What a week it’s been in the National Hockey League. Everything is set and ready for the expansion draft on Wednesday, and fans are excited. Well, excited and nervous. They’re excited to see another team come into the league, but nervous because one player from their favorite team is going to be leaving. In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there are three very clear frontrunners for the Seattle Kraken to select. So, who’s going to be leaving the Penguins?
This one shouldn’t come as a shocker to any Penguins fan. Jason Zucker was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 10, 2020. As he was a top performer on the Wild, he was unable to transition his game to the Penguins. Zucker has clearly struggled nearly his entire tenure with Pittsburgh, so it wasn’t surprising to see that he is unprotected.
Will the Kraken take Zucker? It’s very possible. He has shown that he can be a very viable leader on the ice with the Wild, and a change of scenery may boost his confidence enough to become that leader again. If Seattle is looking for a more offensive oriented player from the Penguins, then Zucker is the clear choice. If he can return to form, he could be an invaluable asset for the new team.
General manager Ron Hextall shocked Penguins fans when he left Brandon Tanev unprotected. The newly dubbed “wild-man” quickly became a favorite in Pittsburgh with his all-out hustle and physical play. Because of this, everybody assumed he would be a shoo-in for the protection list. Unfortunately, this is not so. Although he may not rack up the points some other players do, his ferocity is unmatched in the Penguins’ ranks.
Tanev seems to be the most likely candidate for selection. Ron Francis, general manager of the Seattle Kraken, seems to favor the more physical style of play, and Tanev is a perfect fit to that scheme. However, Tanev’s contract may dissuade selection. At an annual average of $3.5 million for four more years, it’s pretty hefty. However, he still seems to be the frontrunner.
If the Kraken are going to be careful with their allotted cap space, then forward Zach Aston-Reese would be perfect for them. If Aston-Reese’s style of play could be described, it would be a combination of Tanev’s physicality and Teddy Blueger’s defensive play. He is a very solid fourth-liner that any team would be lucky to have on their roster.
Considering the idea that Seattle may select some of the bigger names out there, like Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price or Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, Aston-Reese may be the cheap but reliable choice. However, he is still a restricted free agent without a contract, so it’d be tough to determine whether or not the Kraken would give him the contract he wants. He could be a gamble for the Kraken, but it could pay off for them in the long run.
The final prediction for who the Kraken take? It’d have to be Brandon Tanev. He’d literally provides bang for the buck he makes in terms of physicality. Of course, this is speculation. However, what isn’t speculation is that Penguins fans everywhere will be sad to see any of their beloved players leave, but will also wish them the best in the future.
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