It’s July, so what better time to talk about hockey? The NHL, on Sunday, released a list of all players left unprotected by their current clubs for the Seattle Kraken — who, by the way, should be your new favorite team — to choose from in the expansion draft on July 21st. Thus, come Wednesday we will have at least an idea of who will be donning the deep sea and ice blue come this fall.
As was the case a few years back when the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league, the NHL has made it far easier for an expansion team to be competitive out of the box rather than the traditional role of an expansion franchise; i.e. doormat. Teams have had to think long and hard about which players to protect from the draft, given how each team could protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie. That is a challenge for the more talented teams. As a Sharks fan, I have no such issues, alas. More like “take your pick.”
The Kraken must select one player from each team, the sole exception being Vegas who is sitting out the entire process. Of the thirty players selected, at least fourteen must be forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. Out of the thirty players selected, at least twenty must be under contract for next year, and the combined salaries of these players must be between sixty to one hundred percent of the salary cap. This is presumably to keep the Kraken from picking nothing but minimal earning players so as to save a few bucks to be spent instead on promotional giveaways such as Johnny-Depp-in-a-Kraken-Jersey-Bobblehead-Night.
As is the case when such drafts roll around, intrigue abounds regarding who was, and who was not, protected. The biggest name that jumps out is Montréal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, the thinking being that his hefty salary will suffice as a reason for the Kraken to not select him. However, the lure of a top-flight goalie and name draw around which to build a team may prove too enticing for Seattle. There’s also the example of how well Vegas’ selection of Marc-André Fleury has and continues to work out for them. Besides, Price might welcome the opportunity to come play for a team where every save will be greeted by thunderous cheering instead of a jaded “Patrick Roy would have saved that better.” Or Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Gump Worley, Georges Veznia, etc etc etc.
On defense, there are several names out there, but many of them are long in the tooth. One who might draw interest despite his age (37) is Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who still plays at a high level and would bring immediate leadership as he has been Calgary’s captain since 2013.
Forward-wise, Yanni Gourde, presently with the Tampa Bay Lightning, comes to mind. Although presently barely noticed on a loaded roster, he is a dual-threat center, both able to make plays for linemates and score himself. That’s a tough one not to grab, especially on a team whose roster will be full of players quite eager to prove their previous teams wrong for letting them walk.
And there you have it, a quick primer to all things Kraken expansion draft-wise. Stay tuned. Wednesday is going to be most interesting.