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Winners and losers from the NHL expansion draft

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July 22nd, 2021

The Seattle Kraken have taken another step toward becoming a full-fledged NHL team, as their expansion draft – replete with leaked picks – is now complete. Let’s take a look at the early winners and losers from the process.

Winners

Mark Giordano

Former Calgary Flames captain and Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano is the early favorite to be named the captain of the Kraken.

“This is a guy who has a reputation around the league, just the way [Giordano] plays the game and takes care of himself and everything he does in the community,” Seattle GM Ron Francis told reporters on Wednesday. “We get a chance to establish our culture from Day 1, and we certainly want him to be a part of that.”

Giordano could become a key player in a postseason run for the Kraken in their inaugural season, or he could get flipped at the deadline to a contender as his contract expires at the end of next year.

Chris Driedger

Despite putting up solid numbers in his brief stints in the NHL (2.09 GAA, .929 save % over 38 games), 27-year-old Chris Driedger is getting his first opportunity to be the No. 1 option between the pipes with the Kraken.

He should get a leg-up from what looks like a strong top two defensive pairings in Giordano and Adam Larsson, and Vince Dunn and Jamie Oleksiak, respectively.

Losers

The Edmonton Oilers

Oilers fans are likely fuming after watching Larsson walk to a Seattle team for the same exact terms (four years, $16 million) that Edmonton was offering. However, Oilers brass made their own bed to an extent, thanks to the Duncan Keith trade from less than two weeks ago.

Edmonton inexplicably picked up the entire $5.5 million owed to the declining 38-year-old Keith, and sent both Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 NHL Draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps if they’d offered a bit more money to Larsson, the Oilers might have been able to hang onto him.

Teams looking to shed big contracts

The list of teams that dangled household names with big contract hits, only to be spurned by Seattle, is as long as this author’s arm.

The Philadelphia Flyers offered James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere to the Kraken, but the NHL’s 32nd team opted for the little-known Carsen Twarynski instead. The St. Louis Blues tried to give away the oft-injured and disgruntled Vladimir Tarasenko, but Seattle took a far more appealing option in Dunn.

The Montreal Canadiens exposed playoff hero Carey Price in a surprise move, but Seattle wouldn’t bite, instead opting for defense prospect Cale Fleury. The Nashville Predators hoped to shed $8 million in salary from either Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen, but had no such luck, as Seattle decided to pluck inexpensive forward Calle Jarnkrok.

Too early to tell

The Seattle Kraken

When the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league in 2017, their expansion draft was littered with side deals, and GM George McPhee utilized the many additional assets he accrued to secure a Stanley Cup Finals berth in his team’s historic opening campaign. Francis went the complete opposite direction, working out no side deals prior to the expansion draft.

Francis’ asking prices may simply have been to high, or rival GMs were much more leery of making side deals after getting fleeced left and right just four years ago. Whatever the reason, the Kraken now have over $27 million in available cap space to spend.

Depending on what happens in this weekend’s NHL Draft and in free agency, we should soon have a better idea of how Seattle will fare when the puck drops in October.

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