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Will Kraken look to Oilers for depth, prospects or surprise with UFA deal?

EDMONTON — The misconception about an expansion draft is that the Seattle Kraken will start alphabetically with the Anaheim Ducks’ list and make their picks in order all the way through to the Winnipeg Jets.

In reality, Seattle will make the juicy decisions — Carey Price, Nino Niederreiter, Mark Giordano — first, then round out their roster off of the less sexy lists that remain. The latter best describes the Edmonton Oilers, whose list of non-UFAs will not provide the Kraken with an impactful player or a huge boost in jersey sales.

The Oilers’ best available players are unrestricted free agents like Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie and Alex Chiasson. The players under contract being offered by Edmonton are fourth-liners like Devin Shore and Jujhar Khaira, unproven prospects like Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody, or a depth, veteran defenceman like Kris Russell.

The Kraken may surprise in the next 48 hours and ink a guy like Barrie as their Edmonton component. If not, however, you can bet the discussion regarding the Oilers’ list will wait for late in Seattle general manager Ron Francis’ selection process.

And while his counterpart, Oilers GM Ken Holland, may approach Francis to select a player from elsewhere and trade him to Edmonton, Holland won’t be making any deals to dissuade Francis from selecting a certain player off the Oilers’ list. Edmonton just doesn’t have to expose the level of player who would require such manipulation.

Here’s a look at Edmonton’s list and some thoughts about which member of their current roster might wear the Kraken uniform on opening night in Seattle:

Protected list

Forwards:

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Archibald,
Zack Kassian.

Defence:

Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Duncan Keith.

Goalie:

Stuart Skinner.

Possible Seattle targets

Jujhar Khaira

A big (6-4, 212 pounds) centre/left wing, Khaira brings size and speed to your fourth line. He typifies the kind of player Seattle will be selecting from this Edmonton roster. If they accrue lots of size on their top-three lines, then the Kraken will likely pass on Khaira. If they feel they need to beef up a bit with their last few picks, he’s likely their best bet here. He’s a five-goal, 15-point player and a smart Indo-Canadian out of (relatively) nearby Surrey, B.C. An intriguing player, Khaira has never quite satisfied expectations in Edmonton. A fresh start in Seattle would favour him.

Tyler Benson

A skilled second-round pick who has played out his time in the American League, Benson is expected to get a very real shot at third-line left wing in Edmonton this coming season. After 156 AHL games (107 assists, 141 points), Benson has nothing left to prove as a playmaking winger — in the minors. What he does have to prove is that he can skate well enough to create the same space at the NHL level that he did in the minors, so his skills can shine at that level as well. That will be the question they’re asking in the Kraken war room this week: Can Benson skate well enough to help us?

Kris Russell

This is the kind of player the Kraken would take if they assess that there just aren’t enough intangibles among the other available names on Edmonton’s list. Russell, 34, is nearing the end of an 881-game NHL career. He’s making $1.25 million for one year only. Russell is a culture setter — a player whose penalty killing, shot blocking and selfless, professional play is loaded with intangibles. Depending on the relative age of the Kraken defence, Francis may value a player of Russell’s ilk in the short-term, with an eye to move him at the deadline to a contender seeking some depth on its blue line.

Salary cap outlook

The big UFA remaining for Edmonton to sign is defenceman Adam Larsson. Or, perhaps, Tyson Barrie.

Holland and Larsson’s agent J.P. Barrie have spoken on a regular basis over the past two months. Various contract scenarios have been borne of those talks, and it is my understanding that a four-year deal with an AAV in the range of $3.9 million awaits Larsson, to be signed after the expansion window closes.

You never know. Things change. But we can see no reason why Larsson would leave a team that is ready to pay market value, with good term, where he wears an “A” and has become entrenched in the leadership group. He may decide on a fresh start — we’d be surprised — and that would take the Oilers to Barrie, another right-shot defenceman who will go to market the moment the Oilers sign Larsson.

Alex Chiasson is also a UFA, and will be a second-week signing for someone. A depth right winger who will likely see his $2.15-million AAV cut down by 40-50 per cent. If the Oilers buy out James Neal, we could see them having some interest in bringing Chiasson back, a solid veteran who works nicely down low on the power play.

Last and surely not least, Holland’s top priority is to bring in a left winger for McDavid. He’s all over Zach Hyman, but will have irons in the fire in case Hyman doesn’t work out.

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