Seattle Kraken expansion draft: NHL GMs learned from Vegas

Four years after the Vegas Golden Knights burst into the NHL by making 10 trades at their expansion draft, the Seattle Kraken came away with none.

That means no extra prospects, roster players or draft picks stockpiled because another team wanted to give up a certain player or keep from losing someone left unprotected by rules designed to make modern expansion teams competitive. Seattle is expected to flip some of the 30 players selected when the trade freeze lifts Thursday afternoon, but this was a much different expansion draft experience than Vegas had in 2017.

“Vegas did a good job taking advantage of the rules and sort of everyone’s lack of experience in that environment,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said during a video call Wednesday night. “Last time where GMs were more willing to, in a sense, overpay to protect certain assets, this time they learned from that and they weren’t willing to make the mistakes that they made last time.”

Back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay did not give up anything to keep from losing valuable center Yanni Gourde, who will miss the start of Seattle’s inaugural season rehabbing from the shoulder surgery he had Monday. Cup finalist Montreal didn’t need to convince the Kraken not to take star goaltender Carey Price. And Calgary didn’t pay up to keep captain Mark Giordano.

That doesn’t mean Francis didn’t try. Flames GM Brad Treliving called it “a price that we couldn’t pay.”

“You look around the league, there wasn’t a lot of deals,” Treliving said. “If there was a way that we could have done it within reason — those conversations should be kept behind closed doors — if there was a way within means that made sense for this not to happen, we certainly would have pursued it.”

Since it wasn’t “within reason,” some teams didn’t even pursue a trade, anticipating Seattle would choose between a couple of obvious options.

Minnesota’s Bill Guerin, who bought out franchise pillars Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in part to prepare for expansion, said the Wild knew they would lose one player and didn’t want to make it worse.

“We would lose more assets than we already have, so this was kind of the way we approached it all along,” Guerin said after Seattle took defenseman Carson Soucy over goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. “It’s about being prepared and about having a plan for either circumstance.”

Being prepared for a few years benefitted the league’s other 31 teams. Seattle was awarded a franchise late in 2018 and the long runway to begin play in 2021 allowed GMs to plan ahead.

The salary cap remaining flat because of pandemic revenue losses added a curveball, but rivals used every last second to protect themselves and each other from the Kraken. And Francis pointed out that Vegas not losing a player in this expansion draft — the Golden Knights don’t get a cut of Seattle’s $650 million entry fee — allowed the league’s 31st team to have an impact.

“You look at Vegas’ expansion draft, they had nobody sitting on the outside that could affect their protection list of the other teams,” he said. “We had Vegas sitting on the outside, and in fact they were able to make a couple of trades that affected multiple protection lists for us.”

The Golden Knights on Saturday acquired center Brett Howden from the Rangers and were part of a three-team trade that landed them 2017 No. 2 pick Nolan Patrick and allowed Philadelphia and Nashville to shuffle their protected lists.

Asked how many trades Seattle had agreed to that would become official Thursday, Francis said: “Probably a lot less than you guys are thinking might be.” He chuckled, but he’s not done.

Fortunately for the Kraken, the puck doesn’t drop this week and there’s plenty of time and salary cap space to get ready for training camp and opening night. They own the second pick in the draft Friday night and could be active in free agency when it opens July 28.

“A lot of opportunity to sort of tweak our lineup over the next four or five months,” Francis said. “We’ll look to try and take advantage of that if we can.”

Kraken reportedly passing on Price, Tarasenko in NHL expansion draft

The game of chicken between Ron Francis and Marc Bergevin will end with Carey Price not heading to the Seattle Kraken.

According to a number of NHL insiders, the Kraken will use their Canadiens pick on defenseman Cale Fleury.

The news over the weekend that Price had been exposed by the Canadiens was a bit of an eyebrow raiser, but then it came out that he might require knee surgery and miss a large chunk of the 2021-22 NHL season. Still, there was a small case to make for him being drafted. Price would have been a “face of the franchise” type player, played junior hockey in Washington State, and was born in British Columbia.

But the case against drafting Price was obvious. He will be 34 in August, has five more years remaining on a contract that carries a $10.5M salary cap hit, and his game has been trending downward since his Vezina Trophy win in 2014-15.

Another star player the Kraken will be passing on is Vladimir Tarasenko. The 29-year-old forward has requested a trade out of St. Louis and was left unprotected by the Blues. Defenseman Vince Dunn, who is a pending restricted free agent, will reportedly be Seattle’s pick.

Tarasenko has two years left on his contract with a $7.5M cap hit. There were reports that teams were contacting Francis to inform him of their interest in making a trade should they pick the Blues forward. Now that Tarasenko will remain in St. Louis for the time being, GM Doug Armstrong can at least attempt to get assets in return.

Roster news slowly dripping out

The leaks are coming out hours before Wednesday’s expansion draft show. Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev, Carsen Twarynski, Mark Giordano, Vitek Vanecek, and Joey Daccord appear to be heading to Seattle. That news follows reports of Francis agreeing to sign defensemen Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak, along with goaltender Chris Driedger.

