Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins lose close one to Wild on home ice, 3-2

Two quick power play goals on a 5-on-3 advantage turned Thursday night’s action 180-degrees in favor of the Minnesota Wild in their eventual, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Wild goaltender, Kaapo Kähkönen (5-2-1, 2.60 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 38 shots against in the win.

Boston netminder, Jeremy Swayman (8-6-2, 2.26 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 16 games played) turned aside 27 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 17-11-2 (36 points) overall, but remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the 2nd wild card in Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Minnesota improved to 20-10-2 (42 points) on the season and in control of the 1st wild card in the Western Conference, while sitting in 4th place in the Central Division (behind the Colorado Avalanche only in tiebreaker, as the Avs have four more regulation wins than the Wild).

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Tomáš Nosek (COVID protocol) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask signed a PTO (player training operative) with the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday in an attempt to play at least one game before signing an NHL deal with Boston and returning to action after rehabbing offseason hip surgery.

Providence’s weekend matchups against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were postponed, which could put a wrench in Rask’s return to Boston plans if the B’s aren’t quite ready to go with three goaltenders for the time being.

That said, they did recall and assign Urho Vaakanainen, Steven Fogarty and Troy Grosenick from Providence to the taxi squad– the latter being a goaltender ahead of Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota.

With McAvoy and Nosek out of the lineup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor tweaks to his lines and defensive pairings.

John Moore returned to action alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the first pairing, while Trent Frederic went from playing wing to centering the fourth line in place of Nosek with Anton Blidh in his usual role at left wing.

Vaakanainen, Fogarty and Grosenick served as healthy scratches on the taxi squad against the Wild.

Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi made their National Hockey League debuts for the Wild, while defender, Jonas Brodin returned to Minnesota’s lineup after a stint in the league’s COVID protocol.

Less than half a minute into the action, Mike Reilly tripped up Rossi and cut a rut to the box– presenting the Wild with the first power play of the game 23 seconds into the first period.

Minnesota failed to convert on their first skater advantage of the night, but it wouldn’t be long before Boston’s undisciplined play came back to bite them.

Early in the action, Kevin Fiala slashed Brad Marchand before Matt Dumba hooked David Pastrnak while falling and attempting to clear the crease as the Bruins forward crashed the net.

Boston went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 4:36, but couldn’t muster anything past Kähkönen before Patrice Bergeron tripped Frederick Gaudreau at 6:11– yielding a 4-on-3 power play for the Bruins for about 26 seconds before the Wild earned an abbreviated advantage.

It didn’t take the B’s long to capitalize on all of the open ice as Erik Haula worked the puck back to Reilly in the high slot diamond formation prior to feeding Taylor Hall (7) with a perfect pass for a one-timer power-play goal off of Brodin’s leg and through Kähkönen’s five-hole.

Reilly (4) and Haula (6) tallied the assists as Hall’s goal put Boston on top, 1-0, at 6:35 of the third period.

The Bruins managed to escape Bergeron’s minor unscathed thereafter.

Late in the period, however, the tides began to turn as a surge in momentum featured dominant possession and rising shot totals for Minnesota.

As the Bruins trailed the play, Marchand yielded a holding infraction, while Brandon Carlo interfered with Mats Zuccarello at 14:49.

The Wild went on a two-skater advantage and didn’t waste time on the 5-on-3 power play– capitalizing on both opportunities they were presented with.

First, Zuccarello sent a pass through the slot to Kirill Kaprizov (14) for a one-timer blast on the power play reminiscent of Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin, or even Pastrnak’s craft.

Zuccarello (18) and Fiala (15) were credited with the assists on Kaprizov’s power-play goal that knotted things up, 1-1, at 15:25 of the first period.

About a minute later, Nico Sturm (6) deflected a shot from the point by Brodin as Connor Dewar and other traffic screened Swayman.

Sturm’s deflection rose over Swayman’s glove side and put the Wild ahead, 2-1, at 16:48 of the first period.

