Soon, the Kraken will come to life.
The Seattle Kraken, that is, as the NHL’s newest franchise will officially add the first players in its history Wednesday as part of the league’s expansion draft.
There’s already buzz about just how good the Kraken might be when they take the ice for the first time in October. The NHL’s most recent expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, showed just how quickly a winning team could be built when they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season (2017-18). Vegas has been a championship contender every season since.
The Golden Knights took advantage of favorable expansion rules that restrict the number of players the NHL’s other franchises can protect, thus leaving better, more seasoned talent exposed than in previous expansion eras. The same rules are in play for the Kraken’s draft.
Can Seattle replicate Vegas’ success and field a Cup-caliber team right off the bat? That’s just one of the questions the Kraken will face in the coming months. But first, let’s take a look at just how this team will come together.
How will the expansion draft work?
The Kraken will select 30 players, one from each of the other franchises excluding Vegas (which also doesn’t get a cut of Seattle’s $650 million league entry fee). They must take at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders, and the aggregate contract value of the players they choose must add up to between 60 and 100% of last season’s salary cap ($81.5 million).
Seattle’s selections will be revealed at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday during a televised special on ESPN2 in the United States. The event will feature appearances by several Seattle sports luminaries.
While the Kraken’s roster will be revealed during that time, there is no particular order in which the players will be selected.
Which players are available to the Kraken?
The other NHL franchises (excluding the Golden Knights) submitted their protected lists to the league Saturday, and they were made public Sunday. Some interesting names were left exposed, including star players with hefty contracts and veterans with championship pedigree.
Among the high-profile players available to the Kraken:
Forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis; Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, Nashville; Jeff Skinner, Buffalo; Max Domi, Columbus; Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh; Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay; Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia
What about Alex Ovechkin?
Yes, the NHL’s leading active goal scorer was left unprotected by the Capitals, the only team he has played for.
But Ovechkin, as well as a few other exposed players, is an unrestricted free agent. The Kraken can pick those players (it would count as their selection from the players’ former teams) but can’t officially sign them until the free-agency window opens for everyone.
So unless the two parties come to an agreement beforehand — as is apparently happening with Driedger, who is also a UFA — Seattle risks having a pick go to waste if a selected player then signs elsewhere.
Ovechkin has made clear his desire to stay in Washington, so don’t expect the Kraken to select him.
Why would teams leave so many stars unprotected?
There are a variety of factors in play here. One, it seems many teams have altered their strategy since the Vegas expansion draft, for which a number of clubs made side deals to keep the Golden Knights from selecting certain players — and ended up infusing the Vegas roster with even more talent and assets via prospects and draft picks.
This time, more teams appear to have accepted that they’ll lose a key player and are content to let the chips fall where they may.
In addition, the salary cap — which will remain unchanged from last season — is pushing teams to the limit in roster management, and many are hoping for some cap relief.
The question then becomes: Which bloated contracts will Seattle be willing to take on? Is the surefire star value of Price, who would make the kind of splash Marc-Andre Fleury did when he was selected by Vegas, worth a cap hit of $10.5 million for five seasons? That’s for Kraken GM Ron Francis to sort out.
The Canadiens likely left Price unprotected because they figure the price is too steep for Seattle — a gamble several teams clearly made when finalizing their protected lists.
Can the Kraken be competitive right away?
Absolutely — on paper — based on the caliber of players available. The Golden Knights’ success raised the bar of expectations for expansion teams — or at least for those that enter under current rules.
But of course, star power alone doesn’t win the Cup. The Kraken will have to come together quickly under coach Dave Hakstol.
How will this compare to previous expansion drafts around sports?
The only real comparison between the Kraken and past expansion drafts is with the Golden Knights’ entry in 2017. Before that, the most recent expansion draft in the four major American sports leagues occurred in 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) entered the NBA.
The NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball all held multiple expansion drafts between 1991 and 2004, but the general expectation then was that new teams would need a few years to stockpile talent and find success.
Considering the Golden Knights’ ability to quickly establish a strong fan base in a market that previously didn’t have major pro sports, the NHL’s model is likely one that will be copied in the future. It will be interesting to see if MLB and the NBA, both of which are rumored to be considering expansion in the coming years, follow the trend.
Which well-known players have been selected by expansion teams?
Here are a few prominent names that have been selected in past expansion drafts:
NHL: John Vanbiesbrouck (Florida Panthers, 1993), Mike Sullivan (Nashville Predators, 1998), Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights, 2017)
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