Kraken Released: Seattle Expansion Draft

6 hockey players in Seattle Kraken jerseys on stage
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

With the fanfare that was promised, the foundation of the Seattle Kraken was built. For the last few weeks, the hockey world had made their picks. Throughout the day yesterday the draft list was leaked in bits and pieces. Finally, the big moment arrived and the team was welcomed with thunderous applause by Seattleites gathered both on land and at sea.

As impressive a spectacle that it was, there have been insights I’ve gained in analyzing these inaugural Kraken. I have acquired an appreciation into the identity of the newest addition to the NHL.

Kraken Strategy

I found myself comparing the strategy of the Kraken to that of the Vegas Golden Knights. The last expansion draft for the NHL came four years ago when the Golden Knights were entering the fray of competition. The rules for the two drafts were identical. However, Seattle’s approach was very different than that of Vegas when it comes to one thing–salary cap.

Leveraging Deals

The Golden Knights leveraged the rules of the expansion draft to their fullest. Deals were made for trades or draft picks if Vegas wouldn’t select certain players who had been left exposed by their respective teams. Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, Reilly Smith, and Nikita Gusev were acquired in this fashion. Vegas also picked up a couple 1st round draft picks, as well as a few others.

When asked why Seattle did not capitalize on this technique, Kraken GM Ron Francis had this to say:

“We talked about that going into this. This was going to be so much different than what Vegas went through. There hadn’t been an expansion draft in 17 years. Vegas did a good job taking advantage of the rules and everyone’s lack of experience in that environment. But the minute that one was done, they knew we were coming in. It was supposed to be three years and then it was four years. So they had a lot more time to prepare for us. Last time, general managers were more willing to overpay to protect certain assets. This time, they learned from that and they weren’t willing to make the mistakes that they made last time.”

It is understandable how this maneuver was unavailable for the Kraken.

Kraken Not Taking Big Cap Hits

Seattle had the chance to draft some intriguing big names; players who were left unprotected by their teams. Carey Price of Montreal and Vladimir Tarasenko from St. Louis fit this bill. The Kraken did not take the bait.

Tarasenko publicly made his wishes known several weeks ago: he does not wish to take the ice for the Blues again. He cites his perceived mishandling by the team of shoulder surgeries. Tarasenko is requesting a trade, therefore the Blues did not protect him for the expansion draft. However, drafting Tarasenko comes with a $7.5 million salary cap hit. That was apparently too high a price for the Kraken to pay.

The situation for Price was a different. The Canadiens are coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Price was a big factor in getting them there. Earlier this week, Price decided to make a wager:

  1. It is not certain that Price will be available to start the season (hips and/or knee surgery).
  2. In lieu of his absence, Price wants to ensure that backup netminder Jake Allen stays in Montreal.
  3. Price waived his no-movement clause.

Carey Price was betting that the Kraken would find the heftiness of his contract a deterrent. He won the bet. The 34-year-old Price will be staying in Montreal for the duration of his career. The Habs will keep the ownership of the remaining five years of his contract, worth a total of $44 million.

Kraken the Cap

Seattle chose a different approach in attaining their primary goaltender. Florida’s Chris Driedger, who posted a .927 save percentage this season, was a pending free agent. As such, the Kraken had the opportunity to discuss a deal with the 27-year-old keeper. The two parties came to a three-year deal worth $10.5 million. Then came the Carey Price wrinkle.

Driedger was not worried. He reasoned, “I’m kind of just betting on myself in that situation. I had no idea who my goalie partner would be. In the NHL there’s going to be competition wherever you go. I try not to focus as much on that, I’m confident in my game.”

Driedger was right. Seattle stayed with him as their prime keeper.

In fact, the other two goaltenders the Kraken acquired in the draft (Joey Daccord, Ottawa and Vitek Vanecek, Washington) combined for a salary cap hit of $1,466,667. Added to Driedger’s cap amount, the total cap value for the three goalies comes to $4,966,667, which is less than half of the hit that Corey Price alone would have taken on Seattle’s salary cap. In my opinion, the Kraken came out on ahead in terms of obtaining valuable goalies.

Kraken Cap Assessment

The Kraken have significant wiggle-room under the salary cap ceiling of $81.5 million. By passing on premier players such as Price, Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk ($7 million), and P.K. Subban ($9 million), Seattle is left with almost $29 million to play with. The autonomy afforded by this will be advantageous beginning July 28, when the free agency market opens for the league.

Francis weighed in on their strategy: “We tried to draft the best team possible that we could while still keeping our cap space available. So we can do some things as we move forward.”

Wrapping Up

The Seattle Kraken are assembling their own team. They are doing it in their own way. They have made it known from the outset that this organization will not be just another NHL team. Their staff is different, varied, inclusive of all. They are making a difference with first recycling Key Arena, then re-imagining Climate Pledge Arena. Their empowerment of young girls playing hockey, like my 5-year-old who recently hit the ice, by partnering with the Washington Wild Female Hockey Association, is encouraging hockey dreams for all children.

The Kraken are unique. They are forging a new path for themselves in a world which formerly exhibited opportunities for a select few. I am looking forward to seeing how they continue to develop their team and their unique brand. This girl from the Midwest, fan of the Penguins, follower of Marc-Andre Fleury, is excitedly becoming a fan of this distinctive team.

Iconic Quotes From Gas Works Park

“The booing is OK. It just means you’re hockey-ready.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, when met with thunderous boos by obvious hockey fans

“This is the first time in my career I’ve ever been drafted, so thank you!”

37-year-old Mark Giordano, undrafted in the NHL draft, when drafted by Seattle

“It was an absolute no brainer.”

Goalie Chris Driedger, about choosing to sign with Seattle

What’s Happening

Seattle made it’s first franchise trade today, sending forward Tyler Pitlick to the Calgary Flames for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2022 draft.

July 23-24–NHL Entry Draft, held remotely

July 28–NHL Free Agency Starts

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