The Seattle Kraken has built the foundation of their roster after selecting one player from the 30 eligible teams in the Expansion Draft. There were a few surprise selections, but the Kraken did a good job addressing multiple facets of a winning roster.
While no side deals were made during the draft, Seattle collected some assets that can be used later to make deals ahead of free agency and next season. They also kept a good amount of money on hand to go after some high-ticket free agents over the next week. With a core now in place, Seattle is in the driver’s seat as the NHL’s newest franchise.
Seattle’s picks in the draft demonstrated a level of aversion to large long-term contracts. They steered clear of many of the contracts teams were looking to give away, but their biggest ticket players are ideal for building around. There is a leadership core that is already being established, and it starts with the selection of defenseman Mark Giordano. He served as the captain of the Calgary Flames since 2013, and at age 37, brings much experience to the Kraken. He can sure up the defense and help Seattle’s young goaltending duo of Chris Driedger and Vitek Vanecek. His presence in front of the promising goaltenders provides much optimism for the outlook of the new team.
Among the other veterans brought in were free-agent defenseman Adam Larsson and forward draftees Jordan Eberle, Joonas Donskoi, and back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Yanni Gourde. These are all established veterans whose cap hits are not too exorbitant that it puts Seattle in an early hole. Eberle is the most expensive of the Kraken forwards, being owed $5.5 million for the next three seasons. Giordano has the highest cap hit on the team, earning $6.75 million next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. This group can give Seattle a foundation to lean on early if they aren’t moved before puck drop.
The Kraken has built a solid starting group, but the team they have now is not what we’ll see on opening night. Aside from needing more players to send out a full lineup, Seattle has some other items they need to address. The first thing on their agenda should be preparing for the NHL Entry Draft, where they’ll have the second overall selection. They will also be addressing the pending free agents they drafted, most notably former Stanley Cup champion Vince Dunn. Aside from these moves, Seattle should be looking at the trade market to either shop some of the players they’ve selected or see who they can add to the mix.
Seattle reportedly had interest in taking several players in the Expansion Draft with the intention of trading them to another team; this doesn’t look as likely as it once did based on some of the selections Ron Francis made. One of the players Seattle did end up with that could be on the move is Giordano. He has drawn interest in the trade market from teams looking for left-handed defensemen, and the Kraken could use this to gain more assets by flipping the veteran. While he could be serviceable to them as a leader and potential captain, he could be just as valuable as a way to get the team more assets.
Instead of shipping players out, Seattle could be looking to take the extra cap space saved by selecting cheaper depth players and using it to trade for some scorers on the trade block. Among those rumored to be available to the Kraken were Jakub Voracek and Vladimir Tarasenko, among others. Seattle looks very solid in net and defense, but another forward or two could push them further ahead. Adding a scorer like Voracek or Tarasenko could bring the team to another level and would also do well in bringing in some new fans.
Instead of loading up on exclusively players they’re comfortable with starting on opening night, Seattle added a good amount of prospects to their pipeline for the future. From the Carolina Hurricanes, Seattle passed on Nino Niederreiter and Jake Bean to select young forward Morgan Geekie. They also bolstered their forward pipeline with the selection of Alexander True from the San Jose Sharks over more established forwards like Matt Nieto, Ryan Donato, and Dylan Gambrell.
On defense, the Kraken added both Cale and Haydn Fleury to their blue line. Haydn is the more NHL-ready player, having already played over 175 NHL games combined for the Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks. On the other hand, Cale might need a few more years of tuning before he’s ready to join his brother in the pros. He has 41 NHL games to his credit, all during the 2019-20 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He spent this past shortened season with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League (AHL). Cale could start in the AHL but has the potential to make it to the pros over the next few seasons.
The team we see after the Expansion Draft will undergo many changes between now and puck drop in October. Seattle should be expected to be very active on the trade front, whether on the draft floor at the entry draft or afterward. They currently sit below the cap floor, so at the very least, they need to add a few contracts before the start of the season. It’s anyone’s guess whether this is done through free agency, draft-day trades, post-draft trades, or a combination of the three. Now that there’s a team to analyze, we’re in for a fun next few weeks.
Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.