The Seattle Kraken will get to choose from some of the NHL's biggest names as they pick their inaugural team on Wednesday.
Clubs across the league scrambled to protect their assets with last-minute moves on Saturday. The flurry of activity didn't surprise Kraken general manager Ron Francis.
“Teams knew we were coming and they’ve had four years to prepare," he said as rosters were frozen ahead of the expansion draft.
Despite the deals, Seattle has plenty of options for stocking its locker room. Here's a look at some of the talent the Kraken could poach from Canadian teams:
The biggest name on the Flames' unprotected list is captain Mark Giordano. The 37-year-old defenceman has played his entire 15-season career for Calgary and won the Norris Trophy as the league's best blueliner in 2019. His offensive production has dropped, however, with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 56 games last season. Giordano has one year left on his contract with a US$6.75 million cap hit.
The Oilers left both of their starting goalies exposed, though Mike Smith's fate is already uncertain with the 39-year-old set to become an unrestricted free agent next week. Smith was stellar for Edmonton last season, boasting 21-6-2 record with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in the regular season. Mikko Koskinen, meanwhile, has one year left on his deal with a US$4.5 million cap hit. The six-foot-seven Finn has had mixed success with the Oilers, including a 13-13-0 record with a 3.17 goals-against average and .899 save percentage last year.
Carey Price is one of the biggest names available to Seattle. The 33-year-old waived his no-trade clause in order to land on the unprotected list, but he comes with a steep price tag. The all-star netminder has five years left on his deal with an average annual value of US$10.5 million. Price proved his worth in the playoffs last season, guiding the Habs to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 13-9-0 record with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Recent reports about his health could raise questions, though, of whether the netminder will be fit to play next season.
Montreal left some other high-profile players unprotected, including unrestricted free agent forwards Phillip Danault and Corey Perry, and left-winger Paul Byron, who has two years left on his contract at US$3.4 million per year. Captain Shea Weber is on the list, but the 35-year-old defenceman's future remains murky amid a number of reported injuries.
The Sens opted to keep several of their young stars safe, and in the process, had to expose Evgenii Dadonov. The 32-year-old Russian right-winger had 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) last season, and has two years left on his deal with an average annual value of US$5 million. Goalie Matt Murray is also on Ottawa's unprotected list after struggling to a 10-13-1 record with a 3.38 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage last year.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto was one of the clubs to take advantage of roster crunches in other markets on Saturday, picking up forward Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward prospect Filip Hallander and a seventh-round draft pick in 2023. The 25-year-old had 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) last season, but the Leafs left McCann available to Seattle.
Also on Toronto's unprotected list are Alex Kerfoot — a 26-year-old centre who registered 23 points (eight goals and 15 assists) last season — and veteran forward Jason Spezza, who put up a solid 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in the regular season last year and has an enticing one-year deal left at a league-minimum $750,000.
Vancouver also did some business leading up to Saturday's roster freeze, acquiring forward Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a third-round pick in this week's entry draft. Unlike the Leafs, the Canucks opted to protect their new asset.
Goalie Braden Holtby was among the players left exposed by the club. The 31-year-old had a tough season with the Canucks, finishing with a 7-11-3 record, a 3.67 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage. But Holtby has reached hockey's highest heights before, winning the Vézina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2016 and capturing the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018. The netminder's contract could prove prohibitive, though — the single year left on his deal comes with a US$4.3 million cap hit but Holtby is still due $5.7 million in salary.
In addition to unrestricted free agents Paul Stastny, Derek Forbort and Mathieu Perrault, the Jets left 25-year-old forward Mason Appleton exposed. The six-foot-two, 193-pound centre tallied 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 56 regular-season appearances last year and added three more (one goal, two assists) in eight playoff outings. Appleton has one year left on his deal at an affordable US$900,000 cap hit.
Winnipeg defenceman Dylan DeMelo is also available. The 28-year-old isn't the most offensive blueliner with nine assists in 52 regular-season games last year, but he also had 20 penalty minutes and averaged 16:58 in ice time.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press