Brodin (12) and Dewar (1) recorded the assists. Dewar’s secondary assist marked his first career NHL point in the process.

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play Kaprizov and Blidh got into a bit of a shoving match– exchanging pleasantries and picking up roughing minors– while Trent Frederic tried to engage Zuccarello before pulling Zuccarello’s helmet off and yielding an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

Minnesota, as a result, went on the power play at 18:12 of the first period and would start the middle frame on the skater advantage as the special teams action blended through the first intermission.

After one period, the Wild led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-10, in shots on goal.

Minnesota also held the advantage in hits (13-10), while Boston led in blocked shots (2-0), takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Both teams managed to have one giveaway each entering the first intermission, while the Wild were 2/5 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.

Alex Goligoski picked up an interference infraction at 4:27 of the second period, but Boston’s power play went by the wayside without tying things up.

Midway through the period, Kaprizov tried to free the puck from near the boards out of his own zone before bumping into Grzelcyk, causing Kaprizov to fall into a vulnerable position before Frederic came along and made a check that was a bit too strong to cash.

Kaprizov crashed into the boards awkwardly and skated off with the help of a trainer while his right arm remained pretty limp. He would not return for the night with an upper body injury, as the Wild PR team later tweeted.

Frederic was assessed a boarding minor (that Craig Smith ended up serving) and a five-minute major for fighting as Dmitry Kulikov stood up for his fallen teammate and exchanged fisticuffs in what was Boston’s seventh fighting major of the 2021-22 season.

The Bruins’ penalty kill stood tall until they were caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Marcus Foligno and Boldy played a little catch as Boldy (1) dished the puck to Foligno entering the zone before receiving a pass back and burying a shot on Swayman’s blocker side to extend Minnesota’s lead.

Foligno (8) and Brodin (13) tallied the assists on Boldy’s first career NHL goal with lots of family and former Boston College teammates in attendance at TD Garden.

The Wild led, 3-1, at 12:26 of the second period as a result.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron made his way to the box for the second time in the game– this time for interference at 13:03.

Shortly after Minnesota’s power play came to an end, however, the Wild ended up shorthanded as Dumba caught Reilly without the puck and picked up an interference minor of his own at 15:10.

This time, the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing power play.

Marchand sent a shot attempt towards the net that was blocked before the B’s continued to work the puck around the attacking zone.

Suddenly, Bergeron made a no-look pass from the slot to where he expected Marchand to be and Marchand (12) buried a one-timer from the dot to bring Boston to within one goal.

Bergeron (14) and Grzelcyk (7) nabbed the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 15:35 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, the Wild led on the road, 3-2, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 24-21, despite trailing, 11-10, in the second period alone.

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (6-2), hits (25-16) and faceoff win% (58-42), while both teams had four takeaways and three giveaways each.

Minnesota was 2/7 on the power play and Boston was 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

After injuring Kaprizov and drawing the ire of the Wild, Frederic had to confront Minnesota’s Foligno brother in an exchange of fisticuffs at 1:12 of the third period.

The trouble is that Frederic couldn’t help himself in making his case any easier for him as he also drew a high sticking minor in addition to the five-minute major– totaling minutes in penalties on Thursday.

It was the second fight of the night and decisively shorted than the first with Foligno getting the takedown and five minutes worth of a fighting major of his own.

Minnesota’s ensuing power play was cut short when Rossi tripped Carlo at 1:24, but Boston couldn’t score during the ensuing abbreviated power play.

In fact, neither team could put one up on the scoreboard in the third period as time ticked away, Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 1:28 to go, used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:23 remaining, then the final horn sounded– signaling a Wild victory.

Minnesota won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-30, as Boston amassed a, 17-6 advantage in shots in the third period alone.

The Wild exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), while the B’s left their own building with the advantage in giveaways (7-5), hits (33-23) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Minnesota finished the night 2/8 on the power play, while Boston went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins dropped to 11-5-0 (5-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 3-6-1 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-8-2 (3-4-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Wild improved to 7-8-1 (3-5-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 13-0-1 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 12-0-1 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for a quick two-game trip through Tampa, Florida against the Lightning on Saturday and Washington, D.C. against the Capitals next Monday (Jan. 10th). 