Seattle’s expansion draft roster must feature at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. The Kraken had a 10 a.m. ET Wednesday deadline to submit their 30 expansion draft selections to the NHL.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kraken roster begins to take shape with reported signings

We’ll find out the bulk of the Seattle Kraken roster Wednesday night during the NHL expansion draft. In the meantime, general manager Ron Francis is making the most out of the exclusive window to speak to pending unrestricted free agents who were left unprotected by their teams.

According to several sources, Adam Larsson, Chris Driedger, and Jamie Oleksiak will be part of the initial Kraken roster.

Francis has two spots on his blue line taken with Larsson, who spent the past five seasons with the Oilers, on a four-year, $16M contract (per Darren Dreger), and Oleksiak, now a former member of the Stars (per Frank Seravalli).

We’ll see how the Kraken crease shapes up and if Francis does indeed take Carey Price, but in the meantime Chris Driedger will be a fine addition, according to Elliotte Friedman. The goaltender who broke out with the Panthers in 2020-21 is expected to sign a three-year, $10.5M deal.

All three players will count as selections for their former teams. Francis will need to create a roster featuring at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.

The Kraken had a 10 a.m. ET Wednesday deadline to submit their 30 expansion draft selections ahead of the big reveal.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kraken expansion draft to be milestone for Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — When the calendar flips to this time of year, there is normally a mix and anger and resentment for sports fans in this corner of the country.

Not this year. Not with one of the biggest moments yet in the creation of the newest NHL franchise about to take place on Wednesday night with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, during which the team will set the foundation for its first roster.

“I get emotional about this, but it was three-and-a-half years ago that the fans took this huge leap of faith,” Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said. “And now it’s payback time.”

In an odd synergy of the calendar, the pandemic-related changes to the NHL season landed the expansion draft at a time that brings back painful memories for sports fans in Seattle.

It was 15 years ago this week — July 18, 2006, to be exact — that the NBA’s SuperSonics were sold to owners from outside the region. A two-year fight followed that eventually led to the relocation of Seattle’s first pro sports team to Oklahoma City.

Seattle will finally get a winter pro sports replacement with the debut of the Kraken in October. Short of being awarded the franchise in December 2018, and the completion of its home arena, the expansion draft is the biggest step for Seattle and filling the void of what was lost more than a decade ago.

“It’s really about the players and the fans and tomorrow is the coming together of those two things,” Leiweke said. “It’s just powerful. Some fans feel it’s a long time coming. For me, it’s been three-and-a-half years coming, got some gray hairs as a result of it. But I think the fans are going to really like what they see.”

The unveiling of the Kraken selections will be a quintessential Seattle event. It’s being broadcast from Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union with picturesque shots of the skyline in the background. Fans will be in the park, but the team has asked for a flotilla of fans to assemble on boats, paddleboards and kayaks on the water.

The NHL has recruited local sports celebrities to help announce the selections, including a nod to the SuperSonics with the inclusion of Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens.

Marshawn Lynch and Sue Bird are taking part as well. The Kraken jersey will be unveiled for the first time.

And yes, there will be a fish getting tossed at Pike Place Market as a way to reveal one of the selections.

“The goal here is to show off Seattle and show off the team to not only the hockey fans of the world, but the sports fans,” said Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer. “This is a cool moment.”

While the night will include plenty of pomp and circumstance, the team’s future ultimately rests with the decisions made by general manager Ron Francis and the rest of the Kraken front office. The 669 players left unprotected for the expansion draft created numerous avenues for Seattle, from trying to match the success of Vegas from its inaugural season to going younger and cheaper and looking to develop long-term.

Seattle must take at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies, and spend at least $48 million of its $81.5 million in salary cap space.

The biggest decision could come at goalie. Montreal’s Carey Price, fresh off a sterling playoff run, is available but at a cost of $10.5 million per year for five more seasons and questions about his health. Price would be an instant face of the franchise with significant connections to the Pacific Northwest, but his salary hit could limit Seattle’s maneuverability.

There are also big names like Vladimir Tarasenko, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Giordano, Ryan Johansen, Max Domi, Tyler Johnson and P.K. Subban all floating out there as potential selections if Seattle wants established veterans anchoring its roster.

“I certainly think there’s going to be some good players available,” Francis said. “Hopefully when they get selected here we can get them into town, and walk out on stage and they can become sort of the early faces of our Seattle Kraken lineup and the fans will relate to them as well.”

Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft: Rules, format, available players

The Seattle Kraken will begin putting together their inaugural roster on Wednesday night during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Four years after the Vegas Golden Knights began the building process of their team, the NHL’s 32nd franchise will get its chance with the same rules.

When is the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft?

The Kraken will make their picks Wednesday, July 21 at 8 p.m. ET. A party will be held with about 4,000 fans in attendance at Gas Works Park in Seattle.

How many players will the Kraken pick?

General manager Ron Francis and his staff will select one player from every NHL except Vegas. The Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft as part of their franchise agreement. There will be 30 players in total chosen, with the Kraken needing to pick at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies.

Twenty of those 30 players must be under contract for the 2021-22 NHL season who have “an aggregate expansion draft value that is between 60%-100%” of the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling.

