Talk about a wild few days.
As NHL teams scrambled last week to decide which of their players would be eligible for the Expansion Draft, Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis sat back and watched.
“We certainly think there’s going to be some good players available,” Francis said, according to Sportsnet.
He was right. The Kraken will have an abundance of options as they fill their roster, including star players, overpaid veterans and promising prospects.
They will try to take advantage of cash-strapped teams looking to shed high-priced contracts in a flat-cap world.
But while there are countless good players available, Francis is not going to treat Wednesday’s Expansion Draft like fantasy hockey – he is going to be careful with his funds.
“The one thing we think is extremely, extremely important in this environment is cap space,” Francis said.
So, who are some of the players Francis can make members of the Kraken? Let’s take a look.
The Big Question
Carey Price, 33, Canadiens, $10.5 million/five years
The biggest name entering the Expansion Draft is Carey Price. After leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, general manager Marc Bergevin put his high-priced goalie on the exposed list to protect Jake Allen. It’s a true gambit — Price has strong connections to Washington and ownership has granted Francis permission to select their new face of the franchise, though it’s also been reported he’s dealing with injuries that may force him to miss all of next season. Seattle is also rumored to be closing in on a contract with Panthers goalie Chris Driedger. So, what will happen? At this time, it is anybody’s guess.
The Free Agents
Gabriel Landeskog, 28, Avalanche, UFA
The Avalanche have been unable to sign captain Gabriel Landeskog and subsequently left him unprotected. The once second-youngest captain in NHL history – he was named captain at 19 years and 286 days old – could provide the Kraken leadership, plus a strong body in front of the net. However, his new contract will cost the Kraken a lot.
Vince Dunn, 24, Blues, RFA
This would be a risky choice, but one with high potential. Vince Dunn is a disgruntled top-four defenseman with the chance to develop into a star. He recorded six goals, 14 assists and 20 points in 43 games last year and was a big contributor on a Stanley Cup champion team in 2019. With an influx of defenseman available, the Kraken selecting Dunn is unlikely, but his talent is undeniable.
Jake Bean, 23, Hurricanes, RFA
Jake Bean is a young blueline prospect who could be invaluable for the Kraken. The 23-year-old most likely would not cost much to re-sign given his inexperience, but he was selected 13th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft — when Francis was the general manager of the Hurricanes. Haydn Fleury, a former Hurricanes defenseman himself and current member of the Ducks, could also be selected.
Cal Foote, 23, Lightning, RFA
The Golden Knights were so successful because they drafted players that were undervalued on their old teams and turned them into stars. Cal Foote could be that and more for the Kraken. The 2017 first-round pick has played 35 games for the star-studded Lightning and was limited to just 12:53 a night. He has the potential – he scored 59 points in two seasons at the AHL level and notched 57 points for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League – and could be a gem for Francis.
Vladimir Tarasenko, 29, Blues, $7.5 million/two years
The Blues, who were looking to trade Vladimir Tarasenko after he requested a trade, seemingly are okay with losing their star forward for nothing. Nonetheless, the 29-year-old still has value, as he could be put on the Kraken’s top line or traded away to a team in need of scoring. While there is risk to selecting him – he has dealt with injury issues and poor play – Francis will certainly be tempted by the most talented forward available.
Ryan Johansen, 28, Predators, $8 million/four years
Every team needs a top center and Johansen would provide the Kraken with just that. While his cap hit is high, the Vancouver native has ties to the region and is a big, talented center in need of a change of scenery. Matt Duchene – who signed a seven-year deal with a modified NTC in 2019 – is also available.
Max Domi, 26, Blue Jackets, $5.3 million/one year
Son of former Rangers pugilist Tie Domi, Max Domi has put together a six-year NHL career himself. But now, his time with the Blue Jackets could be coming to an end, as general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen is ready to move on from his struggling forward. While Domi only recorded 24 points in 54 games last season under John Tortorella, Domi is one year away from unrestricted free agency and in need of a change of scenery – plus, he and his expiring contract could be flipped at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline for future assets.
Mark Giordano, 37, Flames, $6.75 million/one year
The end of an era could be near. Unless the Flames give up significant assets to entice the Kraken to pass on their captain – the price is reportedly a first- and third-round pick – the 37-year-old could be the anchor on the Kraken head coach’s Dave Hakstol’s blueline. Giordano – who is approaching 1,000 career games with the Flames and has been the captain since Jarome Iginla departed – is strong, cerebral and talented, too, and will potentially be a difficult loss for the retooling Flames.
Jordan Eberle, 31, Islanders, $5.5 million/three years
When healthy, the Islanders’ top line of Mathew Barzal, Eberle and Anders Lee is one of the best in hockey. The Kraken could be taking a piece from the trio. Eberle, who was acquired from the Oilers for Ryan Strome in 2017, has been a staple on the Islanders since his arrival – as has Josh Bailey, who is the longest-tenured Islander and also eligible to be claimed by the Kraken.