The Blackhawks have miraculously escaped the Seattle Kraken expansion draft without losing any established NHL players.
The Kraken picked John Quenneville — a pending unrestricted free agent who spent all of the 2021 season in the AHL — from the Hawks on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
The Hawks had expected to most likely lose bruising defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a pending restricted free agent they left exposed Sunday in favor of Riley Stillman and Caleb Jones, to the Kraken. Reliable fourth-line forward Ryan Carpenter, trade deadline forward addition Adam Gaudette, veteran defenseman Calvin de Haan and well-traveled backup goalie Malcolm Subban were also considered possibilities.
But the Kraken instead prioritized maximizing their available salary cap space, assembling a 30-man draft class (with only their Red Wings pick not yet reported) that barely eclipsed the cap minimum. And when they did choose established NHL players, they did so from other teams with juicier exposed lists. The end result was Kraken general manager Ron Francis essentially passing on the Hawks.
Quenneville, 25, made nine regular-season and two postseason appearances for the Hawks in the 2019-20 season, scoring zero points. He was acquired from the Devils for John Hayden during the 2019 entry draft.
Quenneville then spent all of 2021 with the Rockford IceHogs, scoring two points in 16 games and falling far down the Hawks’ suddenly crowded forward depth chart. His contract expires next week.
He’ll likely be remembered in Chicago for three things: being former coach Joel Quenneville’s nephew, being inexplicably inserted into the lineup (and put on the first line) for the Hawks’ season-ending Game 5 loss to the Golden Knights in the 2020 playoff bubble and being equally inexplicably picked by the Kraken.
The Hawks were relatively unharmed by the 2017 Knights’ expansion draft, when they lost depth defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, but will be ever happier with the outcome of this 2021 repeat.
They can now either re-sign Zadorov, maintaining some stability in the defensive unit after sending away Duncan Keith, or trade him for what could be a significant return. While they still have a lot of decisions to make in the coming weeks to narrow down next season’s lineup, the Kraken’s off-the-board decision frees them to make all of those decisions themselves.