NHL teams had two options in regards to protecting players:

Option 1
Forwards: 7
Defensemen: 3
Goaltenders: 1

Option 2
Skaters (Forward/Defensemen): 8
Goaltenders: 1

Players drafted by Seattle cannot be bought out until summer 2022 at the earliest.

Who were the exposure requirements?

The minimum exposure requirements were: At least two forwards and one defenseman under contract for the 2021-22 season who played at least 40 games in 2020-21 or 70 games over the last two seasons; and one goalie under contract for 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent this summer and did not received a qualifying offer.

Any players who are deemed to have “potential career-ending injuries” and have missed more than 60 consecutive games cannot be exposed without approval from the NHL.

Who is not eligible to be drafted?

Any first- and second-year players, plus unsigned NHL draft picks were exempt from being exposed.

What about players with no-move clauses?

In order to be eligible to be exposed, any player with a no-move clause had to agree to waive it. A number of players like Milan Lucic, Erik Johnson, Jeff Skinner, Carey Price, and Ben Bishop did so to help their teams protect other players.

Any player with a contract featuring only a no-trade clause was eligible to be exposed.

So who is available?

NHL teams submitted their protected/exposed lists over the weekend and there are a number of notable names available for various reasons.

Yes, Alex Ovechkin was not protected by the Capitals, but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent and it is highly, highly unlikely he would sign with the Kraken. Francis isn’t going to waste a pick in that situation.

Other names available to the Kraken include Price, Gabriel Landeskog, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, Nino Niederreiter, and Brenden Dillon.

You can see who was protected and who was exposed here.

Can the Kraken sign players now?

Yes, they can, and have! Luke Henman was the franchise’s first official signing back in May. But the Kraken was given an exclusive window from July 18-21 to sign any potential NHL free agents who were not protected by their teams. Should Seattle sign any of those players during that time, it would count as a pick from that team.

So, for example, if Francis gets Taylor Hall to sign a contract, Hall would count as the Bruins’ pick and Boston would not be eligible to lose another player.

The Kraken is also able to hand out eight-year max deals if they sign any players prior to the opening of the NHL free agency period on July 28.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL mock expansion draft: Projecting the Seattle Kraken’s 30 picks

The 2021 Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft will take place on Wednesday night. Over the weekend, NHL teams sent in their protected/exposed lists, so now Ron Francis and his staff can spend the next few days trying to construct the first roster in franchise history.

Francis and the Kraken will be afforded the same rules that the Golden Knights had in 2017. The Kraken will make 30 total selections made up of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. Twenty of those players must be under contract for the 2021-22 season. Also, the total salary cap hits must be between 60% and 100% of the $81.5 million cap ceiling.

Thanks to the wonderful Cap Friendly, the Pro Hockey Talk team picked our Kraken rosters following the reveal of the protected/exposed lists. It wasn’t easy as there are some notable names available and tough decisions ahead.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Jordan Eberle, Islanders
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
Joonas Donskoi, Avalanche
Paul Byron, Canadiens
Rocco Grimaldi, Predators
Dylan Gambrell, Sharks
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Blake Lizotte, Kings
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes
Tanner Kero, Stars
Colin Blackwell, Rangers
Matthew Highmore, Canucks
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Jujhar Khaira, Oilers (RFA)
Evgeny Svechnikov, Red Wings (RFA)
Adam Gaudette, Blackhawks (RFA)
Nick Merkley, Devils (RFA)

DEFENSEMEN (9)
Mark Giordano, Flames
Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers
Brenden Dillon, Capitals
Dylan DeMelo, Jets
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Travis Dermott, Maple Leafs
Connor Clifton, Bruins
William Borgen, Sabres (RFA)
Vince Dunn, Blues (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Joey Daccord, Senators
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $57.9 million

It’s all about flexibility. Ron Francis’ job is to build a contender, one that can hopefully replicate Vegas’ success early on. You don’t need to be held back by weighty contracts for older players who are in the process of breaking. This is why Vladimir Tarasenko and Carey Price aren’t to be found on my list.

There will be enough cap space left over after signing Driedger and the RFAs to strengthen, especially up front where we could use a bit more scoring punch. The blue line is solid, led by Giordano, the first captain in Kraken history. It may only be for one season, but he’s a good one to have back there and in the room in the first season.

There’s lots of inexperience in goal for my Kraken, but you don’t need to overspend to get quality netminding in this league. Driedger was a breakout player for the Panthers this past season and Kähkönen shows positive signs in his rookie year in Minnesota. It’s an interesting tandem that could pay dividends with a split workload.

nhl expansion draft
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

James O’Brien, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers
Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes
Jared McCann, Maple Leafs
Calle Jarnkrok, Predators
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Carl Grundstrom, Kings
Ryan Carpenter, Blackhawks
Matthew Highmore, Canucks
Julien Gauthier, Rangers
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Tyler Benson, Oilers (RFA)
Nick Merkley, Devils (RFA)
Kieffer Bellows, Islanders (RFA)
Ryan Donato, Sharks (RFA)
Vitaly Abramov, Senators (RFA)

DEFENSEMEN (9)
Mark Giordano, Flames
Dylan DeMelo, Jets
Troy Stecher, Red Wings
Nick Jensen, Capitals
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Jacob MacDonald, Avalanche
Jake McCabe, Sabres (UFA)
Mike Reilly, Bruins (UFA)
Vince Dunn, Blues (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Ben Bishop, Stars
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $54.97 million

While it manifests itself in different ways, my entire plan was to strike at value. Ben Bishop’s injury issues worry me, but let’s face it: that’s been the case much of his career. When he’s played, he’s honestly been pretty incredible.

