The Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft took place on June 21, 2017. That night, the league announced ten trades that the Golden Knights had made with expansion draft considerations in mind, but they weren’t done there. Over the next two weeks, they completed seven more trades to fix the roster construction. After all, an expansion process usually doesn’t leave you with a perfect mix of players, and free agent frenzy had also provided some opportunities to add to that initial group.
Starting with Trevor van Riemsdyk, the Golden Knights shed the extra defensemen they selected in the expansion draft, collecting a number of draft picks in the process. There was van Riemsdyk, David Schlemko, Marc Methot, and Alexei Emelin to move, since they simply couldn’t keep all the NHL defensemen that were targeted in the draft.
The Seattle Kraken, now nearly a month after their own expansion draft, have made three trades. One of those was to send goaltender Vitek Vanecek back to his original team, while Kurtis MacDermid and Tyler Pitlick were also flipped for fourth-round picks. But the problem that Vegas faced four years ago now faces Seattle as well–there are still just too many defensemen.
Not even counting Dennis Cholowski, who is currently an unsigned restricted free agent the Kraken have ten defensemen under contract for the 2021-22 season. None of them, not even 22-year-old Cale Fleury, are waiver-exempt. That means unless they’re going to carry more defensemen than any other team in the league this season (even playing a couple of them at forward) some will have to be either traded or exposed on waivers before the season begins. Sure, Connor Carrick, the team’s lone defensive free agent signing can likely clear without worry after a disappointing season in New Jersey, but even he has 241 games of NHL experience. None of the other defensemen are risk-free when it comes to waivers, meaning something has to give in the next few months.
The odd balance here is that, even though they’re facing a roster crunch, the actual depth chart isn’t very long. Because the Kraken won’t have a full-time minor league affiliate this season and are just sending a handful of players to the Charlotte Checkers, the list of defensemen actually ends at Carrick–number ten on the chart (until Cholowski is signed). A few training camp injuries and suddenly you’re looking extremely thin on the back end, scrambling for some insurance options just to make an active roster. While that situation might solve the issue of waivers for a while, when those players healed the Kraken would be in trouble once again, having to push players through midseason. Worse, what if they were to lose one or two players on waivers and then suffer a few injuries in the early part of the season?
A potential fix is to sign a few more players like Carrick—with NHL experience but likely to clear waivers at the start of the season—while also trading a few of the current options in the meantime. The problem is that many of the league’s teams have basically locked their rosters and may not be jumping to trade for another defenseman after spending in free agency. Perhaps the plan is to wait for training camp injuries to happen around the league, but it is a tricky situation that Seattle finds themselves in right now, with a risky depth chart that essentially is both too full and too short at the same time.