Do you remember a scene in the movie ‘Hoosiers’? When Gene Hackman introduced the Hickory High School basketball team to the community and some people in the crowd showed their displeasure?
Hackman’s reply was perfect. Saying “This is your team” and the fans of the Seattle Kraken saying the same thing after the National Hockey League’s 32nd franchise, who will begin their inaugural season in October, introduced their 30 expansion picks Wednesday night.
When the list of unprotected players was released on Sunday there were a few name players. However they came with high salaries and major hits toward the salary cap which is again this season at $81.2 million (US) part of the four-year collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association.
During the day on Wednesday, the names of the players started to leak out. when looking at the selections. Kraken General Manager Ron Francis has wanted to stay under the cap what he calls ‘Cap Flexibility’ instead of always selecting the biggest name or the most expensive, Francis used analytics as well as the Kraken brain trust in assistants Norm MacIver and Jason Botterill along with head coach Dave Hakstol.
What they came up with is a mixture of youth sprinkled in with some veterans.
The most notable of the veterans is D Mark Giordano. The 28-year old has played all of his 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames. A former Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman and longtime team captain, Giordano can be the face of this franchise due to his charity work in Calgary and Southern Alberta can easily transfer to the Kraken.
Another veteran to keep an eye on is F Jordan Eberle who comes from the New York Islanders. Eberle has been a consistent goal scorer throughout his career first in Edmonton then on Long Island.
Like Giordano on the back Ebrerle can be that up front and his leadership helped the Islanders reach the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
One other veteran to mention is F Yanni Gourde a member of the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the best players during his time in T-Bay with key goals and key hits.
In the shortened regular season, he had 17 goals and added six in the playoffs. Was mostly a third line player with the ‘Bolts his talent can bring him up to one of the two top lines on most teams in the league.
Some other players to keep an eye on are F Justin McCann from Toronto who the Maple Leafs traded for from Pittsburgh just before the draft.
D Adam Larsson from Edmonton along with Jamie Olesiak from Dallas, and Vince Dunn from St. Louis. Goaltending could be a strength with Chris Drieger from Florida and Vitek Vanicek from Washington Both had solid seasons as backups for their respective teams.
The roster that was selected is most likely not the one that will take the ice when the team plays its inaugural game. Some will be heading to their affiliate the AHL Charlotte Checkers who they are sharing this season with the Carolina Hurricanes or some could be traded to other clubs
Along with ‘cap flexibility” the buzz word for this draft is ‘side deals’ meaning Seattle has made deals with other NHL clubs that they would get a player or an additional draft pick If the Kraken did not select a certain player from the exposed list.
In addition, the team on July 28th can, as well as the other 31 NHL teams start negotiating with and sign unrestricted free agents. According to many observers those on that exposed list and others can be heading to the Pacific Northwest as many teams are scrambling to get under the cap.
Many fans thought when Montreal exposed G Carey Price he would be a fit as he played his junior hockey in Washington State with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, as well as his wife is from that area, and they live in the off-season in British Columbia.
Francis did his homework on Price. In the end, his cap hit of $10.5 million over the final four years of his deal with the Canadiens as well as him receiving an $11 million roster bonus. Add to that Price’s age and having been susceptible to injury made Francis pass.
One other nugget, the Kraken have the second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft which begins virtually on Friday. Again many observers believe they will get a top notch player. Time is ticking fast and hockey fans from as far north as Alaska, as east as Montana and Idaho, and as far south as Oregon cannot wait for training camp to see their new team take the ice.
This expansion draft is another step toward that first game.