Boston will return home to host the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally slated to be at Bell Centre prior to the rise of the Omicron variant prompting the NHL to move up Boston and Montréal’s March 21st game scheduled at TD Garden to Jan. 12th– kicking off a seven-game homestand for the B’s as a result.

Tickets for March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th and the original game that was slated to be in Montréal is postponed to a later date (TBA).

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Minnesota Wild 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-16-5, 75 points

3rd in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Vegas

Additions: F Frédérick Gaudreau, F Dominic Turgeon, D Jordie Benn, D Kevin Czuczman, D Alex Goligoski, D Joe Hicketts, D Dmitry Kulikov, D Jon Lizotte, D Jon Merrill

Subtractions: F Nick Bonino (signed with SJS), F Gabriel Dumont (signed with TBL), F Marcus Johansson (signed with SEA), F Luke Johnson (signed with WPG), F Gerald Mayhew (signed with PHI), F Zach Parise (buyout, signed with NYI), F Dmitry Sokolov (NMHL), D Matt Bartkowski (signed to a PTO with PIT), D Louie Belpedio (signed with MTL), D Ian Cole (signed with CAR), D Brad Hunt (signed with VAN), D Brennan Menell (traded to TOR), D Carson Soucy (expansion, SEA), D Ryan Suter (buyout, signed with DAL)

Still Unsigned: D Ian McCoshen

Re-signed: F Will Bitten, F Nick Bjugstad, F Joseph Cramarossa, F Brandon Duhaime, F Joel Eriksson Ek, F Kevin Fiala, F Kirill Kaprizov, F Kyle Rau, F Mason Shaw, D Dakota Mermis, G Andrew Hammond

Offseason Analysis: It took all summer, but it didn’t linger into the fall as Wild General Manager, Bill Guerin, and forward, Kirill Kaprizov, were able to hammer out a five-year extension worth $9.000 million per season– forcing this entire offseason recap/season preview to be re-written.

Going into Tuesday, Minnesota was bound to receive a letter grade in the “D” range for failing to secure Kaprizov before training camp, despite a few other moves that have actually been pretty good for them– salary cap penalties via buyouts aside.

Late Tuesday, Kaprizov re-signed and all is just about forgiven for the Wild.

Since joining the league as an expansion team in 2000, Minnesota has rarely had a competitive team that can make a deep run into the postseason. They’ve consistently been good, but never good enough.

Marian Gaborik came and went, Mikko Koivu stayed loyal until he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets for a brief stint last season prior to retiring less than a month into the 2020-21 schedule and then the dawn of the Kaprizov Era began.

After spending time in the Kontinental Hockey League for his early development, Kaprizov amassed 27-24–51 totals in 55 games in his debut season with Minnesota as a 24-year-old left wing.

He’s the real deal and the Wild are leaning into it.

Though Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson and others weren’t re-signed as part of Minnesota’s depth that got them all the way to a Game 7 at T-Mobile Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 First Round, Guerin held things down where it counts– the core.

Joel Eriksson Ek signed an eight-year extension worth $5.250 million per season after a breakout season with 30 points (19 goals, 11 assists) in 56 games last season after amassing 8-21–29 totals in 62 games in 2019-20.

If the last two seasons are an indication of what’s to come, then the Wild have a steal of a deal in Eriksson Ek’s cap hit as the 24-year-old emerges in his prime.

Guerin brought back Kevin Fiala on a one-year extension worth $5.100 million– retaining restricted-free agency status over the 25-year-old forward heading into next offseason– after putting up 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) in 133 games with the Wild in parts of three seasons since he was acquired on Feb. 25, 2019.

In parts of five seasons with the Nashville Predators from 2014-15 through 2018-19, Fiala had 45-52–97 totals in 204 games.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken, because clearly something is clicking in Minnesota and the Wild are reaping the benefits.

