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Among the many draft picks Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli broke prior to the Expansion Draft was the Kraken choosing winger Kole Lind from the Canucks. And by the final choice of the night, rumour became reality.
The loss of Lind to the Canucks’ new geographical rival isn’t an absolute back breaker, but still a tough pill to swallow for Vancouver’s development system. The former 2017 second rounder was one of just eight skaters drafted outside the first round in the Jim Benning era to suit up for the big club, playing seven NHL games last season with no points scored.
The Canucks are preparing their game plan for one of the most important offseasons in franchise history, with era altering extensions to be negotiated, depth roles to be filled and prospects to be drafted. But before Jim Benning, his new advisors Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and the rest of the Canucks front office can make their own summer plans, they have to let their brand new archrival jump start their own future.
On Wednesday the Seattle Kraken will select one player from every NHL team (except Vegas) to fill out their inaugural season roster through the Expansion Draft. Every team was able to protect 11 players before the official roster freeze on Saturday, with teams scrambling to find new homes for players likely to get taken by the Kraken, and the Canucks took full advantage by adding shutdown centre Jason Dickinson from Dallas in exchange for a third round draft pick.
With the acquisition of Dickinson the Canucks have not only found a more than capable replacement for the outgoing Brandon Sutter, but one last forward worth adding to their finalized expansion protection list. Vancouver’s list is comprised of seven forwards – Dickinson, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Motte – three defenders – Tyler Myers, Nate Schmidt and Olli Juolevi – plus a goalie, Thatcher Demko.
That leaves a few interesting options for the Kraken to choose from, including goaltender Braden Holtby, winger Kole Lind and unrestricted free agent defensemen Alex Edler, who informed the Canucks last week of his intentions to test the open market.
Who the Kraken choose to take from the Canucks isn’t as cut and dry as it is in other places. A lot of it depends on how competitive Seattle GM Ron Francis feels his team can be from opening night.
Thanks to plenty of high quality players being made available like Tampa’s Yanni Gourde and the Islanders’ Josh Bailey, coupled with being placed in a pretty weak Pacific Division, the Kraken will likely be able to field a playoff bound team right out of the gate. That possibility would make a goalie with Stanley Cup experience on his resume a particularly attractive candidate, which is where Braden Holtby might come in.
Holtby has struggled to live up to his 2018 Cup winning performance over the last few seasons, and in 2021 with the Canucks he set a career low .889 save percentage as Thatcher Demko’s backup. Add his $4.3 million cap hit to the mix and that might be enough to keep Seattle away.
But he does present an interesting alternative to another goalie with a recent Finals appearance under their belt: Montreal’s Carey Price. To the surprise of many, Price chose to waive his no-move clause so the Canadiens could protect Jake Allen. The Kraken could elect to take the former Hart Trophy winner fresh off leading the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final, but a number of injury concerns and his massive $10.5 million cap hit would be an immediate no-go for most.
Holtby might not have the Washington junior hockey connection that Price does, but he is still a goalie with name recognition as an All-Star and a Cup winner that costs $6 million less per year. He also only has one year left on the deal he signed in Vancouver last offseason compared to Price’s five, minimizing the risk of choosing him further. But with quite a few other decent goalies available, expecting the Kraken to take Holtby is easier said than done.
If the Kraken feel they can field a competitive group of goalies without Holtby, then the other obvious candidate is Kole Lind. Lind’s chances of making the opening night roster for Seattle would be pretty slim, but he would make for a great initial member of their farm system. After a 44 point season with the Utica Comets in 2019-20 and eight points in 8 AHL games this year, Lind is just on the cusp of earning regular NHL ice time, further proven by his 7 games with the Canucks and the end of 2021.
The Verdict: According to insiders the Kraken have shown active interest in choosing Holtby, provided the Canucks are willing to throw in a sweetener for Seattle taking on his full $4.3 million cap hit. While it is possible that such a deal could fall through or the ask is just a smokescreen for their interest in Lind, I think Holtby will be the Canuck who ends up in a Kraken uniform by Wednesday.
The Bigger Picture
Shockingly, the Canucks don’t exactly have the deepest pool of NHLers for the Kraken to choose from. But that’s why Ron Francis and his front office have 29 other teams to take players from. The options available to the Kraken from the rest of the NHL includes a mixture of young players looking for their big break, over the hill veterans on untradeable contracts and, new from even the Vegas draft, the occasional bonafide first liner.
With the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning in salary cap hell, Seattle will get their choice between a number of the Bolts biggest contributors including Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat. The Islanders elected to protect grinders Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, giving Seattle the chance to choose between key goal scorers Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey. And I don’t need to tell you about “Legend of” Troy Stecher.
As part of an exercise for our newest CreaseCast episode, I took a shot at assembling the best possible lineup for Seattle’s inaugural lineup. There is a possibility that the Kraken choose to use their exclusive negotiation rights with the league’s pending unrestricted free agents to choose some bigger names – such as the earlier report about Florida’s Chris Driedger – or add additional players via trade, but I chose to keep my roster exclusively built with players already under contract or entering restricted free agency.
If there’s one other name besides Driedger’s that’s worth keeping an eye on from the UFA class, it’s Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. After vastly outplaying his last seven year deal while making only $5.57 million per year, contract talks with Colorado appear to have stalled out for the time being. If Seattle has played their cards right and left themselves some solid cap room, it might be in the Kraken’s best interest to make the 28 year-old left winger a big offer.
But no matter who Seattle chooses to don the original Kraken sweaters, we’re all guaranteed an Expansion Draft evening filled with absolute chaos. And that’s just from trying to figure out who the fish throwing vendors at Pikes Place Market will pick.
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