While names leaked out for hours beforehand, the picks were officially unveiled starting at 17:00 local time at the Washington State city’s lakefront Gas Works Park. To ramp up the entertainment factor, those announcing picks included everyone from Lenny Wilkens, head coach of the 1979 NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics, to four-time Grammy Award-winning musician Macklemore.
Objectively, all the advance hype didn’t translate into a flurry of big-ticket picks. On paper, the roster is fairly workmanlike. Kraken GM Ron Francis, the fifth-highest-scoring NHLer in history (1,798 points), made it evident that his priority was getting salary cap space to play with. Stay tuned for more changes, with the NHL draft on Friday and free agency opening on 28 July.
“For us, we want players with character, guys who compete hard,” Francis said.
Name-wise, longtime Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, who won the 2019 Norris Trophy with a career-high 78-point season, was Seattle’s biggest add. The 37-year-old Toronto native, who averaged 22:57 in ice time last year, has one year left on his deal at $6.75 million.
Seattle also landed Jordan Eberle. The nifty 31-year-old winger is coming off his second consecutive run to the conference finals with the New York Islanders. He had 33 points (16+17=33) last season.
Eberle has yet to match his IIHF success in the NHL. TSN named him Canada’s best World Junior player of all-time based on his 2009 gold-medal and 2010 silver-medal performances, and the six-time World Championship participant also won gold in Prague in 2015.
“It’s an amazing turnout here with everyone and their boats,” said Eberle. “To see the passion from the fans, I’m very excited. You don’t get many chances to be part of a new franchise.”
The Pacific Division franchise exploited their window of opportunity to negotiate with UFAs by signing Eberle’s former Edmonton Oilers teammate Adam Larsson to a four-year, $16-million contract. The 28-year-old Skelleftea-born blueliner, who captured a gold medal with Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Championship in Denmark, was seeking a change of scenery after a couple of tough seasons in the northern Alberta capital.
This move ends speculation that Edmonton could pair Larsson with Duncan Keith. The Oilers just picked up the aging three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist from the Chicago Blackhawks, along with prospect Tim Soderlund, in exchange for Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 third-round pick.
The wildest rumored Kraken scenarios simply didn’t materialize.
The Canadiens left legendary goalie Carey Price exposed in the draft in order to protect backup Jake Allen. However, the 33-year-old Price, who just led the Habs to a five-game Stanley Cup final loss to the Lightning, was not taken. Price, who backstopped Canada to the Olympic gold medal in Sochi in 2014, has five years left on his contract with a rich annual cap hit of $10.5 million. The projected future Hockey Hall of Famer could miss time next season due to knee and hip issues.
Accordingly, Seattle opted for a trio of younger, cheaper, still-promising goalies in Florida’s Chris Driedger, Washington’s Vitek Vanecek, and Ottawa’s Joey Daccord.
Seattle also passed up its chance to lure Gabriel Landeskog, an unrestricted free agent who has captained the Colorado Avalanche for nine seasons, with a long-term deal. The gritty 28-year-old Swede’s destination for 2021-22 remains a question mark. Landeskog owns two Worlds gold medals from 2013 and 2017 and a 2014 Olympic silver medal from Sochi.
Meanwhile, older Russian aces Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis) and Yevgeni Dadonov (Ottawa) were also not selected.
Developing a hot rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, just three hours up the I-5 highway, comes first. The Canucks will be Seattle’s opponents at the home opener on 23 October. The Kraken will play at the newly renovated Climate Pledge Arena (called KeyArena from 1995 to 2018), boasting a capacity of 17,100 for hockey and a promise to produce zero carbon emissions.
The 2021 expansion draft was the 14th in NHL history, dating back to 1967, when the NHL doubled from the Original Six to 12 teams. This time, thirty NHL teams – with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the league in 2017-18 – were required to protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie.
The rules were relatively straightforward. Seattle had to choose three goalies, nine defencemen, and 14 forwards, and then could use its remaining four picks on players at any position. It wasn’t too hard to hit the requirement of forming a roster that hit a minimum of 60 percent of the value of the $81.5 million salary cap in 2017-18.
To emulate Vegas’s early franchise success would be Seattle’s dream. The Golden Knights marched to the 2018 Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season, falling to Alexander Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals in five games. The Knights have appeared in at least in three playoff rounds in all four of their NHL seasons – with the exception of 2019, when they squandered a 3-1 first-round series lead and lost Game Seven to the San Jose Sharks.
As it happens, Seattle’s first regular-season game ever will be against Vegas on the road on 12 October.
In total, 19 Canadians, six Americans, two Swedes, one Czech, one Dane, and one Finn were selected. Here is the Kraken roster as of 21 July, listed in alphabetical order by surname with each player’s position and 2020-21 club:
Mason Appleton (F, Winnipeg Jets)
Nathan Bastian (F, New Jersey Devils)
Gavin Bayreuther (D, Columbus Blue Jackets)
Colin Blackwell (F, New York Rangers)
Will Borgen (D, Buffalo Sabres)
Dennis Cholowski (D, Detroit Red Wings)
Joey Daccord (G, Ottawa Senators)
Joonas Donskoi (F, Colorado Avalanche)
Chris Driedger (G, Florida Panthers)
Jordan Eberle (F, New York Islanders)
Cale Fleury (D, Montreal Canadiens)
Haydn Fleury (D, Anaheim Ducks)
Mark Giordano (D, Calgary Flames)
Morgan Geekie (F, Carolina Hurricanes)
Yanni Gourde (F, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Calle Jarnkrok (F, Nashville Predators)
Adam Larsson (D, Edmonton Oilers)
Jeremy Lauzon (D, Boston Bruins)
Kole Lind (F, Vancouver Canucks)
Kurtis MacDermid (D, Los Angeles Kings)
Jared McCann (F, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Jamie Oleksiak (D, Dallas Stars)
Tyler Pitlick (F, Arizona Coyotes)
John Quenneville (F, Chicago Blackhawks)
Carson Soucy (D, Minnesota Wild)
Brandon Tanev (F, Pittsburgh Penguins)
Alexander True (F, San Jose Sharks)
Carsen Twarynski (F, Philadelphia Flyers)
Vitek Vanecek (G, Washington Capitals)