Alex Goligoski and Jon Merrill are fine additions to the defense, though as for how efficient they’ll be compared to the loss of Ryan Suter remains to be seen.

Guerin bought out the remainder of Zach Parise and Suter’s matching contracts on July 13, 2021, and in doing so saved Minnesota some valuable cap space to sign Kaprizov and build off of the new core.

That said, Parise and Suter will cost the Wild about $4.744 million in dead cap space for 2021-22, then $12.744 million in dead cap space in 2022-23, before the buyout penalties reach a crescendo with a combined $14.744 million in dead cap money from 2023-24 through 2024-25 before Parise and Suter’s penalties taper off with a combined cost of $1.667 million in 2025-26, as well as 2026-27.

This offseason might have been a breeze, but next offseason is a different story– especially as building and maintaining contender status gets difficult in the next few seasons too.

Ultimately, the cost of buying out Parise and Suter may or may not even be a headache for Guerin to deal with. It all depends on how the team performs between now and a couple of seasons from now.

For now, Guerin has about $3.215 million in cap space to play with for the 2021-22 season.

Over the summer, the Seattle Kraken formed their first roster and did Minnesota a favor without asking.

Seattle could’ve selected Kaapo Kähkönen, since the Wild protected Cam Talbot, but the Kraken went in a different direction and snagged Carson Soucy from Minnesota’s depth on the blue line.

Offseason Grade: B+

Though it took a little longer than both sides had probably hoped– and with more frustration than expected– Guerin re-signed his No. 1 priority in Kaprizov before the start of training camp.

The biggest challenge for Minnesota– other than improving on last season’s success before a First Round exit– is finding a way to keep the band together next offseason, when Fiala, Jordan Greenway and Kähkönen are on the short list of important pending-restricted free agents.

Meanwhile, guys like Victor Rask, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Nico Sturm, Goligoski, Jordie Benn and Merrill have a little more flexibility to come and go as they please– assuming there’s enough cap space in face of the Parise and Suter buyout penalty crunch on top of what might still be a flat cap for the 2022-23 season due to the ongoing pandemic.

At the very least, 2023-24 should be a bit more optimistic with the latest U.S. broadcasting rights deals for ESPN and Turner Sports inflating league revenue all-around and likely bumping up the salary cap as a result.

For now, Minnesota’s transition continues, but for once there’s a sense of stability given their best players are 25 and under and enjoy being in a Wild uniform.

Though they didn’t bring the alleged “State of Hockey” a Stanley Cup championship in their tenure, Parise and Suter made playing for Minnesota cool as the franchise found its footing now entering its second generation.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Let’s pretend to be the Seattle Kraken

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft welcomes the Seattle Kraken to the league as its 32nd member club Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada.

Because of a lot going on right now, this mock expansion draft got delayed until the day of the actual draft and ultimately is arbitrary. If there’s even one prediction right here, then Kraken General Manager, Ron Francis, apparently reads DTFR.

We’ll make that assumption, thank you very much.

Seattle has run numerous mock drafts at this point and gone through many scenarios, but who would’ve imagined that players like Alex Ovechkin, Ondrej Palat and more would be available?

Of course, keep in mind that the Kraken have to spend between 60-100% of the previous season’s salary cap ($81.500 million).

For the sake of keeping things simple here, we’ve provided some built-in scenarios that would allow Seattle to be cap compliant as a result of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

The Kraken will be selecting one player from 30 NHL clubs as the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from this round of expansion. The 30 other teams had the option to protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goaltender or any combination of eight skaters and one goaltender.

For more on the protection and exposure requirements, check out the protected lists and 2021 NHL Expansion Draft rules.

The majority of this was written before the leaked selections were revealed, so let’s just pretend we’re all in an alternate universe for a bit longer.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

LD/RD Haydn Fleury

25-years-old, 1 year left, $1.300 million cap hit

Fleury was dealt to Anaheim at the trade deadline as the Carolina Hurricanes feared they would probably lose him anyway to former Canes GM Ron Francis at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Turns out their fears were based in reality as the Ducks experience déjà vu that harkens back to when they lost Shea Theodore to the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Fleury had 3-1–4 totals in 47 games for Anaheim and Carolina in 2020-21.

