I guess we’ll see! Obviously nobody has any idea what the future holds. We could look back on this day and wonder what the hell these incompetents were thinking, or we could look back on this day WITH wonder at the start of a great hockey dynasty. Or, you know, any outcome in between.
What I’m getting at the moment – just a couple days removed from the big NHL Expansion Draft, where the Kraken selected an unprotected player from every other NHL team, save Las Vegas – is that there isn’t this sense that Seattle is an immediate juggernaut like the Golden Knights were in their first season. Sure, the Kraken grabbed some good players, but for the most part they left plenty of quality guys on the table.
So, what was the plan? It appears the Kraken focused first and foremost on salary cap flexibility. That means not selecting a lot of huge stars and trying to build some sort of fantasy team on day one. That means not taking on a lot of bloated contracts from past-their-prime players, so there isn’t a lot of dead money hanging over us. I get the sense Vegas did that in their expansion draft, and acquired a lot more draft picks for the amateur draft in the process.
Indeed, the only trade I’m aware of is Tyler Pitlick, who we selected from Arizona, and traded to Calgary for a 4th round pick. But, even he only had a $1.75 million cap hit. That, nevertheless, leaves the Kraken with over $30 million in remaining cap space. This likely means the Kraken will have some higher profile moves up their sleeves in the coming weeks. And, it should start the franchise off on the right foot going forward when it comes to their salary cap and flexibility in tweaking the roster.
It was also noted that there weren’t nearly as many opportunities for steals in the expansion draft. When Vegas had theirs, they took advantage of teams and GMs who had no idea what they were doing. It seems those people have either been replaced in the interim, or have gotten a lot smarter, because they weren’t willing to be fleeced this time around. I think the NHL world at large was pretty appalled at how amazing the Golden Knights were from the get-go, and they did everything in their power to not let that happen again.
The Kraken also appear to be building on the strength of their defense, as most of their best players and biggest stars are either great two-way players, or are just better on defense. I don’t know if it’ll make for the most exciting, high-flying brand of hockey, but at least it’s a plan. At least it’s an identity. And, given the general vibe of sports fans in the Pacific Northwest, I’d say it’s fitting. We love us some defense around these parts! Even those great Supersonics teams of the 90’s under George Karl featured swarming and suffocating trap defenses. On top of that, the Kraken seem to be focused on bruisers. Tough guys. Setting a hard-ass tone on the ice. If we’re not going to be great, we should at least be able to whoop some ass and leave teams feeling it afterward. Northwest fans also love aggressively tough teams, so again, it fits the vibe.
And, even though I talk about the stars they got, the Kraken definitely avoided bringing in too many huge names, at least so far. Mark Giordano is the biggest name of the bunch, but he’s been in the league 15 years and will be 38 years old when the season gets underway. He’s our unquestioned leader and captain, but he’s also on the final year of his contract.
Two of the other bigger names we brought in are Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson, who are both defensemen. These are guys you’ll want to learn about, as they figure to be prominent players this season.
Other guys, in no particular order, who should see a lot of time (assuming they don’t get traded) are Joonas Donskoi (forward), Calle Jarnkrok (forward), Jordan Eberle (right wing), Brandon Tanev (left wing), Vince Dunn (defense), Yanni Gourde (center), and Jared McCann (forward). I would also throw in players like Haydn Fleury (defense), Colin Blackwell (center), and Mason Appleton (forward) who could improve a great deal with opportunities to play and compete for spots.
Just about all of the guys the Kraken took are younger, less experienced players, with room to grow. The sky is the limit, really. I don’t know if there’s a ton of upside, necessarily – especially when it comes to the 2021/2022 season in particular – but I like this strategy over more established veterans who might have injury issues, or might not be as hungry because they’ve already earned the bulk of their career money. We might not be great now, but we’ve given ourselves plenty of opportunity to find some diamonds in the rough. Like this current Mariners rebuild, we can use this season to figure out where we’re good, and where we need to fill in the cracks. If things break right, we might not see the Kraken in the playoffs in year one, but they could be a force in the next 2-4 years.
Whether or not the Kraken follow in the footsteps of the Golden Knights has a lot to do with the goalie situation. We didn’t grab Carey Price from Montreal, who is an established stud (but also maybe more of an injury risk), but we stuck with our plan of going for inexperienced guys with undetermined upside. Chris Driedger was a backup in Florida, who looks like he’ll get a shot to start here. You never know how well these guys will play until they get in front of the net every day, but it sounds like he was effective in his limited duty as a backup, so I have high hopes. Even if he’s not as good as Price might’ve been in year one, if he’s 90% as effective or better, I think that’s a steal, given the salary savings.
Vitek Vanecek figures to be our backup goalie, who is more of a prototypical backup (in that he should be fine in spot duty), with Joey Daccord more of a developmental project. Since the Kraken have built around the strength of their defensemen, that should provide an additional boost to the goalies, and if one of them proves to be better than advertised, you never know! Worse teams have succeeded based on the strength of keeping scoring down to a minimum (I’m assuming; I’m really talking out of my ass on all of this here).
Also, shoutout to Alexander True, who used to play for the Seattle Thunderbirds back in the day. I have no idea if he’s any good or not, but he’s young and returning to where he had some minor league success, so I think that’s fun.
I obviously didn’t list off everyone the Kraken drafted, so there’s a good chance I missed someone who might be solid. But, I’m just trying to do SOME due diligence when it comes to learning about the NHL.
Which is more than I can say for the Seattle fucking Times. I bought the newspaper on Thursday, thinking I’d get some quality analysis on the players we got. There was one article on the front page that took a global view of everything; it had at least some stuff on the bigger names. But, on the actual Sports Page, there were two articles: one about the fans in attendance at the live draft event at Gasworks Park, and one about the local sports celebrities in attendance at the live draft event at Gasworks Park (none of which actually play the fucking game of hockey). In an insert, the Times had a list of the players, with no analysis whatsoever. What a fucking joke.
You have a responsibility, Seattle Times, to educate fans on this team and this game. Stop feeding us puff pieces and give us information we can chew on!