By Cole Parkinson
Starting this coming season, the NHL grows to 32 teams as the Seattle Kraken officially join the league.
And with that, the team finally welcomed 32 new players to the organization through the expansion draft held last week.
While several big names including Carey Price (Montreal), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Max Domi (Columbus) among others were available, the Kraken passed on many big contracts.
The biggest contract Seattle took on was former Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, who makes $6.75 million for one more season.
So, while the expansion team has set its first roster, it’s hardly the final one we’ll see come September when training camps open across the league.
According to CapFriendly, Seattle has a cap hit of just over $50 million, with another $30 million plus available to spend.
The roster as it is looks alright, I guess.
I wouldn’t expect them to make the playoffs, but if Vegas has shown us anything, it’s to never underestimate an expansion team with a roster that doesn’t look like a worldbeater.
The biggest difference between the two though is Vegas was making plenty of moves, including taking on star goaltender Marc-André Fleury.
The Kraken could have done the same in picking Price, but I understand why they didn’t.
Price still has five more years on his contract, which expires when he’s 38, and it carries a cap hit of $10.5 million.
I think it’s safe to assume that contract will not age well, and you can’t really fault Seattle for not wanting to take it on.
It would have been an easy sell for the first two or three years, but age comes for everyone, and Price will likely see a decline coming in short order.
Other surprises on the roster include the Kraken passing on both Jake Bean and Nino Niederreiter in Carolina in favour of Morgan Geekie, and passing on Ben Bishop from Dallas in favour of Jamie Oleksiak.
I do like the pickups of Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay), Mason Appleton (Winnipeg), Jared McCann (Toronto), Vince Dunn (St. Louis), Chris Driedger (Florida), and Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders) though.
At first glance it’s a solid, yet unspectacular roster.
But it’s plausible that some of the more unspectacular picks could end being studs.
I mean, who expected William Karlsson to score 43 goals for the Golden Knights in their inaugural season? The Kraken may have some hidden gems on their roster as well.
Rumours are out there the team is looking to finish near the bottom of the standings in order to “compete” for the first overall pick in next year’s draft which is most likely OHL star Shane Wright.
And while that could be true, with that much cap space, why wouldn’t Seattle want to make a big splash to get their fans excited?
Just look at Vegas who surprised the entire hockey world by making a Stanley Cup run in their first year, and while they have yet to make it back to the final, they’re consistently making big moves.
Looking at Seattle’s roster at the centre position, it’s weak, to say the least.
Gourde, McCann, Appleton, and Colin Blackwell can all play the position, but I wouldn’t consider any of them top-line centremen.
And with Jack Eichel looking to get out of Buffalo (and why wouldn’t he?), why shouldn’t the Kraken look to make a big trade in their first season.
The Kraken just selected Matty Beniers second overall this past weekend in the draft, which could be a major piece in any trade for Eichel.
They’re also flush with picks for the next several years, so if the Kraken were interested, I think they could easily swing a deal.
If Calgary is finally looking to break up their core that has yet to make any real impact in the playoffs, the Kraken could potentially look at centre Sean Monahan.
While it’s not as flashy as a name as Eichel, Monahan is a pretty underrated player that has had plenty of regular-season success.
A change of scenery could do him well, and with Seattle’s need for top-end centres, it could be a trade both teams look to make.
The only problem is Seattle and Calgary are in the same division, so I doubt Calgary would want to trade Monahan to a team they’ll see lots of, but if Seattle makes a good offer, you never know.
Looking at free agency, winger Gabriel Landeskog could bring plenty of star power to Seattle.
The Kraken could also go after free agent defenceman Dougie Hamilton, who is easily the best defender available on the market.
Another big reason they should bring in some top players is the fact the Pacific Division is one of the, if not the weakest division in the NHL.
The California teams, San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles, are shaping up to finish near the bottom of the standings again.
Looking at their roster, Calgary should be better than they were last year, but as stated before, their forward core of Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Matt Tkachuk have yet to prove anything when the chips are on the table.
Vancouver should also be better than they were last season with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes having another season under their belt, but I don’t think it’s safe to assume they will be a playoff team.
I’d be willing to bet Edmonton and Vegas are the top two teams in the division next season, but after that — who knows?
Seattle could slide right in one of the two empty division slots, and adding premier players would help that cause.
Plus, Seattle hockey fans deserve a winning product right out of the gate.
With free agency opening up on July 28, it’s safe to say there will be lots of movement and with Seattle having $30 plus million available, I expect they’ll be adding quite a few players.