Image: Wikimedia Commons / TheAHL
Image: Wikimedia Commons / TheAHL

Seattle Kraken play it safe in expansion draft

On Wednesday (21 July), the NHL’s 32nd franchise burst into life. The Seattle Kraken, who paid $650 million to join the world’s premier ice hockey competition, finally has a roster to call its own after taking part in an expansion draft.

Excluding the Vegas Golden Knights (who opted against taking a slice of Seattle’s entrance fee), each NHL organisation lost a player to the Kraken as a result of the draft. However, few teams were forced to give up the player they expected, with Seattle General Manager Ron Francis prioritising salary cap flexibility over player quality.

Amongst the big-ticket stars passed up on was Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, whose $10.5 million AAV was enough to dissuade Francis from bringing him back to the Pacific Northwest.

Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils, and James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers were also left on the table, with Seattle opting for Vince Dunn, Nathan Bastian, and Carsen Twarynski instead.

All in all, then, the Kraken’s expansion draft was not something to get excited about. Unlike the Golden Knights, who picked up star talent almost immediately, Seattle is playing the long game and will attempt to weaponize their economic freedom at a time when other teams are up against the cap.

Having passed on Price, Seattle selected three goaltenders: unrestricted free agent (UFA) Chris Driedger from the Florida Panthers, Joey Daccord of the Ottawa Senators, and Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals.

The Kraken have a wealth of talent to call on from the blue-line, with restricted free agent (RFA) Dunn and Adam Larsson, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers, pencilled in as Seattle’s top pair.

However, it is Seattle’s second pair that grabbed the headlines on draft night. Mark Giordano will see out the final year of his contract in Washington State, leaving the Calgary Flames after fifteen seasons of service, including eight as captain, alongside 6’7” selection from the Dallas Stars, Jamie Oleksiak.

Moreover, by selecting defence-men Cale and Haydn Fleury from Montreal and Anaheim, respectively, Seattle became the first team to draft a pair of brothers in an expansion draft.

The Kraken – in their current form at least – are not set up to be blistering in the offensive zone

In the offensive zone, the options available to Head Coach Dave Hakstol are less enticing. Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators), Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay Lightning), and Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders) currently project as Seattle’s top forward line, with Masson Appleton (Winnipeg Jets), Jared McCann (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Joonas Donskoi (Colorado Avalanche) rounding off the top six.

For the record, Seattle’s deadly sextuple has combined for 1,333 points in 2,487 games. Appleton, who turns 26 in January, has registered 43 points in 138 NHL appearances. To be blunt, the Kraken – in their current form at least – are not set up to be blistering in the offensive zone.

There is also room for improvement in Seattle’s presumptive bottom six (well… five). Brandon Tanev (Pittsburgh Penguins), Bastian, Colin Blackwell (New York Rangers), Twarynski, and Tyler Pitlick (Arizona Coyotes) desperately need help at centre, with Francis already said to be exploring his options through free agency.

Here’s the thing. Seattle is $30.7 million under the salary cap following the expansion draft. For the benefit of the tape, the Kraken could recruit Auston Matthews ($11.6m AAV), Connor McDavid ($12.5m AAV), and Matthew Tkachuk ($7m AAV) and still only be $900,000 over the cap.

Clearly, Francis isn’t about to trade for Matthews, McDavid, and M. Tkachuk. However, it is completely plausible to suggest that the Kraken are in a position to (and should) recruit a couple of big-ticket players before opening night.

Yes, the expansion draft was a damp squib (or squid, in this instance). Yes, Francis failed to make side deals. Yes, there are obvious holes in Seattle’s roster. 

However, the Kraken are in a good position to make their mark via free agency. If they don’t,  Ron Francis will have a lot to answer for.

Unmentioned Picks:

Defencemen: Carson Soucy (Minnesota Wild), Jérémy Lauzon (Boston Bruins), Kurtis MacDermid (LA Kings), William Borgen (Buffalo Sabres), Gavin Bayreuther (Columbus Blue Jackets), Dennis Cholowski (Detroit Red Wings)

Forwards: Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes), John Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks), Alexander True (San Jose Sharks), Kole Lind (Vancouver Canucks)

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