We are just over 24 hours away from finding out whom the Seattle Kraken have taken from our beloved teams to create their roster for their inaugural season in the NHL. Everyone has their opinions on whom the Kraken should take and it seems like everyone has their mock drafts. So why not have one from your friends at Bleacher Nation?
There are thousands of different ways the Kraken could build their team, but I took a crack at it using CapFriendly’s Expansion Draft tool. A few notes:
• I tried to not pick any unrestricted free agents. The Kraken have an exclusive negotiating window with any unprotected unrestricted free agent, so they could use that to pick and sign a player like Gabriel Landeskog or Dougie Hamilton, but that would be all based on speculation. However, there is one unrestricted free agent I did select (Chris Driedger) because there are reports there may already be a deal in place.
• I don’t know Seattle’s strategy. This is my best effort to put together a team that would be competitive, but also cap-conscious given the flat $81.5M salary cap that the NHL will be dealing with for the foreseeable future. I also wanted to consider the trade deadline flip potential for some players.
• I also don’t know which side deals that Seattle already may have in place. Again, I am drafting under the guise of “This is the team, as is.”
• Seattle must select three goaltenders, nine defensemen, and 14 forwards. They have four “other” slots they can fill. They must also reach the salary cap floor ($48.9M).
So, in my role as Seattle General Manager Ron Francis, here’s how I selected the 2021-22 Inaugural Seattle Kraken…
Defense and Goaltenders
First thought when I finished my draft was, “Man…this team is boring.”
No Carey Price. No Vladimir Tarasenko. No Max Domi. No Ben Bishop.
Nope, just a team full of dreams and possibility and cap space.
All told, we come in roughly $14.3M under the salary cap ceiling at $67.2M. That gives Seattle a ton of flexibility come free agency and negotiations with their pending restricted free agents. Which includes Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who is reportedly asking for north of $5M AAV in a deal.
There is a lot of flip potential with this club at the trade deadline if any of the young players selected build on their seasons last year, or if players like Mark Giordano or Chris Tierney turn out a good first-half of the 2021-22 season.
Center depth is rough out there among the unprotected players. Unless I was going to sacrifice a hefty chunk of cap space on a “maybe” centerman, such as Adam Henrique, or Max Domi, or Ryan Johansen, it wasn’t going to help with the desired cap flexibility all teams, including Seattle, want moving forward.
I’m intrigued by Kevin Stenlund out of Columbus, a team that lost a similar player in William Karlsson to the Vegas Golden Knights during their Expansion Draft year and that turned out just fine for Vegas. Not saying Stenlund is going to be a 40-goal scorer next season out of nowhere, but he looked like a player that would excel, given the proper ice-time.
Goaltending is a bunch of maybes. But with the cap flexibility that Seattle desires, in the end it didn’t make fiscal sense to take Carey Price, Ben Bishop, or Braden Holtby. Vanecek and Kähkönen are young, up-and-comers and proved they could hang in the NHL last season, while Driedger, who may already have a deal signed with Seattle, looked impressive behind Sergei Bobrovsky in Florida, sometimes out-playing the former Vezina winner.
Again, we don’t know the side deals that Seattle GM Ron Francis has in place, or if their strategy will indeed be to draft for cap flexibility and flip potential, or if they will go for it in year one with a “win now” mentality.
We’ll find out soon enough with the Kraken’s selections due to the league by 9:00 a.m. CT tomorrow morning and the draft at 7:00 p.m. CT, which can be found on ESPN2 in the States and Sportsnet in Canada.