There are other things happening outside of the New York Islanders quest for a Stanley Cup. With four teams still in pursuit, most of the NHL is focused on the next step of the 2021 season; the expansion draft.
On July 21, just over a month away, the Seattle Kraken will select one player from 30 of the NHL teams (Vegas is exempt) to create their own squad. And most NHL franchises are hyper-focused on what that expansion draft will mean for them.
So with the focus starting to turn towards the expansion draft, I thought I’d compile a shortlist of mock expansion drafts to figure out if there’s a consensus on who the Islanders might lose to Seattle.
Who could the New York Islanders lose in the expansion draft?
Here are a few expansion mock drafts that I found that go in different directions on what the Islanders might lose in the Seattle expansion draft.
The Athletic (link)
A panel of three Athletic writers went through each team and picked a Seattle lineup. When it came to the Islanders there seemed to be a consensus on what type of player to take; young and with a lot of upside.
There’s an assumption that the Islanders make a side-deal to protect some of the players on their exposed list. Which makes sense. They’ve hit the semi-finals in back-to-back years with this core, why take it apart now?
Losing either Koivula or Bellows isn’t a big loss. Neither are factors for this team and are very much on the periphery of the squad. If it allows them to keep their core then it’s all fine.
The Hockey News (link)
Matt Larkin’s rationale follows that of The Athletic’s, Bellows is young and has a lot of untapped potential. Bellows isn’t able to get a sniff of ice time for the Islanders at the moment.
Larkin doesn’t mention if there’s a side deal between the Islanders and Kraken here, and frankly, if Bellows is the pick I don’t see the need for the Islanders to make one either.
The 19th overall pick in 2016 may not be able to crack the Isles squad that’s competing for cups, but he could very well work his way into a full-time NHL role on a Kraken squad.
Dobber Hockey (link)
I don’t see this happening. I can understand the appeal to pick Scott Mayfield. He’s a big right-handed defenseman that could immediately give the Kraken some stability on the back end. And he carries a $1.45 million AAV. Which can help the Kraken go after more valuable targets and not bust the salary cap ceiling.
But that last reason is also why the Islanders want to keep Mayfield around. Finding a replacement for Mayfield would likely cost more on the open market.
I know Dobson could potentially step up to the second pair but where will the Islanders find that third pair right-hander who can play a physical game and kill penalties like Mayfield and (more importantly) cost less than $1.5 million per year?
The Islanders will want to keep him.
Bleacher Report (link)
Losing Nick Leddy would certainly help the Islanders out a lot on the salary cap. Shedding $5.5 million would do the cap-strapped Islanders. But could the Isles live without Leddy? Probably.
They’ve got two young left-handed defensemen in Robin Salo and Samuel Bolduc that are ready to push for an NHL spot in 21-22. Putting either on the third pair with Scott Mayfield could work well.
Dobson would pick up more minutes playing on the second pair next to a veteran lefty. Of course, the issue now is, who that veteran lefty will be?
Looking at the list of pending UFA defensemen for 2021-22, Alec Martinez jumps out. He’ll be 34 in a month and had a really good season playing for Vegas this year. He’s not likely to command more than his current $4 million AAV, so the Isles already save $1.5 million in that hypothetical Leddy-Martinez swap.
Of course, that assumes Martinez wants to leave the West Coast where he’s played his entire NHL career. The point is that the Isles could find a way to live without Nick Leddy and still create cap space.
From what I’ve heard, the Kraken aren’t too interested in taking big contracts through expansion, but Leddy only has one year left. They might just take him to have someone carry the puck out from the D-zone and help them hit the cap floor.
It seems that the consensus is the Kraken will pick a cheap option from the Islanders and likely one of their younger players. Sure, Koivula and Bellows ELC’s will end this season, but neither is in a position to negotiate for anything substantial.
Ideally, someone like Nick Leddy gets selected. Nothing against Leddy, but shedding $5.5 million from the cap would be a huge help for the Isles.
But well see what the Isles decide to do in a month. Who they protect could change everything.