With Bishop and some of the other more costly players, my motto with risk-taking was simple: if these players don’t pan out, at least their contracts are short. Yanni Gourde (four years) and Dylan DeMelo (three) represent the longest contracts on the books, free agents pending. Not every pick is meant to be a long-term Kraken. Giordano, Drouin, Niederreiter, and others were selected as much for trade potential as anything they could do on the ice.

So, mix one part trade bait that could also translate to on-ice results. Then mix in some swipes at hopefully unearthing a promising young talent. Would someone like Tyler Benson and Carl Grundstrom become a difference-maker? Worth a low-risk shot, and sure beats … I mean, basically everything else available from Edmonton, for one. No doubt about it, there are a few “lesser evils” on this roster, too. (Sorry, Ryan Carpenter.)

Ideally, there could be some fair free-agent value from someone like Vince Dunn, Chris Driedger, and Mike Reilly. Or maybe their rights could fetch a little something in a trade? That last part cements a funny thing even about this exercise: we don’t totally know if there are side deals set up between the Kraken and someone else. There are plenty of “meh” options that could be replaced by bad (ideally short) contracts for a premium price of picks and/or prospects.

Overall, the goal should be clear. Find value wherever you can, while not boxing yourself into corners. The best moves the Kraken make might end up being the ones they don’t make.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer

FORWARDS (18)
Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers
Jordan Eberle, Islanders
Yanni Gourde, Lightning
Joonas Donskoi, Avalanche
Jared McCann, Maple Leafs
Carl Hagelin, Capitals
Rocco Grimaldi, Predators
Christian Fischer, Coyotes
Ryan Carpenter, Blackhawks
Alexander Volkov, Ducks
Mason Appleton, Jets
Zack MacEwan, Canucks
Blake Lizotte, Kings
Colin Blackwell, Rangers
Zach Aston-Reese, Penguins (RFA)
Dominik Kahun, Oilers (RFA)
Ryan Donato, Sharks (RFA)

DEFENSE (9)
P.K. Subban, Devils
Mark Giordano, Flames
Colin Miller, Sabres
Brett Kulak, Canadiens
Troy Stecher, Red Wings
Dean Kukan, Blue Jackets
Joshua Brown, Senators
Jakub Zboril, Bruins
Jake Bean, Hurricanes (RFA)

GOALIES (3)
Ben Bishop, Stars
Kaapo Kähkönen, Wild
Chris Driedger, Panthers (UFA)

Total salary cap hit: $75.3 million

My goal here again was to limit long-term contracts as much as possible to keep my salary cap flexibility open for the future. So I resisted the urge to take too many of those big contracts that are sitting out there, so I avoided Carey Price, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and players like that. Any big money contract that I did take I tried to make sure it was short-term and tradeable. I figure Mark Giordano or P.K. Subban could be flipped with some salary retained to collect more assets.

Vladimir Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk, and Jordan Eberle are the exceptions on the big money deals, but they were far too intriguing to pass on and could help me be competitive in year one, especially in that division.

In goal, I stuck with Ben Bishop because, well, I just think if he is healthy the upside there in the short-term is substantial, and with him, Driedger, and Kähkönen I should have a good collection of goalies to keep me in games.

Picking Carey Price would be bold, risky (and chaotic) move for Kraken

Of all the big names to be left exposed for the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, none raised more eyebrows than the Canadiens’ decision to leave starting goalie Carey Price unprotected.

Price has been the face of the franchise for more than a decade, and just backstopped the team to a stunning appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

For Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, it is a very calculated gamble.

The Canadiens did not want to lose Jake Allen for nothing and could not find a suitable trade for him ahead of the 3 p.m. ET roster freeze on Saturday. Rather than make a bad trade or risk losing him, Bergevin decided to protect him and (at the suggestion of Price) play a rather bold game of chicken with Seattle.

[Related: NHL Mock Expansion Draft, projecting Kraken roster]

The thought process is simple: Montreal is banking on the fact that Seattle will not want to take on the remainder of Price’s contract that counts more than $10M against the cap per season for the next five years, especially as word leaks out that he could need surgery this offseason. When the Golden Knights entered the league in 2017 their expansion draft selections were loaded with players on short-term or expiring contracts to keep their salary cap flexibility in place. Kraken GM Ron Francis has already talked about how salary cap space is their big advantage, and it is hard to imagine they want to eat up too much of it on big-money, veteran players that other teams want to get rid of.

But Price is a very different situation. The Canadiens almost certainly do not want to lose him, and his exposure is entirely strategic based on the idea that they will not lose him.

