansion draft.