The Kraken has been released – and it may already have its tentacles on bigger deals.
With Seattle’s expansion draft selections due Wednesday morning, the 32nd NHL franchise’s player choices have begun to leak ahead of the official roster announcement set for 8 pm on ESPN2. Word is the Kraken snatched Colin Blackwell from the Rangers, but the selection could swirl into a more significant move.
The Blueshirts are zeroing in on veteran defenseman Mark Giordano, who was exposed by the Flames and reportedly taken by the Kraken in the expansion draft. Seattle, The Post has learned, has interest in Rangers forward Ryan Strome and could be willing to retain a portion of Giordano’s salary to strike a deal.
Strome, whose production has increased over the last two seasons (108 points in 126 games) with help from playing next to star Artemi Panarin, could also be part of the Rangers’ package deal for disgruntled Sabres star Jack Eichel.
Seattle and Buffalo are just two of several teams believed to be in on Strome.
Despite rumblings of a larger deal in place, Seattle general manager Ron Francis opted to select Blackwell over Julien Gauthier. Blackwell made a name for himself in his first season with the Rangers in 2020-21, breaking out for 12 goals and 10 assists in 47 games. In addition to his contagious work ethic and attitude, Blackwell comes with a cheap $725,000 cap hit before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Islanders, according to several reports, are expected to lose top-line winger Jordan Eberle to the Kraken. Eberle may have been a top-three scorer for the Isles this past season with 16 goals, plus four more in the playoffs, but his departure will help the organization financially.
Clearing cap space this offseason has been a priority for Lou Lamoriello, who appears to be preparing for a big trade or signing. The Islanders general manager began by shipping Nick Leddy and his $5.5 million cap hit to Detroit, in exchange for Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round pick, and then unloaded Andrew Ladd’s $5.5 million average annual value over the next two seasons to the Coyotes, along with a handful of picks to sweeten the deal, for zero return.
Now that the Kraken has taken Eberle, who has three years remaining with a $5.5 AAV, Lamoriello has managed to free up $16.5 million in cap space in less than a week.
The Islanders now have roughly $17.6 million in cap space and can add Johnny Boychuk’s $6 million cap hit via long-term injured reserve when the 2021-22 season begins in October. While there’s suddenly a bit of room to work with, Lamoriello still has to sign restricted free agents Adam Pelech, Ilya Sorokin and Anthony Beauvillier.
Considering Lamoriello opted to protect two-thirds of the fourth “Identity” line in Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck in the expansion draft, it’s safe to assume that pending unrestricted free agent Casey Cizikas will be brought back as well.
There are a handful of players the Islanders could target come the start of free agency on July 28. Zach Parise, who Lamoriello drafted for the Devils in 2003 at No. 17, is believed to be on the Isles’ radar after the veteran winger was bought out by the Wild. To replace Leddy, Lamoriello could go after Ryan Suter – also bought out by Minnesota – or Alec Martinez, the only left-handed defenseman expected to hit the UFA market with similar numbers to Leddy. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who may also become a free agent, is also a possibility and would seemingly be a perfect for for the Islanders’ top-six.
Now that Eberle is gone, however, Lamoriello may have a replacement already in house in Kyle Palmieri. The 30-year-old pending UFA played a major role in the Islanders’ second consecutive run to the Stanley Cup semifinals and could be willing to take a lower deal to take another crack at winning a championship on Long Island.
Additionally, the Kraken reportedly nabbed Nathan Bastian from the Devils. Bastian, who signed a two-year extension with the Devils last month, is a young depth winger that brings energy and physicality. The 23-year-old recorded three goals, seven assists and a team-high 136 hits in 41 games this past season.