The problem with that thought process is that if we are to believe reports that have surfaced since the expansion lists were set, Seattle is at least strongly considering the idea and apparently has the OK from ownership to take on the remainder of Price’s contract, even with his newly report health concerns.

It would be the type of move that seemed almost beyond comprehension just a few weeks ago and would be peak chaos for the NHL offseason.

[Related: NHL expansion draft: Best bargains, most interesting available players]

Argument for it: A face of the franchise and potential core building block

The obvious comparison here would be Vegas’ selection of Marc-Andre Fleury from the Penguins back.

Fleury was (and still is) a wildly popular player that was an instant marketing attraction for a new team trying to build a following. Price not only has that same sort of big name appeal, but he is also from the Pacific Northwest, just took a team to the Stanley Cup Final, and plays a position that could make him a significant impact player for a franchise just starting out.

It is not a stretch of a comparison.

Price, 33, is the same age that Fleury was when the Golden Knights selected him, and while his play the past couple of years has regressed from his peak, it is still on par with what Fleury was doing when he arrived in Vegas.

[Related: Lessons Kraken, rest of NHL can take from Golden Knights expansion draft]

Price has a .912 all situations save percentage and a .918 even-strength save percentage over the past three seasons, while also being money in each of his playoff appearances.

Fleury has a .918 all situations save percentage and a .922 even-strength mark in the three seasons before he went to the Golden Knights.

A slight edge to Fleury, but not dramatically so. Especially when you consider Fleury was playing behind a better team (a two-time Stanley Cup champion).

Argument against it: That contract carries a huge risk

Here is where the Fleury-Price comparison differs.

When Vegas added Fleury, he had two years remaining on his contract at a $5.5M salary cap hit. It was a low-risk move. Even if Fleury did not pan out as they had hoped, it was not going to be a cap-crushing contract or become an albatross. If anything, it probably would have been a tradable piece.

Price’s contract is an entirely different beast, still having five years at $10.5M per season remaining.

That’s a five-year, $52.5M investment (salary cap investment — it would be $44M in actual dollars) for a 33, and soon-to-be, 34-year-old goalie that might need surgery this offseason.

Even after re-signing Fleury to a three-year contract their overall investment in him was $31M over five years. And it is worth pointing out that by year three they had to acquire and re-sign another goalie (Robin Lehner) to complement him, and who finished each of the past two seasons starting over Fleury.

If Price does not provide what you hope, that is a big contract eating away at your one big advantage (salary cap space) tied to a player that will have a no-movement clause, complete control over where (or if) he goes if you can even find a team willing to take it. You could be end up being stuck.

Should Seattle pick Price?

It is an obviously intriguing idea, and one that Seattle has to seriously consider. A great goalie can completely change your franchise, and Price has a track record of being that type of player and still has the occasional ability to play at that level.

There is also an obvious PR and marketing win here with selecting him and making him the face of the franchise.

At the end of the day though it is still a results-based business based on wins. Is Price, at his age, and at that contract, still capable of playing at that level on a consistent basis? Of the 59 goalies that have appeared in at least regular 50 games over the past three seasons Price is 24th, 30th, and 20th respectively in all situations save percentage, even-strength save percentage and high-danger save percentage (via Natural Stat Trick).

Those are certainly not bad numbers, but they are not great, either. And for $10.5M per year against the cap over the next five years you better be expecting greatness.

There are a handful of goalies available in this very expansion draft that have comparable, or even better, numbers over the same time period with considerably less risk financially. It all comes down to how confident Seattle is that Price can be the goalie we saw in the playoffs on a more consistent basis, and how important it is for them to have a big name to build around.

It probably will not outweigh the on-ice risks. So for as bold as it would be, it would probably be best if Seattle went in a different direction with its goaltending position.

Price, Tarasenko, more: Biggest names (risks?) available in expansion draft

Before the protected and available players lists emerged, it seemed like the Kraken would be sifting through debris while making their expansion draft picks. The thinking was that, at best, they’d be unearthing diamonds in the rough. Instead, the Kraken must determine: is that big, shiny, flashing object (like Carey Price) worth a gamble?

In this post, PHT breaks down some of the biggest names (and contracts, and risks) available to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Wednesday represents when the Kraken’s expansion draft picks will be announced.

Later on, we’ll discuss potential values/steals available to the Seattle Kraken during this intriguing expansion draft.

Seattle Kraken expansion draft rules refresher

Now, you might want a refresher on the Seattle Kraken expansion draft rules. (If not, scroll to the next section.)

Each NHL team (except the Golden Knights) needed to choose to protect players under two alignment options:

  1. Protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie.
  2. Protecting any combination of eight skaters (example: four forwards, four defensemen), and a goalie.

That said, not every NHL player is involved, so some prospects were not available to the expansion draft. Meanwhile, NHL teams were forced to protect certain players because of contract factors. As the NHL explains:

* All players with no movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected and will be counted toward their team’s applicable protection limits.

* All first- and second-year professionals, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection and will not be counted toward protection limits.

