Expansion Draft Hockey Hot Sauce x Healthy Skratch Draft NHL

Kraken Bait – Metropolitan Division

(Photo credit – NHL.com)

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Healthy Skratch, Hot Sauce and Life & Fantasy collaborative series! In it, we’ll breakdown each division in the NHL and make our picks for who will be fed to the Kraken! The L&F Starting Line up series has been absolute blast so why not double dip! You will hear from the full Healthy Skratch line up in Spence, Kris and Tyler along with fellow Hot Sauce writer Jon Eamon, and finally Life and Fantasy’s Jared Tweedie and Kaveh Ghidy – who will be drafting a team together.

The breakdown is pretty straight forward, using the NHL’s Expansion Rules each person must draft at minimum 14 forward, 8 defenseman and 3 goalies. Each team will have to fit within the current NHL salary cap (Cap ceiling $81.5M, give or take some savvy GM cap manipulating). There are no restrictions in terms of the minimum numbers of players nor salary cap per division. The only thing to remember is Rule #1:

Don’t talk about Fight Club.

Without further ado, here is our breakdown on the Metropolitan division!

Cap numbers provided by CapFriendly.com

Healthy Skratch – Spence Plamondon

Carolina Hurricanes – Jake Bean – D
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi – C/W
New Jersey Devils – Nathan Bastian – RW
New York Islanders – Josh Bailey – RW
New York Rangers – Julien Gauthier – RW
Philadelphia Flyers – Jakub Voracek – RW
Pittsburgh Penguins – Jason Zucker – W
Washington Capitals – Justin Schultz – D

From Carolina, I’m taking Jake Bean and signing him to a 1.4M short-term contract in the hopes that he works his way into the Top 4 in the coming years. He would likely be on the bottom pair to start. Max Domi enters the fold from Columbus, after a marriage that never quite seemed to work. He’ll likely be my #1 centre, which is going to work for some reason. Nathan Bastian comes in from New Jersey to play a heavy game in the Bottom 6 as a depth forward. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of him in limited viewings.

Josh Bailey is my selection out of Long Island, though what I really wanted was Cal Clutterbuck or Matt Martin. Damn you, Lou. Guess I’ll settle for a good leader with strong playmaking ability who can help on the power play and put up 50 points minimum over an 82 game season on a fairly reasonable 5M deal for the next 3 seasons. From the Rangers, Julien Gauthier brings size and scoring touch. My hope is he comes in and seizes on (another) fresh start and develops into a Top 9 talent who pots 15-20 a year.

From Philly, my selection is Jakub Voracek. His deal ain’t pretty, but we got money to spend and I’m a big believer in his talent. I see Voracek as a good candidate to have a big “chip on the shoulder” season here. Across the way in Pittsburgh, Jason Zucker brings skill and grit. He’s a guy who sucks to play against, and you can slot him anywhere in the Top 9. Brings some goal scoring to the squad.

Finally, Justin Schultz comes in from Washington. I thought long and hard about going for Vanecek here, but I have other goalies in mind and believe in Schultz’s abilities. He’s a guy who’s accustomed to playing in a secondary role, but who’s shown very capable of taking on a bigger role when needed. The hope is that he’s worked through those early career kinks that relegated him to a supporting role, and that he’s ready to be a fixture who’s relied upon a bit more heavily.

Healthy Skratch – Kristian Galvez-Johnson

Carolina Hurricanes – Nino Niederreiter – W
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi – C/W
New Jersey Devils – Nick Merkley – RW
New York Islanders – Jordan Eberle – RW
New York Rangers – Colin Blackwell – C
Philadelphia Flyers – Shayne Gostisbehere – D
Pittsburgh Penguins – Zach Aston-Reese – W
Washington Capitals – Vitek Vanecek – G

Nino Niederreiter is a Top 6 forward that can be trusted in both ends of the ice. He makes 5M a year, that kind of value can boost a team or net good returns in a trade. Easy choice.
I am not a Max Domi fan, but I know trade bait when I see it. Not a long term contract, easy trade deadline sale with retention.
From New Jersey Nick Merkley has always intrigued me as a project to develop. Lot of good tools but very little game time to prove it. A consistent spot in the lineup could be all he needs to take off.
I love that Lou Lamoriello, GM of the Year twice in a row exposed two of his top 3 offensive weapons. Jordan Eberle for free is a dream. Thanks Lou.
Colin Blackwell from New York is a very “well I don’t really want anything from this team but I have to” pick. Can slot on that fourth line maybe he does more good than he did for the Rangers.
The Flyers have fully given up on Ghost. I think there’s a player there still. For the weapons he does bring, even if he’s seen as a power play specialist, there is a chance he finds his rookie form. Better deployment and time could revive a career seemingly lost right now. The risk/reward ratio here merits a gamble on the large salary cap hit.
Aston-Reese has proven himself a legitimately great defensive forward on a stacked Penguins team. This is an asset you want to keep and it costs nothing to acquire.
Vitek Vanecek can be described as “fine, adequate, it’ll get the job done”. And at less than a million a year, not much more you can ask from a goalie.

Healthy Skratch – Tyler O’Connor

Carolina Hurricanes – Jake Bean – D
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi – C/W
New Jersey Devils – Will Butcher – D
New York Islanders – Jordan Eberle – RW
New York Rangers – Julien Gauthier – RW
Philadelphia Flyers – James Van Riemsdyk – LW
Pittsburgh Penguins – Zach Aston-Reese – LW
Washington Capitals –
Vitek Vanecek – G

If I were Seattle, I’d select Jake Bean from the Hurricanes. Selected 13th overall in 2016, although he may never fully reach the potential many believed he had, there’s still reason to believe he will be a very solid NHL regular on the blue line. As an RFA, they would need to get him signed, but at only 23 years old, he’s still got plenty of runway to fill out his game.

