How the Seattle Kraken could build a Stanley Cup contender in expansion draft

Jul 20 2021, 1:35 pm

The Seattle Kraken are set to introduce their newest roster of players at Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and it isn’t the craziest idea that they could be competing for a Stanley Cup right away.

The Kraken will be picking 30 new players from the NHL’s various rosters, excluding the recently expanded Vegas Golden Knights.

Vegas themselves provided the blueprint for how the Kraken could compete in the NHL as an expansion team, making the Stanley Cup Final in their very first season in the league. Under the same expansion protection rules, the Kraken could be posted to do something similar with their inaugural roster.

This roster is projected to earn 105 standings points using @JFreshHockey’s roster builder, which was high enough to finish second in the Western Conference team in the NHL’s last full 82-game season back in 2018-19. Generous? Maybe. Would every pick make sense past just one season? Likely not.

But however the draft goes on Wednesday, it does seem clear that the Kraken can be a pretty good team simply by picking up everyone else’s scraps.

Let’s start at the front and work our way backwards as we project what the Kraken could look like if they’re going for it all right away:

Forwards

  • Vladimir Tarasenko, Nashville Predators ($7.5 M, UFA 2023)
  • James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers ($7 M, UFA 2022)
  • Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders ($5.5 M, UFA 2024)
  • Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay Lightning ($5.16 M, UFA 2025)
  • Evgeni Dadonov, Ottawa Senators ($5M, UFA 2023)
  • Max Domi, Columbus Blue Jackets, ($5 M, UFA 2022)
  • Jared McCann, Toronto Maple Leafs ($2.94 M, RFA 2022)
  • Zack McEwen, Vancouver Canucks ($825K, RFA 2022)
  • Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers ($725K, UFA 2022)
  • Karson Kuhlman, Boston Bruins ($725K, RFA 2022)
  • Zach Aston-Reese, Pittsburgh Penguins (RFA)
  • Tyler Steenbergen, Arizona Coyotes (RFA)
  • Tyler Benson, Edmonton Oilers (RFA)
  • Ryan Donato, San Jose Sharks (RFA)
  • Adam Gaudette, Chicago Blackhawks (RFA)

There are a few big contracts here, and a lot of RFA negotiations to go through. But there’s still 10 forwards signed to NHL contracts next season: a great start for the new roster.

The biggest debate for the Kraken will be guys like James van Riemsdyk and Jordan Eberle. Both are big-name talents with impressive NHL resumes, but it is a fairly large chunk of cash to shell out for players who are in the latter half of their careers. If they do want to splurge on both though, it’s not impossible for them to make it work.

Max Domi is another gamble after a tough year in Columbus where he put up a statline of nine goals and 15 assists in 54 games. But if he’s able to return to his 72-point form he had in Montreal in 2018-19, he could be a heck of a talent for the Kraken.

Defencemen

  • Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames ($6.75 M, UFA 2022)
  • Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils ($3.7 M, UFA 2022)
  • Dylan DeMelo, Winnipeg Jets ($3 M, UFA 2024)
  • Troy Stecher, Detroit Red Wings ($1.7 M, UFA 2023)
  • Andrej Sekera, Dallas Stars ($1.5 M, UFA 2022)
  • Haydn Fleury, Anaheim Ducks ($1.3 M, RFA 2022)
  • Kurtis MacDermid, Los Angeles Kings ($875k, UFA 2022)
  • Gilbert Dennis, Colorado Avalanche (RFA)
  • Jake Bean, Carolina Hurricanes (RFA)

Led by Mark Giordano, the Kraken can immediately build a solid budget defence. Every player on this list offers NHL experience, with Dylan DeMelo’s surprising exposure from the Winnipeg Jets helping along matters as a great contract for the team’s future. A name like P.K. Subban would have been fun for the Kraken to grab, but his $9 million cap hit is a turnoff even for a team starting at zero.

It’s not exactly clear which of these six (or seven) players will become Kraken regulars, but that’s a good problem to have for a competitive roster.

Goalies

  • Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens ($10.5 M, UFA 2026)
  • Connor Ingram, Nashville Predators (825k, UFA 2022)
  • Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild (725k, RFA 2022)
  • Dustin Tokarski, Buffalo Sabres (725k, UFA 2022)
  • Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (716k, RFA 2022)

Carey Price’s cap hit is high, but he’s proven that he’s a heck of a goalie with his recent playoff performance. Kaapo Kahkonen could work as a great backup or tandem goalie, with Connor Ingram and Dustin Tokarski forming Seattle’s AHL duo. If the starting two spots are locked in, Vitek Vanecek could be used as a trade chip to shore up the rest of the Kraken roster.

Full Kraken opening night roster projection:

Overall, the above roster comes through with $11 million in cap space to finish up their roster, but that’s before signing any of their RFAs. As is the case with any mock draft, we’ll have to make some assumptions about how those players will sign.

Additionally, just 23 names will make the final roster, with demotions and trades to shake things up before the season gets going this Wednesday.

Allocating a cap hit of an even $1 million for MacEwen and Donato, $3 million for Aston-Reese and $3.5 million for Bean, puts the team at a cap hit of $80.4 million.

Will all the contract negotiations go THAT smoothly? Unlikely.

It might be a big if, but if they can get everyone signed, the 23-man roster in September could look something along the lines of this:

Tarasenko – Gourde – van Riemsdyk
Eberle – McCann- Dadonov
Aston-Reese – Domi – Gaudette
Donato – Blackwell- MacEwen
Kuhlman

Giordano – DeMelo
Bean – Butcher
Fleury – Stecher
Sekera – MacDermind

Price
Kahkonen

It appears to be a decent roster on paper. Whether it’s good enough for the Kraken to win the Stanley Cup in year one remains to be seen.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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