So, the 30 NHL teams involved faced those considerations. What about some of the minimums and other factors for the Kraken in selecting players in the expansion draft? Here are some key details:

  • The Kraken must select at least: 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. They’ll need to select one player from all 30 teams in the expansion draft.
  • At least 20 players must be under contract for the 2021-22 season. That part of the process once made it tougher to put together these PHT lists.
  • The total cap hit must fall somewhere between 60-percent and 100-percent of the upper limit of the salary cap.
  • Starting on Sunday (July 18), the Kraken open a window to exclusively negotiate with pending free agents who were not protected by NHL teams. If the Kraken signed one of those free agents, that player would count as Seattle’s pick for a given team.

Want even more detail? The NHL’s rules explained how injuries and other factors work.

Price, Tarasenko, Ovechkin? Biggest names, risks available in Kraken expansion draft

OK, let’s run down some of the biggest names (and, usually, cap hits) available in the Kraken expansion draft. Check out the full list of available players here.

Carey Price: Expansion draft pros and cons

Could Carey Price echo Marc-Andre Fleury as a veteran goalie who became the “face” of an expansion franchise?

If you judge Price based on some strong playoff work, then many will utter an emphatic “Yes!” It’s unclear how much people show up at the box office for a big-name goalie. Still, Price could give the Kraken a marketable name right out of the expansion draft.

But, goodness, would that ever be a risk.

Price, 33, carries a $10.5M cap hit for five more seasons. His contract has ranked among the worst in the NHL, at least until his playoff resurgence. (Full disclosure: it still scares me. A lot.)

While Price waived his clause for the expansion draft, the Kraken can’t just assume they can turn around and trade him, either.

As Johnston mentions, Price also receives that $11M signing bonus. If the Kraken were guaranteed quality goaltending, it might be worth it. Even then, are we certain they wouldn’t just be wasting strong performances behind a flawed team?

Sure seems like a huge gamble with murky odds of success to me. We’ll see if Ron Francis and the Kraken disagree.

Tarasenko an interesting risk

After trying to trade Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues exposed him to the expansion draft. That alone raises some red flags about the 29-year-old.

With three shoulder surgeries (and the Blues’ side of that situation driving a wedge?), Tarasenko’s a risk. He only played 10 games in 2019-20, and 24 in 2020-21. When he played last season, Tarasenko looked far from the elite sniper he once was.

Can he regain that form? Maybe not, but the Kraken might find Tarasenko appealing if he merely can be, say, 80-percent of that player. Theoretically, the Kraken can trade Tarasenko in the event that he rebuilds his reputation.

His contract itself is a mixed bag. Most importantly, it only runs for two seasons. If Tarasenko’s toast, it won’t linger on the books for ages. (Price, meanwhile, could rapidly become an albatross.)

The actual structure of Tarasenko’s contract is especially interesting. While Tarasenko carries a $7.5M cap hit for two more seasons, he gets paid very differently. Next season, he’s a pricey $9.5M; in 2022-23, he costs merely $5.5M in actual salary.

Would the Kraken really want to pay that much up front? Maybe not. The risk-reward ratio is absolutely fascinating, though.

JVR, Voracek, interesting/pricey Flyers

The Flyers began their offseason push with a shrewd Ryan Ellis trade. Will the Flyers lose a prominent (and expensive) player to the expansion draft?

  • James van Riemsdyk, 32, carries a $7M cap hit for two more seasons. In an otherwise bleak season for the Flyers, JVR was incredible. He’s a little older, and not cheap. But that strong season, and not too much term, make him intriguing.
  • Jakub Voracek, 31, commands an $8.25M through 2023-24. It sure sounds like the team and player might be ready to part ways. He certainly can score, yet is that mix of money and term right for Seattle?
  • If you consider the tepid interest in acquiring Shayne Gostisbehere, maybe he warrants a mention. Ghost, 28, carries a $4.5M AAV for two more seasons.

Gotta say, I don’t hate the idea of giving JVR a shot. That said, maybe the Kraken believe there are better values on younger expansion draft options?

Flames expose Giordano

There was some debate over whether the Flames would protect Christopher Tanev or Mark Giordano in the expansion draft. Now, the Kraken get to debate the merits of selecting Giordano from the Flames in the expansion draft.

  • On one hand, he’s getting up there in age. Giordano is 37.
  • That said, he’s not that far removed from winning a Norris Trophy. While his play has slipped, he’s still one of the best defensive options available.
  • His $6.75M cap hit is pricey, yet the risk is low. The contract expires after next season.

In Seattle’s shoes, I’d snatch Giordano, then test the trade market. Would a great deal pop up during the offseason? Might something better come up at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline? If nothing else, Giordano’s the sort of veteran presence teams twist themselves into a pretzel to get.

Big names with the big free agent caveat

  • Technically, the Capitals did not protect Alex Ovechkin. Multiple reports indicate that the Kraken would be wasting their time picking Ovechkin in the expansion draft, though.

(Want one scenario where Ovechkin would make sense for the Kraken? Perhaps if they simply didn’t want to choose a Capitals player. They have some nice options, there, though.)

Lightning round: Subban, Quick, other expansion draft options for Kraken

Here are some of the other notable names.

