Creating the Kraken: a mock Seattle expansion draft
What a great website CapFriendly is — it’s such a delight and useful. The fine folks over there have an expansion draft creator that is a lot of fun to use. They’ve loaded up the actual real expansion lists, so now is the time to create your own version of the Seattle Kraken.
My main goal was to create a competitive team, however the Kraken have a blank slate financially against the salary cap, in a climate where the cap is likely to remain flat for years to come. Therefore, I made it a priority to consider how to position my team for the future and try to maintain maximum flexibility in the years to come.
Some rules to remember: Seattle must take at least 20 players under contract next season (my team has 22), and a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. They must take between 60-100% of the salary cap (minimum of $48.9 million, maximum of $81.5 million) and cannot buy anyone out until next summer.
Here are my choices with the reasoning why:
Anaheim - forward Alex Volkov: he’s young (23), makes league minimum (being under contract is a nice perk) and has shown some upside in the AHL. The Ducks don’t have a lot to chose from, and Seattle will need some youth, possibly for the AHL.
Arizona - forward Christan Fischer: much like above, Fischer is young (24), relatively inexpensive (one year at $1.0m), has good size (6’2, 215) and is an NHL caliber player with already 265 games under his belt. He hasn’t shown much offensive upside, but maybe getting out of Arizona helps. If not, we can move on after one year.
Boston - defenseman Connor Clifton: he’s somewhat young (26, noticing a trend?), has a team-friendly contract (two years at $1.0m) and is a right shot defenseman with probably his best days still ahead.
Buffalo - defenseman Will Borgen: another young (24), a RFA, big (6’3, 205) right shot defender. Maybe he’s back in the AHL for this season, which is OK. Not like Buffalo has much to offer.
Calgary - defenseman Mark Giordano: I’m breaking a lot of my own rules and vision to add an old (38) and expensive ($6.75 million cap hit) player, but Giordano is worth it because he’s going to add leadership to what will be a very young team and be a captain, and he still played 22 minutes per game last season, and performed pretty well. Plus he only has one year left on his deal.
Calgary - defenseman Dougie Hamilton: my first bold move, I’m going to try to sign Dougie Hamilton this week. Give him a long-term deal worth up to $8 million. He’s a big right-handed shot that will produce points and run the power play and be a top pair player for years to come.
Chicago - goaltender Collin Delia: there’s not much to pick from here, so I’ll just take a guy who at least is under contract but only for one year at $1.0m that can (and will) be totally buried in the AHL with no cap impact. Delia is great for my purposes as a No. 4 goalie in the organization.
Colorado - forward Joonas Donskoi: over the last two seasons with the Avs Donskoi has 64 total points in 115 games. Add in a reasonable $3.9 million cap hit for two seasons and he’s a solid add to the middle of my lineup.
Columbus - forward Max Domi: he’s expensive at $5.3 million, but only has one year left on his deal. He’s still only 26 and scored 72 points in 82 games just a few seasons ago in 2018-19. Plus he played center a bit more in Columbus, and young, legit NHL scoring line centers are rare to find in the expansion draft, so I’ll happily scoop Domi here.
Dallas - defenseman Niklas Hansson: who? Yeah, that’s the point. He’s an RFA we can sign for minor league depth, or just let go into the wind. Nothing really catches interest from Dallas’ available list.
Detroit - defenseman Troy Stecher: an NHL caliber right shot d-man who is young enough (27) and has a favorable enough salary ($1.7 for one season) that could make him a trade candidate this summer for a team that might need a fairly cheap player.
Edmonton - forward Seth Griffith: not much to write home about, but he’s signed for a buriable amount, he’s ending up in the AHL. Not like Edmonton has much open that I want.
Florida - goalie Chris Driedger: he’ll need to be signed this week, but he played really well last year and should at least a platoon goalie for me.
Los Angeles - forward Blake Lizzote: At 23 maybe he’s a call up option, but he’s young, cheap and deeper depth.
Minnesota - goalie Kaapo Kahkonen: he’s still able to not need waivers, so he’s a candidate to be goalie of the future.
Montreal - defenseman Cale Fleury: A 22 year old right shot defender with upside is my pick here. Carey Price has to be heavily considered, but a 34-year old with some recent injuries and $10.5 million for five years is just too against the strategy that I want to employ, so I will stay true to it and resist the temptation to make the big swing for Price.
Nashville - forward Calle Jarnkrok: A good and very versatile forward that can play any of the three forward spots and chip in some offense on a good contract ($2.0m for one year) is the play here.
New Jersey - defenseman Connor Carrick: he’s an impending free agent, and I’m probably not signing him. Just a flush pick since NJ doesn’t have too much I’m interested in — including P.K Subban and his massive $9.0m cap hit. Already have Hamilton for that role.
