If there’s one thing Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile has shown over the years, it’s that he doesn’t like to get burned twice.
The last time Poile had to fill out a protection list for an expansion draft, the 71-year-old chose to protect young, emerging center Calle Jarnkrok over higher-scoring power forward James Neal, thinking he could swing a trade with then-Vegas GM George McPhee to keep Neal and entice the Golden Knights to pick a different Predators player.
This time around, Poile, presumably, wasn’t going to leave anything up to chance. He exposed Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons -- both intriguing options for the expansion Seattle Kraken -- for a reason.
The Predators began what Poile called a “competitive rebuild” by sending core players Viktor Arvidsson to Los Angeles and Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia. Exposing players like Jarnkrok, Sissons, Yakov Trenin, Rocco Grimaldi -- and to a smaller extent Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen -- could be interpreted as the next step in that process, only instead of Poile being the bad guy, he’s letting Seattle GM Ron Francis decide which member of Nashville’s core is next to get jettisoned elsewhere.
Seattle has played its expansion draft strategy close to the vest. While its picks were due to the NHL league office at 9 a.m. CST this morning, nothing is expected to be announced until the 7 p.m. roster unveiling tonight.
In the meantime, here is a rundown of a few possible routes Seattle can go with their Predators’ selection:
Logical choice: Calle Jarnkrok
Jarnkrok, 29, has six straight seasons of double-digit goals and was tied for the team lead last year with 13 goals. He was also Nashville’s third-leading scorer behind Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg.
Often underrated, Jarnkrok’s versatility has been a weapon for the Predators since stepping into a full-time role. He plays on both the power play and penalty kill, tallying 17 power play points over the last twos COVID-shortened seasons. Jarnkrok can play any forward position and he’s rarely ever been a minus player; he has a plus-59 rating for his career.
Jarnkrok could play on Seattle’s second or third line as a winger or on the third or fourth line as a center. His ability to be a Swiss army knife could make him the pick.
Consolation: Colton Sissons
Sissons, like Jarnkrok, is another often overlooked asset. The 27-year-old is consistently one of the Predators’ best players at winning faceoffs and is also a top penalty killer. You can always bank on Sissons for being good for around 10 goals, 30 points and being one of the more reliable players in the lineup.
He proved his worth for the predators during their Cup run in 2017. When Johansen went down with an injury and Mike Fisher was also banged up, Sissons stepped into the No. 1 center role on Nashville’s top line and proceeded to score a hat trick to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks and send the Predators to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final.
Sissons would be an ideal fit for Seattle’s third or fourth line but could play as high as the second line if needed.
Darkhorse: Ryan Johansen
This one is intriguing. Reports have surfaced that Seattle absolutely does not want Duchene, but it would at least think long and hard about Johansen. He’s only 28 and has four more years left on his monstrous contract as opposed to Duchene’s five.
Although his effort is questioned sometimes, there’s no denying Johansen can be a difference maker. He’s just two seasons removed from nearly breaking Paul Kariya’s franchise record for single-season assists and he was a reliable 50-point player from 2016-19 before COVID shortened the last two years.
There’s always the hope a change of scenery could unlock the potential he showed when he had a 33-goal season and a 71-point season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Johansen could be someone to keep an eye on.
Wild card: Mikael Granlund
Granlund, who is an unrestricted free agent, didn’t need to be included on the Predators’ protection list. If he wants to re-sign with Nashville, he just has to wait until after the expansion draft.
Seattle did, however, have an exclusive negotiating window with Granlund due to UFA status, and if the 29-year-old center who’s been the team’s best forward under John Hynes, decided he wanted out, he could agree to terms with the Kraken and would become their pick from Nashville.
Obviously, Granlund will want a decent raise from the $3.75 million he played for last year. If the Predators can’t get rid of either Johansen or Duchene, it seems unlikely they’d give Granlund the $5-6 million he’s reportedly asking for as Poile would certainly balk at tying up more than $21 million for three centers. This could be one of the more intriguing situations to watch for.
Unlikely alternative: Side deal to take Matt Duchene
Duchene is the man nobody wants. Which is a shame because he’s not exactly Michael Del Zotto. The problem is Poile signed Duchene to a tire fire of a contract and now he’s stuck with it.
If the Predators truly want to free themselves from the Duchene debacle, they’re going to have to pay a premium price. Unfortunately for Dante Fabbro, he could be a casualty. If Poile does trade Fabbro, the hope is it wouldn’t be a Shea Theodore 2017 situation.
The Anaheim Ducks threw Theodore in as a sweetener for Vegas to take Clayton Stoner. Just 21 at the time, Anaheim didn’t have the foresight to know Theodore would turn into a Norris-quality defenseman four years later.
However, it would likely take more than just Fabbro, a 22-year-old former first-round pick. The Predators are likely looking at having to give up at least a first-round draft pick and possibly a second or third to make it worth Seattle’s while.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_