The Seattle Kraken selected their first group of players in the expansion draft on Wednesday night. Some arrived in person, the first to wear the newest NHL jerseys. Some had their names announced by flying fish and an octopus in the local aquarium, and some by Seattle SuperSonics legends Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.
The Kraken selected one player from 30 NHL teams, with the Vegas Golden Knights exempt from the draft. The result was a roster that was young and well under the salary cap, and an approach to the draft that was in stark contrast with the way Vegas handled it in 2017.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Kraken expansion draft:
Vegas set the template … almost
The Golden Knights and Kraken had the same rules for their respective expansion drafts. NHL teams could protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie; or they could protect eight skaters and one goalie, which is what the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs opted to do this time around.
Same rules, similar results, at least when it came to the positions they drafted. The Golden Knights selected 14 forwards, 13 defensemen and three goaltenders in the 2017 expansion draft. The Kraken selected 15 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goaltenders in their expansion draft.
Both teams selected 20 players who are under contract for the following season, which was the minimum required by the NHL’s draft rules — although the Kraken selected three players that they themselves signed in Adam Larsson, Chris Driedger and Jamie Oleksiak. The Golden Knights selected six restricted free agents, while the Kraken selected seven.
Where the two teams diverge is under the salary cap. Based on the players the teams drafted, the cap hits were similar: The Kraken’s projected cap hit is around $54.05 million, while the Golden Knights’ cap hit was $54.21 million, according to Sinbin.vegas. But when you factor in the players whom the Knights acquired via trade on the day of the draft, their total cap hit for acquired players was $68.3 million. Seattle didn’t have any trades announced on expansion draft day.
Where were the trades?
There’s a trade freeze that ends at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. At that time, the Kraken will announce a few of them, although “probably a lot less than you guys think there might be,” according to GM Ron Francis.
When the Vegas Golden Knights had their expansion draft in 2017, they famously squeezed teams around the league by using the expansion draft rules, forcing them to ante up assets so that the Knights wouldn’t select certain players exposed in the draft. The result was a massive bounty: Among the acquisitions for the Knights with that leverage were defenseman Shea Theodore, forwards Alex Tuch, Reilly Smith and Nikita Gusev, and several draft picks that included two first-rounders.
So where was that bounty for the Kraken?
“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,” said Francis.
The Kraken GM said there was another factor that Vegas didn’t have to deal with, which was a team “sitting on the outside that could affect the other teams’ protection lists.” For Seattle, that team was the Golden Knights, who made a trade with the Nashville Predators last weekend that impacted the protection lists for the Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers, and a trade with the New York Rangers for forward Brett Howden.
Vegas, meanwhile, was exempt from the expansion draft.
Mostly, it was the change in behavior of the general managers around the league that hurt Seattle’s chance to leverage deals.
“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,” Francis said.
The Price was not right
It was Carey Price‘s decision to waive his no-movement clause. He wasn’t sure if he’d be available to begin next season, due to injuries, and didn’t want the Canadiens to lose Jake Allen in his absence. The 33-year-old Price also figured the Kraken would find his contract to be too much to take on.
He was right.
Francis didn’t divulge much on what went on behind the scenes. “I think anytime you see a name like Carey Price available, you have to consider it,” Francis said on the draft broadcast. “Certainly we did that. We had a lot of discussions. At the end of the day, we made the decision that we did and went in a different direction.”
According to sources, Price is scheduled to see a specialist in New York on Thursday to assess his knee and hip injuries, and determine whether he needs surgery. That uncertainty — plus the five years…