Wednesday night, hockey fans in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest will get to see real National Hockey League players in the uniforms of their new team, the Seattle Kraken. The NHL’s 32nd franchise became now fully operational at the end of April, when the team made their final deposit of the $650 million expansion fee to the league.
This expansion draft rules were similar to 2017 when the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league. In 2021, Vegas is exempt from the draft which was part of the rules. The Kraken must take one player from each of the 30 of the 31 other teams that had to submit their list of 10 unprotected players. The lists were made public on Sunday.
Amongst the players left exposed were some familiar names to hockey fans like Carey Price (Montreal), Mark Giordano (Calgary), Braden Holtby (Vancouver), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Max Domi (Columbus), and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles).
Two problems regarding those names. The first is their age many of the players left exposed are close to or over the age of 30 and the second is their salaries.
Unlike the NFL and the NBA, the NHL is in the second year of what is called a “flat cap” of $81.5 million (US). This was brought in when the league and the Players Association so the league can and play and weather the pandemic. Before the shortened season began the league incurred losses of roughly $1 billion (US).
The new United States television contracts recently negotiated between ESPN/ABC and Turner will not be part of raising the cap unlike the other sports that have salary cap.
This makes the job for General Manger Ron Francis, a former great player and Stanley Cup Champion with Pittsburgh, and longtime executive with the Carolina Hurricanes, who took the job two years ago along with his assistants Norm MacIver and Jason Botterill, a bit of a challenge as they are one of the few teams that have money to spend.
However, the word this offseason in the NHL is “cap space” as many of the teams are looking to shed payroll to get under the $81.5 million number.
On July 28th, the Kraken will join the rest of the league in going after unrestricted free agents to fill out their roster not only at the NHL level, but for their American Hockey League team they will share with the Hurricanes in Charlotte N.C. this upcoming season then move to Palm Springs, California for the 2022-23 season.
The draft is also a made for television event as it will be televised in both in Gas Works Park, where there will be roughly 4,000 in attendance as well as other places around the city including the Space Needle, the iconic symbol of the city.
In addition, like the NFL draft athletes from Seattle’s other professional teams will announce some of the selections.
Among them are Sue Bird of the WNBA Storm, Bobby Wagner of the NFL Seahawks, former NBA SuperSonics greats Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton along with former head coach Lenny Wilkens, and Kyle Lewis from the MLB Mariners.
It will be a quick turnaround for Seattle as the team shifts its focus to the NHL Entry Draft which will be a virtual affair on Friday as The Kraken have the second overall pick in the first round behind the Buffalo Sabres who won the Draft Lottery in May.
The Kraken will play six preseason games three which will be at home in places with history in the Western Hockey League (juniors) the first will be in Spokane, the home of the Chiefs a long time WHL team, the other two will be played in the Seattle suburbs.
One game will played in the city of Kent south of the city, and home to the Seattle Thunderbirds and the third in Everett due north of downtown home of the Silvertips. The Kraken will not play their first game in Climate Pledge Arena till their home opener. The NHL full schedule will be released on Thursday.