  • Like Carey Price, P.K. Subban boasts “face of the franchise” potential. He’s expensive at $9M, though, even if that deal is expiring. Subban hasn’t enjoyed the redemption arc Price as, and it’s tough to imagine the Kraken taking a risk to give him a chance to do that.
  • What about Jonathan Quick? A side deal would really only make sense for a 35-year-old whose $5.8M AAV lasts for two more seasons.
  • The Lightning provided one truly great option (Yanni Gourde), another noteworthy name (Ondrej Palat), and someone who’d likely require a bribe (Tyler Johnson). Between Gourde and some nice young players like Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Boulet, the Kraken have some options. Maybe the Lightning bribe them?
  • Also intriguing: two Islanders forwards. Jordan Eberle, 31, is quite effective. His deal is a mixed bag: $5.5M cap hit for three more seasons. Meanwhile, Josh Bailey, 31, is slightly cheaper ($5M) and also sees his deal expire after 2023-24.
  • It would be a really, really bad idea to pick $8M Predators centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They must be mentioned, because wow.

OK, even faster lightning round. Some other names that stand out, with many falling into the “only if teams bribe the Kraken” category:

Lots to choose from

Again, PHT will go deeper on players viewed as the best values. Some players mentioned above may also make it into that mix.

Yet, if the Kraken merely just throw caution to the wind, they have a ton of fascinating expansion draft options, eh?

Pretty stunning stuff. How would you approach these choices? Are you in that Carey Price club? Do tell.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Islanders gain cap space, pick; Red Wings land Nick Leddy

The Islanders traded a prominent defenseman, seemingly for cap reasons, but this time they won. The Islanders didn’t just gain salary cap room in the Nick Leddy trade to the Red Wings; they also pried some assets from Detroit.

Islanders receive: Richard Panik (now at a $1.375M AAV for two more seasons with 50-percent retention) and a 2021 second-round pick (52nd overall).

Red Wings receive: Nick Leddy ($5.5M AAV, contract expires after next season).

Considering circumstances, Leddy trade a win for Islanders over Red Wings

It hasn’t been the best week for current and former Red Wings executives making good-value trades for former Blackhawks defensemen.

First, Ken Holland didn’t convince the Blackhawks to retain salary in sending Duncan Keith to the Oilers. Next, Steve Yzerman sent the Islanders a second-rounder, and retained salary for Panik, to relieve the pressure of Nick Leddy’s $5.5M cap hit. That translates to $4.125M in cap savings for the Islanders, not to mention the 52nd pick.

Leddy, 30, is entering a contract year. At the moment, he’ll be the Red Wings’ highest-paid defenseman from a cap hit perspective (Danny DeKeyser‘s close behind at $5M flat).

While the Islanders likely valued Leddy’s presence, he’ll need quite the rebound to deliver much value for the Red Wings:

Maybe the Red Wings simply believe Leddy is better than those numbers indicate? Perhaps they figure they need someone on that blueline? Theoretically, they may also be able to recoup comparable (or better?) trade assets for Leddy during the deadline?

Either way, it’s impressive stuff from GM of the Year Lou Lamoriello. This also marks another daunting moment for people who expect GMs to exploit leverage and cap desperation. (Apparently those failures aren’t merely limited to a lack of offer sheets.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panthers are in good hands, but face big challenges in taking next step

Get ready for a sentence I couldn’t imagine writing (unironically) not all that long ago. The Florida Panthers appear to be in … good hands?

For years, the Panthers blundered through some real mistakes. To be fair, Panthers GM Dale Tallon deserves the occasional bit of credit. Back in 2013, picking Aleksander Barkov ahead of Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones was mildly shocking. Today, it looks brilliant.

Unfortunately, Tallon made error after error around Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and a select few other positive standouts. Even when the Panthers found a gem out of the blue, they’d sometimes just sour on them for reasons. (Trading Jonathan Marchessault to get rid of Reilly Smith, possibly to keep Alex Petrovic, remains a profound head-scratcher.)

If you recall, Tallon’s response to regaining power over the short-lived Panthers “computer boys” prompted the veteran exec to utter “Thank God.” It’s early in the Bill Zito era, but after a single season, Panthers fans should be uttering that reaction.

Very positive early results

As a rule, I don’t love buying out players. While I’m sure the Panthers were champing at the bit to get rid of Keith Yandle, the savings from buying him out seem mediocre.

Even then, those quibbles melt away pretty quickly. If buying out Yandle simplified the Panthers’ expansion draft protection plan, then understood. If that was necessary to hand out potentially shrewd extensions to Anthony Duclair and Gustav Forsling? Then even better.

In a way, Duclair’s redemption arc almost matches that of the Panthers as a whole. A player and a team on a dramatic upswing:

But both contracts could serve up serious value for the Panthers.

Truly, retaining Duclair and Forsling feeds into a larger feeling around the Panthers.

This is a team that added a bunch of new players, most of whom were not particularly highly regarded. Credit Zito, Joel Quenneville, others, or a combination of factors, but the Panthers integrated new talent with aplomb.