ARIZONA COYOTES

RW/LW Christian Fischer

24, 1 year left, $1.000 million cap hit

Fischer (3-8–11 totals in 52 games) is a safe bet for Seattle as he’s entering his prime and carries a low-risk, high-reward type of contract with the expectation that he could blossom into an attractive bottom-six forward.

It’s either that, or he’ll be a sweetener in another transaction as the deadline approaches if there’s a team looking to bolster their depth.

BOSTON BRUINS

LD/RD Connor Clifton

26, 2 years left, $1.000 million cap hit

Boston is more than likely going to lose a defender– whether it’s Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon or Jakub Zboril– rather than a forward, like Nick Ritchie, for example. Between Clifton and Lauzon, the Kraken can’t go wrong.

If they’d prefer the younger of the two, then Lauzon is your choice. Of course, if Seattle is looking for an NHL ready bottom-pairing and/or seventh defender, then look no further than the hard-hitting Clifton (1-6–7 totals in 44 games) despite his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame.

BUFFALO SABRES

LD Jake McCabe

27, pending-unrestricted free agent, $2.850 million cap hit in 2020-21

Like more than a few players in Buffalo this offseason, McCabe could benefit from a change of scenery and can be best utilized as a bottom-pairing or depth defender.

Perhaps the Kraken can’t come to an agreement on a new contract or they find a way to flip him at the Expansion Draft– ether way, Seattle’s looking to get more out of his 1-2–3 totals in 13 games in 2020-21.

CALGARY FLAMES

LD Mark Giordano

37, 1 year remaining, $6.750 million cap hit

Though Seattle wouldn’t go wrong with either Milan Lucic or Giordano in terms of drafting leadership out of the Flames’ dressing room, it turns out the Kraken liked the Golden Knights’ model enough and pried a veteran defender out of Calgary to lead the first generation Kraken roster.

With 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 56 games in 2020-21, a Mark Messier Leadership Award and a James Norris Memorial Trophy under his belt in 2019-20 and 2018-19, respectively, Giordano’s had a late career resurgence and could prove to be an effective piece on Seattle’s blue line.

CAROLINA HURRICANES

RD Dougie Hamilton

28, pending-UFA, $5.750 million cap hit in 2020-21

Hamilton arrived to Carolina after Francis left the organization, but that doesn’t rule out the six degrees of Kevin Bacon factor here, which allows the Kraken to select the right-shot defender that had 10-32–42 totals in 55 games this season.

Though he’s a pending-UFA, Seattle has the space to get creative with either a new contract or the ability to trade his negotiating rights for more assets before free agency begins on July 28th.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

LD/RD Calvin de Haan

30, 1 year left, $4.550 million cap hit

de Haan’s (1-9–10 totals in 44 games) been a journeyman for three out of the last four seasons having gone from the New York Islanders in 2017-18, to the Hurricanes in 2018-19, then Chicago from 2019-present.

He’d either play a bigger role with Seattle or would continue wracking up the airline rewards points by being used as trade bait for another club in the offseason similar to how the Golden Knights used Marc Methot and David Schlemko in their Expansion Draft year.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

LW/C Gabriel Landeskog

28, pending-UFA, $5.571 million cap hit in 2020-21

Vegas was wheeling and dealing at the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and Seattle will likely be doing the same in this year’s 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, so why not take a chance on Landeskog and see what happens?

At best, he sticks around. At worst, you trade his negotiating rights before July 28th or play it safe and claim Joonas Donskoi instead to provide yourself with some quality top-nine forward depth.

