The waters are calm, for now.
The final tally for the Seattle Kraken: 15 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goalies and, most importantly, nearly $29 million in cap space. In many ways, the Kraken’s draft followed in the footsteps of the Golden Knights’: a ton of defensemen, a ton of depth players who don’t seem to have long-term futures with the club and may be traded for other assets at a later time, and a desire to leverage as much of their cap space as they can.
While no trades were announced during the official roster reveal, it is believed that the Kraken have their tentacles wrapped around multiple deals. If this is the team the Kraken planned on going with to start their inaugural season, it’s going to raise a lot of eyebrows simply because they left so much talent on the table. The Kraken are young with just two players over the age of 30 on their current roster, but they also ended up with only three players with a cap hit higher than $5 million and just 10 players signed beyond next season.
Here’s a breakdown of the most curious picks and what was left on the expansion draft table:
Tyler Pitlick, RW, Arizona Coyotes ($1.75 million, 2022 UFA)
It was slim pickings from the Coyotes roster, but there was a band of young, low-cost depth players they could choose from, or otherwise pick an aging but serviceable UFA defenseman. The Kraken ended up picking Pitlick, which was a curious decision because Christian Fischer, also a penalty killer but five years younger and signed to a cheaper contract, was available. But, remember the expansion draft is just the first step in the Kraken’s team-building process, and NHL Network correspondent Craig Morgan reports that Pitlick may be flipped for additional assets at a later time. There were a few eyebrow-raising picks made by the Kraken, but if Pitlick and his impending deal is any indication, it’s that there are a lot more transactions to come.
John Quenneville, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (2021 UFA)
Following a similar thread with their pick from the Coyotes, Quenneville was another curious pick, but significantly more so because he’s a UFA. The Kraken could’ve gone a number of ways: a backup in either Malcolm Subban or Collin Delia, a defenseman in Nikita Zadorov or Calvin de Haan, or cheap depth under contract in Adam Gaudette or Ryan Carpenter. It’s possible that the Kraken’s dealings with the Blackhawks are not done with perhaps a draft pick going their way. In 2017, when GM Ron Francis was in charge of the Hurricanes, he dealt a fifth-round pick to ensure the Golden Knights picked forward Connor Brickley from their roster, who was a pending UFA like Quenneville. Two questions: Who did the Blackhawks not want the Kraken to pick? And why wasn’t a trade attached to the expansion pick itself? If the Kraken’s answer to the Blackhawks’ poo-poo platter of players was to simply say “no,” is this considered good asset management?
Nathan Bastian, RW, New Jersey Devils ($714,166, 2023 RFA)
Maintaining the maximum amount of cap space was clearly paramount in the Kraken’s draft strategy, so they eschewed P.K. Subban’s $9-million cap hit and sought cheaper options than Andreas Johnsson’s $3.4-million and Will Butcher’s $3.8-million to address their depth. Bastian is a low-key good pick; a second-round pick from 2016, he’s a 6-foot-4, right-shot winger with decent hands around the net who could move up and down the lineup, and Dave Hakstol had success with a similar (albeit much better) player in Wayne Simmonds in Philadelphia.
Morgan Geekie, C, Carolina Hurricanes ($763,333, 2022 RFA)
Nino Niederreiter made a lot of sense – he’s a versatile winger with very good possession numbers – but he has an expensive cap hit ($5.25 million) and Francis wasn’t the GM who traded for him in Carolina. Dougie Hamilton would’ve only made sense if he was willing to sign before July 28. Jake Bean was the other obvious choice, but there were plenty of options on defense for the Kraken, so they settled on a right-shooting versatile forward in Geekie. It’s a curious choice because it’s unclear where Geekie fits into the lineup; there’s little indication he’s anything more than a bottom-six forward and he’ll have to go through waivers if he’s demoted to the American League. Francis would know the Canes as well as anyone, so he might see something in Geekie that nobody else does.
Carsen Twarynski, LW, Philadelphia Flyers (2021 RFA) and Kole Lind, RW, Vancouver Canucks (2021 RFA)
Both Twarynski and Lind were surprise picks, but the Kraken were not going to do anyone any favours. In this case, both the Flyers (Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk) and the Canucks (Braden Holtby) had players who seemed like ideal choices, but picking them also meant relieving their opponents of a cap crunch, and the Kraken are much more interested in twisting that dagger. But the Kraken aren’t completely heartless – after re-uniting brothers Cale and Haydn Fleury, they did it again by re-uniting Twarynski and Lind, who were teammates for a very talented Kelowna Rockets squad.
