The Winnipeg Jets will no longer own the services of forward Mason Appleton come the 2021-22 NHL season. The 25-year-old winger was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft on Wednesday evening.
In order to enter the league as an expansion club, the Kraken had to pay a $650 million expansion fee. That money was divided up equally by the 30 teams participating in the Expansion Draft, which totalled $21.67 million apiece. With the Vegas Golden Knights not participating in the draft as the 31st team (established in 2017), the league is now up to an even 32 teams, where it is expected to stand pat for the foreseeable future.
To the surprise of some, general manager Ron Francis the Kraken front office did not choose 27-year-old analytics darling Dylan DeMelo, but rather opted to go with the American Hockey League’s former Rookie of the year. In choosing a forward, Seattle relieved much of the pressure GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would be facing should DeMelo have left the team following the announced protection of fellow blueliner Logan Stanley late last week.
In a rather low-cost pickup, Appleton and his $900K contract will move to Washington for the coming season, following nearly six years of the classic draft-and-develop mentality within the Winnipeg Jets organization.
The Green Bay, WI. product joined the Moose in 2017-18, where he put up 22 goals and 66 points in 76 games, earning himself a shot at the Jets the following season. He played in 36 NHL games for Winnipeg, putting up three goals and 10 points, while also earning 15 goals and 32 points in 40 games with Manitoba.
Appleton skated in 46 games for the Jets in 2019-20, scoring five goals and eight points, before breaking out last season with 12 goals and 25 points as an every-day player in 56 outings for the team. He scored and added two assists in eight postseason games this summer.
In giving up their former sixth round pick (2015), the Jets will now see an internal competition for Appleton’s job. Potential youthful candidates include Joona Luoto, David Gustafsson, Jansen Harkins and 2020 first round draft pick Cole Perfetti.