Landeskog, however, brings his 20-32–52 totals in 54 games this season, as well as his leadership qualities as the current captain in Colorado to Seattle if he were to sign a long-term extension to guide the Kraken through their formative years. He’d be the surefire captain for the new club, no doubt.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

C/LW Max Domi

26, 1 year left, $5.300 million cap hit

Columbus took a gamble and it didn’t pay off as Domi’s 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 71 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2019-20, faltered to 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 54 games with the Blue Jackets in 2020-21.

As such, Domi was exposed to the elements and that’s where the Kraken come in to take a flyer on a top-six forward looking for the right system and something to be built around. If all else fails, it’s only one season to get Seattle off the ground and provide a spark.

DALLAS STARS

LD/RD Andrej Sekera

35, 1 year left, $1.500 million cap hit

Sekera’s five points (three goals, two assists) in 46 games won’t be attracting any buyers for his offensive capabilities from the point, but if it’s a shutdown defender that can play throughout the lineup you need, then he’ll come in handy as a Swiss Army knife of sorts.

If the Kraken trade from the rest of their plethora of defenders and Sekera remains, it’s not the end of the world. If Seattle sends him packing after claiming him from Dallas, then the Stars won’t have lost that much for nothing with bigger fish to fry.

Either that or the Kraken could just snag Jamie Oleksiak and call it a day.

DETROIT RED WINGS

RW/LW/C Vladislav Namestnikov

28, 1 year left, $2.000 million cap hit

Remember when Namestnikov was a household name in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform? Or when he was a New York Ranger? These days, it seems like he’s been everywhere– especially since he’s suited up for the Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avlanche and Red Wings in the last two seasons.

His best season came in 2017-18, when he amassed 48 points between the Lightning and Rangers in 81 games played, but Namestnikov only managed 8-9–17 totals in 53 games with Detroit this season.

At $2.000 million for one season, he’s a suitable asset in your bottom-six forward group with a low-cost, high-reward 30-40 point potential at best or easy to move at the deadline at worst.

EDMONTON OILERS

RD Adam Larsson

28, pending-UFA, $4.167 million cap hit in 2020-21

Larsson (4-6–10 totals in 56 games) is sure to hit the open market on July 28th, but if the Kraken find themselves in position to stake their claim to his negotiating rights and sign him before anyone else can even submit an offer it wouldn’t be unwise.

At best, Seattle lands a top-four defender. At worst, they avoid having to take something else from the Oilers. James Neal likely isn’t getting another call from an expansion team this time around and Kyle Turris might be the only decent cheap contract if he can find his game again.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

G Chris Driedger

27, pending-UFA, $850,000 cap hit in 2020-21

Seattle was enchanted by his emergence in the last couple of seasons and with Spencer Knight coming out of the shadows behind Sergei Bobrovksy’s contract in Florida, Driedger finds himself hitting the open waters of Puget Sound and/or free agency.

Whether or not Driedger’s 14-6-3 record, 2.07 goals-against average and .9217 save percentage in 23 games (23 starts, three shutouts) is a promising sign of things to come or simply a solid mark of defensive work in front of him remains to be seen.

That said, Driedger is one of the better goaltenders on the open market– if he even makes it there first.

LOS ANGELES KINGS 

RW/LW Austin Wagner

24, 2 years left, $1.133 million cap hit

Despite having one of the best prospect pools in the league right now, the Kings don’t have too much to offer via expansion, so the Kraken will have to settle for a fourth-liner that has yet to reveal whether or not this is really all that there is to his game.

Wagner had 4-4–8 totals in 44 games with Los Angeles in 2020-21.

MINNESOTA WILD

G Kaapo Kähkönen

24, 1 year left, $725,000

The Wild chose to protect Cam Talbot over their future potential starting goaltender in Kähkönen which is good news for Kraken fans and bad news for Minnesota fans.

Unless Seattle has a deal in place to acquire assets from the Wild to not select Kähkönen, this is a dangerous game for Minnesota GM, Bill Guerin, to play– but then again, he’s put an emphasis on change at the forefront of his tenure in Minnesota’s front office.

Meanwhile, Kähkönen went 16-8-0 in 24 games (23 starts, two shutouts) and had a 2.88 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in that span in 2020-21.

