Rarely does Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile find himself in a position where he doesn’t hold most or all of the cards.
The upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft — much like the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft — however, has taken control out of Poile’s hands.
To nobody’s surprise, the Predators this weekend exposed both Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene in hopes that Seattle believes a change of scenery will help either rediscover scoring touches that have waned since they signed $8-million-per-year contracts. But to the surprise of many, Poile elected to protect 24-year-old forward Tanner Jeannot in addition to Filip Forsberg and Luke Kunin, while exposing both Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons.
Conversely, Nashville was the only NHL team to protect five defensemen.
Jeannot, who has just five goals and seven points in 15 NHL games to his name, likely wouldn’t have been selected by the Kraken if left exposed, making his protection one of the more puzzling decisions of the expansion draft.
Exposing both Jarnkrok and Sissons though comes with some risk.
Jarnkrok, who turns 30 in September, has six straight seasons of double-digit goals, plays on both the power play and penalty kill, and can play any forward position. Sissons, who’s consistently one of the Predators’ best players at winning faceoffs, is just 27 and one of Nashville’s top penalty killers.
The logical explanation seems to be that Poile, who already began to shake up Nashville’s core by trading Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis, couldn’t decide which player he wanted to eject next, so he’s letting Seattle GM Ron Francis decide for him.
Johansen and Duchene’s $8 million salaries are likely too rich for Seattle’s blood unless Poile were to throw in a sweetener — say Dante Fabbro or a few high draft picks. And while plenty of talented players were left unprotected by other teams — Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mark Giordano, Gabriel Landeskog — Jarnkrok and Sissons are both ideal players for the expansion Kraken to build around.
The last time Pole faced a difficult expansion draft-related decision, he protected Jarnkrok at the expense of James Neal, who was ultimately picked by Vegas. That move turned out okay.
This time around, the Predators are going to lose another good player. But the question remains: Will it be a player the Kraken want or a player Poile wants to get rid of?
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_