New York Islanders - defenseman Sebastien Aho: a young, mostly minor league dman who is under contract and has some ability to play a bigger role.
New York Rangers - forward Julien Gauthier: he’s only 24 and hasn’t really taken off in his NHL career yet, but is cheap and big (6’4, 227) and under contract, so why not?
Ottawa Senators - forward Jonathan Davidsson: who? Exactly. He’s not under contract so we can keep the 24-year old for the AHL team or just let him float off into the nether just the same. Considered taking Evgenii Dadonov, but he has a $5.0m cap hit and two more seasons, and at age-32 is just a bit too far outside of my ideal vision for this team to take. Second guessing that a bit, but alas, I’d rather save the cap space because I’ve got some big ticket forwards still to come.
Philadelphia Flyers - forward James van Riemsdyk: Breaking my trend to take an older (32), expensive forward ($7.0m) because it’s only two years left and JvR has been very productive and consistent over his career for scoring 50-60 points in normal seasons and is usually a player you can pencil in for 25+ goals in a full campaign.
Pittsburgh Penguins - defenseman Marcus Pettersson: I’ll trust Pettersson’s exceptional metrics, even if his contract ($4.025 for four seasons) is rich, because he’s young. His problem has been one of confidence and usage, which are very easy variables to change with a change of scenery.
San Jose Sharks - forward Dylan Gambrell: young enough (25), signed for cheap for one year and does have 23 points in 99 games in the NHL in the last two seasons. Enough to check some boxes and move on.
St. Louis Blues - forward Vladimir Tarasenko: A huge swing here to take a front line player coming off a few shoulder surgeries. But goals have to come from somewhere, and Tarasenko’s contract ($7.5m for two) is the type of high-risk, high-reward selection I haven’t made too often, but could pay off.
Tampa Bay Lightning - forward Yanni Gourde: Don’t love the contract ($5.1m for four) but adding a high-end center is too much to pass up. A great all-around player who will help out and produce a lot of points in a big role.
Toronto Maple Leafs - forward Jared McCann: A point producing 25 year old on a great contract ($2.94m for one)? Yep, I’ll take McCann here.
Vancouver Canucks - forward Jonah Gadjovich: another “who” type pick. He’s only 23 and was a former second round pick who has some size (6’2, 210) so this is an AHL player that I’ll stash away and hope develops.
Washington Capitals - goalie Vitek Vanecek: Only 25 years old, played 37 NHL games fairly well last season and the price ($716k for one) is right.
Winnipeg Jets - forward Mason Appleton: Fairly young (25), scored 23 points and adds some size and skating ability on another sweetheart of a deal ($900k for one).
Graphically here’s how my team stacks up:
This reads a $67.5 million cap hit, but it is not accurate. This is counting Dougie Hamilton at his previous salary of $5.75m and Chris Driedger at $755k, both of whom will be needing raises to bring the real total up towards the $72-74 million range. Then players like Dellia and a few forwards will get dropped to open up more room. When it all shakes out, that still leaves us well under the $81.5 million limit which means I can still add free agents when the market opens.
More importantly, my Kraken only have $28.5 million tied to 2022-23 salaries (though again, it doesn’t have my Hamilton/Driedger extensions). I will have a lot of players to re-sign or replace (Domi, McCann, Appleton, Vanecek, etc) but all the room in the world to do so.
Even better, I’ll only have four players (Gourde, Pettersson, Hamilton and Driedger) under contract after two years when looking ahead for 2023-24. That maintains my expansion team as a blank canvas to continue to exploit other team’s salary cap issues and be able to accumulate high-end talent in the years to come, much the same idea that had Vegas end up collecting players/talent like Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo and Max Pacioretty.
And here’s what an early look of my lines could be:
My team could use some center depth, a free agent like Nick Bonino, Alex Wennberg, Mikael Granlund, Brandon Sutter or Tyler Bozak would make a lot of sense to add for a one-year patch.
If we’re feeling feisty a LD free agent add could round out the team. A veteran option for play and leadership like Keith Yandle, Alex Goligoski, Ryan Suter or Alex Edler on a short deal also would fit in quite nicely. With all those candidates and my cap room, adding one of them feels very practical and possible.
The JFresh projection has me at a 100 point season — and it doesn’t include the inputs of my new center, and more importantly adding a top pair defensemen. Those moves that will push me well into the 105+ point range.
What do you think, and if anyone has worked up an expansion team, let’s see it.
Seattle is in the West division with Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, LA, San Jose, Vancouver and Vegas. All we have to do is finish top three to guarantee a playoff spot, and other than Vegas the rest of the division isn’t terribly strong.
The one point this exercise certainly shows is no matter what decisions the Kraken elect to do, it should be pretty easy for them to create a team that has a serious shot at 100+ points next season and a path to glide into the playoffs in their inaugural season.