Gavin Bayreuther, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (2021 UFA)
There might be an asset pick going the Kraken’s way in exchange for them to not take a certain player, perhaps Dean Kukan or prospects Kevin Stenlund and Gabriel Carlsson. The one thing Bayreuther is known for is shooting the puck, and the 2017 analogy would be Jason Garrison, whom the Knights picked from the Lightning. Garrison ended up leading the Knights’ AHL affiliate in scoring among defensemen while appearing in a handful of games as a call-up, and Bayreuther may play the same role as a veteran depth defenseman who could pass through waivers without much fear of getting claimed by another team. The Kraken could use guys who could clap bombs from the blue line, but this could be a similar situation with the Blackhawks – the Kraken may have had simply said “no thanks” to all of the Jackets’ offerings and elected to save their cap space.
Cale Fleury, D, Montreal Canadiens (2021 RFA)
In retrospect, it’s not surprising at all the Kraken passed on Carey Price. From the start, they were an analytically-driven front office that was determined to leverage their cap space. Price does not tick either of those boxes, and perhaps news of him waiving his no-move clause came so late that the Kraken did not want to significantly alter their draft strategy. Shea Weber’s career may be in jeopardy due to injuries and Jonathan Drouin was also a risk after taking time off for personal reasons, so they opted for Fleury. There’s always a market for young defensemen, especially righties like Fleury, and it’s a nice gesture to reunite him with brother Haydn.
Kurtis MacDermid, D, Los Angeles Kings ($875,000, 2022 UFA)
MacDermid’s 6-foot-5 and right-handed, and there’s always a market for defensemen like him. That’s probably the thinking here because it doesn’t look like he has a long-term future with the Kraken barring a big breakout campaign at 27 years old. The Kings offered up some intriguing choices – spark plug Blake Lizotte, prospect Kale Clague, two-time Cup winner Jonathan Quick among them – but the Kraken never took the bait. There is, however, a family tie – MacDermid’s father, Paul, played for the Hartford Whalers and was teammates with Francis.
Carson Soucy, D, Minnesota Wild ($2.75 million, 2023 UFA)
Conventional wisdom suggested Kaapo Kahkonen, who showed potential to be a starting goaltender one day, winning 16 of his 24 appearances and finishing 15th in Calder Trophy voting despite his limited appearances. When word leaked that the Kraken were taking Vitek Vanecek from the Capitals, it made picking Kahkonen redundant; both were young goalies who flashed a lot of potential and would be waiver-exempt to start the season. The Kraken didn’t need to draft more than three goalies, so they opted for Soucy, who skates and moves the puck very well for someone who is 6-foot-5 and gives you solid third-pairing minutes. He could be a good trade piece, too.
Vince Dunn, D, St. Louis Blues (2021 RFA)
Vladimir Tarasenko probably ended up just being too risky for the Kraken, coming off three shoulder surgeries and a couple of subpar seasons, but he was also sought after by multiple teams and could’ve been flipped for something else. It’s entirely possible the Kraken simply refused to do any favors for the Blues and would find other ways to acquire Tarasenko after picking Dunn, a younger, cost-effective defenseman whose underlying numbers suggest he can be a very good top-four defenseman. Dunn has the ability to quarterback a power play, and looking at the Kraken roster, other than Mark Giordano there doesn’t seem anybody else who would be able to do it. Enter… Dougie Hamilton?!
Joey Daccord, G, Ottawa Senators ($750,000, 2023 RFA)
The Kraken needed a third-string goalie and Daccord fits the bill. He’s under contract for two more seasons and he’ll be an RFA when it expires, giving the Kraken a lot of control. However, for a team that’s short on centers at the moment – the Knights had the same problem until the solution presented itself with William Karlsson’s surprise 43-goal season – Chris Tierney on a $3.5-million cap hit with just one year remaining on his deal seemed like an ideal choice. Daccord is also coming off a season-ending leg injury though he’s expected to be healthy for the start of the 2021-22 season.