The “dust has settled” cliché doesn’t actually apply to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft yet. The dust has not settled. We don’t know yet which trades they might announce after the league-wide freeze lifts at 1:00 p.m. ET Thursday or which additional UFAs they might sign come July 28 when the market opens for all 32 franchises.
What we do know, so far, is how each other NHL team positioned itself coming out of an expansion draft in which zero trades were made that would've qualified as “expansion draft considerations.” Per NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, any trades made in which Seattle took a player or avoided taking a player to help that player’s team in exchange for other assets would’ve had to be announced when the Kraken submitted their team at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday. So there were no bail-out trades. Trades involving Seattle flipping players it drafted Wednesday can still happen, of course.
With no trades made Wednesday, understanding the winners and losers after day 1 of the expansion draft ties more to the picks themselves rather than any deals struck. Who came out ahead or behind? Note that the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t make the “winner” list despite the fact Minnesota retained goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and the Penguins shed left winger Brandon Tanev’s contract. If we look at the totality of the expansion draft in the days leading up to it, the Wild still paid punitive buyout prices for defenseman Ryan Suter and left winger Zach Parise, while the Penguins lost left winger Jared McCann on top of Tanev. So I’d put those teams in a “break even at best” category.
On to the winners and losers.
WINNER: Carolina Hurricanes
Will all due respect to center Morgan Geekie’s potential, defenseman Jake Bean’s is higher, and right winger Nino Niederreiter is an important contributor to the top six forwards on a Stanley Cup contender. It was quite a coup for Carolina to retain both.
WINNER: Colorado Avalanche
The Avs want to re-sign RFA defenseman Cale Makar, UFA left winger Gabriel Landeskog and UFA goaltender Philipp Grubauer. They really needed Seattle to swipe a chunky contract from them, the most realistic target was right winger Joonas Donskoi, and the Kraken indeed bit on him. That’s $3.9 million freed up for GM Joe Sakic during a crucial off-season.
WINNER: Montreal Canadiens
We can wring our hands over Carey Price’s contract all we want, but it would’ve been a dark moment for the franchise to lose him days after he led them to their first Stanley Cup final in 28 years.
WINNER: Winnipeg Jets
After protecting D-man Logan Stanley, it seemed a lock for Winnipeg to lose shutdown blueliner Dylan DeMelo or require a side deal to save him. Our understanding based on Daly’s comments is that any “save DeMelo” compensation would’ve been announced by now, meaning the Kraken straight-up just passed on him for right-winger Mason Appleton.
LOSER: Edmonton Oilers
Boy, have the Oilers and GM Ken Holland taken a beating in the past few weeks. The traded defenseman Caleb Jones and a third-round pick for 38-year-old Duncan Keith and retained all $5.5 million of his salary when, arguably, just one of those three sacrifices should’ve sufficed. They protected Keith, who has a no-movement clause, and thus had no protection spot available for right-handed defenseman Adam Larsson, who ended up signing with Seattle for four years at an affordable AAV of $4 million. Yikes. So the Oilers essentially traded Adam Larsson, a third-round pick and Jones for Keith.
LOSER: Nashville Predators
Not only do they lose a cheap and malleable forward in left winger Calle Jarnkrok, but the Preds couldn’t strike a bail-out deal for center Ryan Johansen or center Matt Duchene. It was probably wishful thinking that Seattle would take on either of their sky-high cap hits.
LOSER: St. Louis Blues
It was telegraphed for months, pretty much, that the Blues would lose a quality puck-moving blueliner in Vince Dunn. That theoretically gave GM Doug Armstrong lots of time to shop Dunn and ensure he got something for him, as the Nashville Predators did with right winger Viktor Arvidsson and the Dallas Stars did with center Jason Dickinson. Instead, Dunn was still dangling there when it came time for Seattle to pick its team. General manager Ron Francis passed on pricy right winger Vladimir Tarasenko and scooped Dunn for free.
LOSER: Washington Capitals
Yes, the Caps have Ilya Samsonov in place as their long-term No. 1 goalie. But Vitek Vanecek established himself as a legitimate 1B stopper in 2020-21 and, more importantly, did so with an AAV of $716,667. It will be hard to find a new No. 2 at that price, meaning Washington will have to spend cap space it really doesn’t have on a backup netminder now. They have already committed $71.7 million for next season and have not yet re-signed a UFA named Alex Ovechkin. Gulp.
JURY STILL OUT: Seattle Kraken
This designation is still subject to change. It was mind-boggling to learn that Francis didn’t strike a single side deal. He claimed that teams just were far more wary of making any after the Vegas Golden Knights exploited their advantages in 2017. Francis also implied that he doesn’t have many subsequent trades in the drawer. The upside of not making side deals is that the Kraken didn’t take on any truly awful contracts and still have a lot of cap space. They can weaponize it in future trades or in making plays for additional UFAs, so it’s too early to judge Francis’ off-season plan yet.