Duclair and Sam Bennett probably stand as the most dramatic examples. In particular, it was astounding how seamlessly Bennett fit with Florida despite an in-season trade.

For a deeper look at how the Panthers mixed the right ingredients together with the right system, check out this from Jack Han.

While the Panthers fell to the Lightning in six games, there were times when it seemed like they were capable of something rare: making Tampa Bay a bit uncomfortable. Squint your eyes a bit, maybe picture a more stable goaltending situation, and you could imagine an even better Panthers team going forward.

3 Big obstacles as the Panthers hope to continue their climb

… There’s also some concern that the Panthers might struggle with an encore. Consider three key reasons why.

1. Ghosts of contracts past

As clever as Zito is, it’s tough to imagine the Panthers wiggling out of Sergei Bobrovsky‘s disastrous contract. At age 32, Bob carries that $10M cap hit through 2025-26 (five more seasons).

Such a contract is already taking up 12.3-percent of Florida’s space, and that’s assuming they’d ponder hitting the salary cap ceiling. It’s also a contract that can make other moves tougher. Would the Panthers be as willing to let Chris Driedger go if they weren’t stuck with Bobrovsky?

Adam Gretz broke down Yandle’s buyout details on Thursday:

2021-22: $2.34 million salary cap hit ($4 million salary cap savings)
2022-23: $5.3 million salary cap hit ($1.05 million salary cap savings)
2023-24: $1.24 million salary cap hit (-$1.24 million savings)
2024-25: $1.24 million salary cap hit (-$1.24 million savings)

Between Yandle, Roberto Luongo, and Scott Darling, the Panthers carry about $4.5M in dead money for at least 2021-22. If Bobrovsky’s a drag, that’s another $10M poorly spent.

For a team that has to be cost-conscious, that stings.

… And the Panthers would be wise to make any upcoming commitments either cap-friendly, or short-term.

2. Scary contract negotiations in the future?

When you’ve signed one of the best bargain contracts in the league, you gain quite the luxury. But then there’s the hangover-like feeling when the party’s over.

Aleksander Barkov, 25, carries a $5.9M cap hit for 2021-22, then he could become a UFA. It’s been a glorious six seasons, but payday’s approaching for the reigning Selke winner.

If I were the Panthers, I’d seek clarity regarding Barkov’s next contract. Frankly, I’d probably also want to extend Carter Verhaeghe (25, $1M for one more season, would be an RFA) sooner rather than later. If Verhaeghe sticks with Barkov and Duclair for another season, he could put up the sort of numbers that would make him far richer than his current steal-of-a-deal.

Two years down the line, there are other big potential stumbling blocks.

Like Barkov, 28-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau carries a mere $5.9M cap hit. He’ll need a new contract after 2022-23 (two seasons). Considering Huberdeau’s age, that might be complicated.

While the conversations were mostly limited to analytics circles, MacKenzie Weegar emerged with some dark horse Norris chatter in 2020-21. At 27, he’s a bargain at $3.25M (even if you’re not ready to ponder him as a borderline star) through 2022-23. Obviously, the Panthers wouldn’t mind if mainstream hockey people take longer to realize what they have in Weegar.

Promising goalie Spencer Knight, 20, will burn through his rookie contract after two more seasons, as well.

Now, the Panthers have some money coming off the books that should mitigate some challenges. Anton Stralman‘s just not who he once was, so it should be a relief to see that $5.5M evaporate after next season.

Overall, it might be crucial for the Panthers to remain sneaky-good (or better) in 2021-22. Doing so would maintain and potentially grow their fanbase. It may also be pivotal in convincing ownership to invest in keeping people like Barkov, Huberdeau, Weegar, and Knight in the fold.

(It might also be needed in bribing someone to take Bobrovsky off their hands … though that would be an easier sell down the road.)

3. A potentially deadly division

Look, it’s too early to truly know that the Atlantic Division will be brutal in 2021-22. That seems like the educated guess, however.

Consider what the Panthers could face:

  • Naturally, there’s the defending champions. This offseason could strike the Lightning hard, yet they have the core elements to contend again.
  • Despite some playoff heartache, the Bruins have a chance to be very, very good again. It’s not totally clear if Taylor Hall will be back, but Boston has room to remain among the elite.
  • Can the Maple Leafs get over the hump in the playoffs? Unclear. You’d be negligent to assume that they won’t be in the playoff mix, though.
  • Don’t count the Canadiens out after their Cinderella run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Even beyond that run, they’ve consistently been a competent-to-great team five-on-five. If Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield make them more dynamic, then look out.
  • The Senators, Red Wings, and Sabres are lesser concerns, no doubt. Every now and then, a rebuilding team makes a quicker leap than expected. Perhaps Ottawa could start to put things together?

Looking at the Atlantic Division, the Panthers might find themselves mainly eyeballing wild-card races.

Really, there would be no shame in that. The top five (Panthers included) looks pretty daunting a day before Seattle Kraken expansion draft protection lists are due.

For years, it often felt like the Panthers beat themselves. With some newfound hope, they seem a lot more competent, at least today. Unfortunately, taking the next step from competent to true contender won’t be easy.

Do you think they can pull it off?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.