Florida Panthers prep as release date of the Kraken approaches

Cats get set for next week’s expansion draft. Don’t “Tallon” it!

The Florida Panthers made a trio of moves on Thursday with an eye towards the future as well as Wednesday’s expansion draft that will stock the Seattle Kraken.

Florida sonked veteran Keith Yandle via a buyout and re-signed 25-year-olds Anthony Duclair and Gustav Forsling to sensible new deals.

The flurry of moves would point to the Panthers going with the 7-3-1 protection scheme.

For sh*ts and grins, here is my protected list as of this morning. Feel free to post yours in the comment section.

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau (NMC), Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad (NMC), MacKenzie Weegar, Gustav Forsling

Goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)

The defense and goalie are no-brainers, while the two final forward spots on the list could be filled from a group of four different players. During the week I favored protecting Mason Marchment over Noel Acciari. Why did I change my mind? Well, the Panther most at risk, if the Kraken don’t sign pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger, would seem to be Radko Gudas. When I thought about it some more, I became of the opinion that Marchment is the kind of ultra low-priced player that looks to be coming into his own that an expansion team might really be intrigued by. Basically, I left Marchment unprotected to minimize the chance of Seattle selecting Gudas. I know most of you disagree with my decision to leave Hornqvist unprotected, but I feel like the chances of Ron Francis selecting a 34-year-old with two years left on a contract that carries a $5.3 million AAV are pretty slim. If the Kraken do nab Hornqvist, the Panthers keep Gudas and gain a sizeable chunk of cap space to work with. I feel that’s a risk well worth taking.

One more thing, if the Panthers brass feel strongly that Gudas will be the player they are going to lose to Seattle, they might want to explore trading him beforehand. The Colorado Avalanche weren’t going to be able to protect Ryan Graves, and most expansion draft analysis had Graves going to the Pacific Northwest, so they sent him to the New Jersey Devils for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round selection in this year’s draft. This would leave Marchment or Markus Nutivaara as the best bets for ‘Ol Ronnie Franchise to take.

The best case for the Panthers remains the Kraken signing Driedger and it seems like there is a pretty decent chance that this will be the outcome.

Let’s take a look at how the expansion will shape this weekend.

Today is the final day to put a player on waivers prior to the 2021 Expansion Draft, and the deadline for players to agree to waive their no-move clauses. Unless a player’s contract carries an NMC, waivers are required prior to a buyout, so teams would need to do it today.

The 2021 Expansion Draft trade and waiver freeze begins tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET. No NHL Standard Player Contracts can be signed in this period except by the Kraken. Seattle will be able to sign pending UFAs and RFAs to contracts (one per existing team) and also to make trades with teams that will be finalized by the league when the freeze is lifted.  The 30 existing teams (Vegas is exempt) must submit their protection lists for the expansion draft to the league by 5 p.m. ET.

On Sunday, the NHL will approve and distribute the protection lists to all teams by 10 a.m. Once that happens, Seattle may begin interviewing UFAs and RFAs who are available for selection and then sign them to contracts if the parties come to an agreement. A signing counts as the selection from that player’s original team. For example, if Seattle were to sign Driedger to a contract during this period, he would become their selection from the Panthers. Keep in mind, the Kraken can only speak to players who are exposed. They can’t talk to a player like Sam Bennett (provided he’s protected like we all expect) during this time frame.

Which Panther will end up in Seattle?

Chris Driedger149
Radko Gudas14
Mason Marchment7
Frank Vatrano12
Patric Hornqvist7
Noel Acciari5
Markus Nutivaara2
Anton Stralman3