From the Columbus Blue Jackets, just like pretty much everyone else, I would select Max Domi. He may never come close to that 72 point season he had in Montreal not too long ago, but with only 1 year remaining, it would be well worth the pick, even if you think the cap hit is a little high. He’s got the talent to contribute and despite how you may feel about his on-ice antics at time, he does have that certain “je ne sais quoi” bite to him that wouldn’t hurt if you’re a new team looking to establish yourself on the ice and get the fans involved. 

From the New Jersey Devils, I would select Will Butcher. He’d be a solid addition to the blue line. Nothing too flashy. Can move the puck, solid in his own end, and perfect to slide into the 5-6 role in the depth chart. He hasn’t had the easiest time with the Devils, but many believe a fresh start somewhere else could do him some good.

From the New York Islanders I would select Jordan Eberle. What a shame that Edmonton wasn’t smart enough to realize the kind of hockey player they had in him. He’s good for at least 20 goals and can move the puck around with the best of them. At 5.5 million a year, the cap hit isn’t small, but outside of his abilities on the ice, you do also get to check the “familiar face” box which is pretty important when starting up a new franchise. He’s a very well-known player around the hockey community. 

From the New York Rangers I would select Julien Gauthier. Granted, this pick is a bit of a shot in the dark, but he’s cheap and you need bodies to fill the roster. Not for nothing, he was a first-round pick and the talent is there, it’s just a matter of if can bring it all together. He’s a big body, can move significantly well and has a decent sense around the net. 

From the Philadelphia Flyers I would select James van Riemsdyk. Look, at 7 million a season, he comes with a hefty price tag. That being said, just like Eberle, he comes with name recognition. He’s also still a very talented player with a really good nose around the net. He hit a career high in goals with 36in 17-18. 

From the Pittsburgh Penguins I would select Zach Aston-Reese. A very solid depth player, who can bump up the lineup at a limited rate if need be. He also comes with a very cheap price tag. He’s considered pretty underrated by many.

From the Washington Capitols I would select Vitek Vanecek. Please discard his performance in this years playoffs, he’s actually a very solid goaltender. At 24 years old, he’s at that age where goalies really start to settle in their crease. He wouldn’t be my starter, that’s for another day (although I’m sure most have the same guy starting in nets for the Kraken next year) but he’d been an excellent choice to be the number 2 guy, with a cheap price tag to boot.

L&F – Jared Tweedie & Kaveh Ghidy

Carolina Hurricanes – Nino Niederreiter – W
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi – C/W
New Jersey Devils – Andreas Johnsson – LW
New York Islanders – Jordan Eberle – RW
New York Rangers – Barclay Goodrow – LW
Philadelphia Flyers – Jakub Voracek – RW
Pittsburgh Penguins – Jason Zucker – W
Washington Capitals –
Alex Ovechkin – LW

No write up from the L&F guys this week, but definitely a bold showing.

Hot Sauce – Jon Eamon

Carolina Hurricanes – Nino Niederreiter
Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi
New Jersey Devils – OK Subban
New York Islanders – Josh Bailey
New York Rangers – Colin Blackwell
Philadelphia Flyers – Robert Hagg
Pittsburgh Penguins – Zach Aston-Reese
Washington Capitals – Vitek Vanecek

Starting with Carolina it was hard to pass up on Niederreiter, a first line caliber player making just north of $5M annually with some grit to his game is a rare find in the NHL. I did debate Jake Bean for a bit but you would be banking on his potential where as Nino is an established NHLer so why take the risk? Next up was Max Domi who should greatly benefit from a fresh start with a team that is loaded with opportunities for all players. The Max Domi who put up 72 points with the Habs is still in there, he just needs a team and coach who will believe in him again.

The Islanders were a tough call, Bailey, Eberle and Bellows would have all been great picks but ultimately I choose Bailey. Leadership will be at a premium for this team as they get their footing in the early seasons. Bailey is under contract for a few more seasons at a very respectable AAV and he will immediately assume a leadership role for this team. I paired him with a fellow New Yorker in Center Colin Blackwell. A bit of a late bloomer, but he was an assistant captain for the US at the recent World Championships and appears to be trending in the right direction now that he has cemented himself as a NHL caliber player.

Robert Hagg was admittedly a bit of a value pick up to fit this team in the cap, but I can see him lining up perfectly next to a player I skipped on purpose in PK Subban. Subban’s best hockey was alongside Hal Gill (and Markov of course) who is a defensively responsible player that allowed Subban to play more offensively and take some risks. These two picks are a way of trying to re-create some of that magic in an attempt to build a defensive core that has top pairing potential. Hagg is only 26 years old and should be able to move up and down the roster that will be assembled.

Zach Aston-Reese is a heart and soul bottom 6 forward that will do wonders for an expansion team. No matter the situation he shows up giving his full effort and creates momentum and a spark for his team when they need it. To round out the Metropolitan division I took Vanecek from Washington. He may not be one of the top two goalies on this team when things are all said and done, however he is an enticing trade piece that may fetch a pick or two for Seattle.

We will be back tomorrow with our picks for the Atlantic division followed by the Central and Pacific divisions leading up to the NHL’s Expansion Draft. Who’s team do you like best so far? Is there a player we missed? Let us know in the comments and check back in tomorrow!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Family and visit our Youtube channel for all the latest podcasts and videos! This week on the Chtib & Zhang show the two discusses the Habs and the upcoming expansion draft before diving into the NBA Finals, and UFC 264.

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