(UPDATE: Seattle general manager Ron Francis made the Lauzon pick official Wednesday night. In fact, it was the very first Kraken pick announced.)
Although the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft selections won’t be officially announced until Wednesday night, a lot of them have been leaking out throughout the day.
That now includes the Bruins. While nothing is official, multiple reports indicate the Bruins are expected to lose defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. Chris Johnston was the first to report the Kraken “have their sights set on” Lauzon, while Frank Seravalli reported it “sounds like” the pick will indeed be Lauzon.
Here are three thoughts on the move:
1. Lauzon makes a lot of sense for the Kraken. It always seemed likely their Boston pick would come down to Lauzon or Connor Clifton. Both have shown they can play in the NHL (at what level is open to debate) and both are on cheap contracts, which made them more appealing than a more unproven Jakub Zboril or a more expensive Nick Ritchie. Lauzon had the edge for a few reasons. He’s two years younger, he’s under team control for longer, he offers a little more upside than Clifton, and he’s bigger, which is a point of emphasis in today’s NHL. Keep in mind that the Kraken hired former Providence Bruins coach Jay Leach as an assistant coach, so they certainly had good insight on all of the Bruins’ young defensemen.
2. There are pros and cons here for the Bruins. The pro is that they didn’t lose another right-shot defenseman in Clifton. With Kevan Miller retiring, they would’ve been down to just Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo if Seattle had taken Clifton, meaning they almost certainly would’ve needed to sign another right D. The Bruins still might sign one, but they won’t need to spend much at that spot as they should be fairly comfortable with Clifton in a third-pairing, number-six D type role.
The con is that the Bruins’ already-thin left side is now even thinner. They needed to upgrade that side of their defense even if Lauzon wasn’t taken, but Lauzon at least provided some depth there. Now it’s just Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril, possibly with Mike Reilly if the Bruins re-sign him, possibly with John Moore if he ever gets healthy, and possibly with Urho Vaakanainen or Jack Ahcan if either can prove they’re ready.
Getting a top-four, left-shot D has been at or very close to the top of the Bruins’ offseason to-do list, and that remains the case. One option came off the board Wednesday, with the Kraken signing free agent Jamie Oleksiak. The Bruins are reportedly expected to be “going hard” for veteran minutes-eater Ryan Suter, now a free agent after being bought out by the Wild, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they make him their free-agent priority. It also needs to be noted that Lauzon and Miller were two of the Bruins’ top penalty-killers last year, so that will also need to be factored into their plans.
3. The Bruins now have a decision to make on Nick Ritchie. They elected to protect Jake DeBrusk and Trent Frederic over him, signaling that at the very least they didn’t consider Ritchie a must-keep. With the Kraken going defense over Ritchie, now we’ll get an even better idea of how much the Bruins value him. Ritchie is a restricted free agent who would be in line for a $2 million qualifying offer and possibly a raise beyond that if he goes to arbitration.
There’s no guarantee the Bruins even issue Ritchie a qualifying offer, though, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. They could then still continue to negotiate with him and possibly sign him at a cheaper price if he doesn’t find a better deal on the open market. Or they could let him walk and move on.
While Ritchie scored a career-high 15 goals last season, he was ultimately part of the Bruins’ depth scoring problem in the playoffs, notching one goal in 11 postseason games and recording just one point in the second round against the Islanders. The Bruins could decide to take whatever money they would’ve given to Ritchie and use it towards a third-line upgrade.