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One Day Away: The Defense Bests

As the Expansion Draft deadline for submitting picks ticks down to an early Wednesday morning deadline, here's a look at Kraken options at goalie and defensemen positions

by Bob Condor / @ByBobCondor /

It's decision day for Kraken general manager Ron Francis and the hockey operations brain trust. The 30 names to be announced during NHL Expansion Draft are due Wednesday at 7 a.m.

Ten hours later, the names will be announced at Gas Works Park in a live event attended by some 2,000 fans and televised starting at 5 p.m. (ESPN2, Sportsnet ONE, SN NOW and TVA Sports).

The focus on available forwards fueled Monday's installment of our "Countdown to Expansion" presented by Symetra. Let's turn to the defensive end of the ice to look at available goalies and defensemen through twin lenses of surprise and opportunity.

The biggest surprise was Saturday's news that Montreal star goalie Carey Price -- a monumental reason the Canadiens made an widely unexpected run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final -- waived his no-movement clause in an effort for his team to retain fellow goalie Jake Allen on the roster.

Nothing contractual stops the Kraken from choosing Price, 33, who tops a list of intriguing goaltender options. His $10.5 million salary cap hit (13 percent of the league's salary maximum amount) for the next five seasons is an x-factor.

Other notable names include a pair of two-time Cup winners, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Matt Murray (then with Pittsburgh, now Ottawa), plus 2018 Cup winner Brayden Holtby, Dallas all-star Ben Bishop, Florida's Chris Driedger and San Jose's Martin Jones.

Two rookie goalies coming off impressive seasons are also in play for the expansion draft. Washington's Vitek Vanecek led all first-year goalies with 21 wins and 2.69 goals-against average.

Minnesota's Kaapo Kahkonen posted a 16-8 record this season, highlighted by a later-season stretch of victories to keep the Wild on track for the playoffs when starter and now protected Cam Talbot was injured.

There are lots of defensemen catching the eye of media members mock-drafting which players the Kraken will select. Expansion rules require at least nine defensemen be selected.

Calgary did not protect 37-year-old captain and D-man Mark Giardano -- and is popular pick with media mock-drafters.

Other veterans such as Kevin Shattenkirk (Anaheim), Eric Johnson (Colorado), Calvin de Haan (Chicago) and P.K. Subban (New Jersey) are mentioned in the media speculation. But there is greater buzz about younger defensemen available that have lower salaries yet experience at the NHL level.

Names that are making the rounds: Nikita Zadorov (physical defender surprisingly unprotected by Chicago), Boston's Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon (reporters connect Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach mentoring both at AHL Providence in his former role), Carolina's Jake Bean (drafted by Francis), and St. Louis' Vince Dunn (near-consensus media pick before Blues scoring star Vladimir Tarasenko was left unprotected).

The Kraken will put down their scouting reports and advanced-analytics summaries late Tuesday or, perhaps, early Wednesday. Then the countdown reduces to how soon fans can learn the names discussed in long Kraken daily sessions since receiving the protected and available lists Sunday.

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