“Below the thunders of the upper deep, far, far beneath in the abysmal sea…”
Before last week, “The Kraken” was just a legend, notably popularized by Alfred Tennyson’s 1830 sonnet of the same name.
Now, the Kraken has officially surfaced.
On Friday, the National Hockey League’s 32nd franchise, which was awarded to the city of Seattle a year and a half ago, formally announced its team name and color scheme, which are both unusual and exciting.
Three contrasting shades of blue with a splash of red and a notable absence of the color white will likely sell tons of merchandise even before the team starts play in the 2021-22 season.
But much like the feared sea monster that inspired such scary tales, the Kraken will be lurking, waiting and watching. After next season, Seattle will draw one player from 30 other teams (with the exclusion of the Vegas Golden Knights) in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
If you remember just a few short years ago, Vegas aced the test, building a strong team through the draft that was both immediately successful and built for the long term as the Golden Knights enjoyed a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their first season and are also one of the top-four seeded teams in the Western Conference playoffs this year.
Vegas used fear tactics and salary cap space to work the trade lines prior to its expansion draft. The Knights plucked scorers such as William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron, James Neal, defenseman Nate Schmidt and Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc Andre Fleury via the expansion draft. Vegas also did some wheeling and dealing, acquiring Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore and several high draft picks as they allowed other teams to protect additional roster players of their choice.
It’s pretty crazy to think that the Columbus Blue Jackets surrendered a first-round and a second-round pick in addition to unloading Karlsson, who incidentally scored 43 goals his first year in Vegas.
What was the catch? Vegas took on injured forward David Clarkson’s contract and his $5.25 million cap hit within that deal.
This is where the Kraken will be extremely dangerous.
As the salary cap is now expected to remain flat for the next few years because of all the lost revenue caused by the coronavirus, teams will be squeezed to stay under the cap. Seattle will provide a release valve, but you can bet the Kraken will get plenty in return for taking on a bad contract or two.
The Flyers might be one of the teams that the Kraken is stalking.
The expansion rules will be identical to 2017, meaning the Flyers will have the option of protecting either seven forwards and three defenseman, or four forwards and four defensemen. They would protect one goalie in both scenarios, which in all likelihood is Carter Hart.
You can mark down Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes as two protected forwards no matter which option you take, as both have no-move clauses. Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny seem to be no-brainers, leaving only three other protected places among forwards.
The Flyers recently extended Oskar Lindblom on what could be a very fair $3 million/year contract and would probably like to keep him.
This would mean that the Flyers could protect only two of the following: Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick, Nicolas Aube-Kubel or any number of other forwards who may be on the Flyers’ roster at the end of next year.
On defense, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers seem like the logical pieces to keep, which would expose Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Flyers have the option of playing chicken with the Kraken. They could expose Voracek and JVR, hoping that Seattle would balk at taking a cap hit at either $8.25 and $7 million, respectively. Or maybe they sweeten the deal, throwing in a draft pick or a prospect to ensure one of those big contracts, or Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million cap hit, comes off the books. It might take a lot to get the Kraken to bite.
It might still be worth it.
Currently the Flyers have just under $26 million in projected cap space at the time of the expansion draft, but that includes salaries for only 10 players. It doesn’t include Patrick, Sanheim, Myers, Laughton, Aube-Kubel, Robert Hagg, Matt Niskanen, Hart, a backup goalie and six other players. Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe could fill two of those spots on entry-level contracts but it still will be a tight fit.
In other words, Philly will be feeling the cap crunch that only the Kraken could conquer. ••