MONTRÉAL CANADIENS

G Carey Price

33, 5 years left, $10.500 million cap hit

Whether or not Price is even being considered by the Kraken hinges upon two things 1) his health and 2) if Seattle and Montréal have already worked out some sort of trade.

The league has already informed the clubs that they would be circumventing the salary cap if the Kraken select Price, retain 50% of his salary and deal him back to Montréal.

But, Seattle could take the 2021 Stanley Cup Final runner-up goaltender that amassed a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts, one shutout) in the regular season and had a 2.64 goals-against average, as well as a .901 save percentage in that span and play him, place him on long-term injured reserve or eat some salary and trade him elsewhere.

In any case, Price to Seattle would be as big a deal as Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas in 2017.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

LD Mark Borowiecki

32, 1 year left, $2.000 million cap hit

Borowiecki’s 2020-21 campaign was cut short and limited to 22 games due to injury, but don’t let his one assist fool you– he’s a physical defender that will do anything to make a hit, block a shot and lead in the dressing room when he’s not on the ice.

If he’s healthy, he’d be effective in Seattle as the Kraken look to establish their workplace culture and team identity.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

LW/RW Andreas Johnsson

26, 2 years left, $3.400 million cap hit

Johnsson had 43 points in 73 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first full season at the NHL level in 2018-19. He then had just 21 points in 43 games with the Leafs in 2019-20 and 5-6–11 totals in 50 games with the Devils this season.

In the right situation, he could bounce back. In New Jersey, it doesn’t look like that’d be happening anytime soon– regardless of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes’ emergence with Ty Smith and Yegor Sharangovich playing a part in the club’s turnaround.

Some, however, have Mackenzie Blackwood pegged as being selected by the Kraken as they certainly have plenty of goaltenders to choose from and trade thereafter.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

RW/LW Josh Bailey

31, 3 years left, $5.000 million cap hit

Bailey had 8-27–35 totals in 54 games with the Islanders this season and would provide some meat in the middle of our hypothetical Kraken roster.

Between Bailey and Jordan Eberle, however, Seattle can’t go wrong. The former tends to score clutch goals in the playoffs and has a cap hit that’s $500,000 less than the latter, though that’s not much to worry about.

NEW YORK RANGERS

RW Julien Gauthier

23, 1 year left, $775,000 cap hit

It’s not always about size, but having the option to use a 6-foot-4, 227-pound winger in your lineup certainly will help the Kraken in the physical elements of the game– especially against their rivals in the Pacific Division.

Gauthier had 2-6–8 totals in 30 games with the Rangers in 2020-21.

OTTAWA SENATORS

G Joey Daccord

24, 2 years left, $750,000 cap hit

Daccord appeared in eight games (six games) this season as the Senators struggled to stay healthy in the crease and went on to amass a 1-3-1 record in the process with a 3.27 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in that span– revealing two things 1) he’s a young goaltender and 2) the Sens really need a better roster in front of any and all of their goaltenders.

But choosing Daccord is O.K. for Seattle since he’ll develop in due time and it takes care of having to pick something else from Ottawa’s scraps.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

RW/LW Jakub Voracek

31, 3 years left, $8.250 million cap hit

Want to get messy? Let’s have the Kraken select Voracek from the Flyers and see what happens!

No, this isn’t about postgame press conference outbursts or anything (though Voracek was in the right in that regard), but rather, there’s a lot of teams that would take Voracek at a reduced rate and Seattle could make bank off trading him.

Or they could keep the guy that had 9-34–43 totals in 53 games in 2020-21 and see what happens in 2021-22, but Francis isn’t likely going to take on that big of a contract unless it’s a free agent signing.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

RW/LW Brandon Tanev

29, 4 years left, $3.500 million cap hit

Tanev can skate, hit and compete, so… …in other words, he’s a hockey player. He’s also got the long hair to go with it.

In 2020-21, he had 7-9–16 totals in 32 games in his second season with the Penguins. Though he was on the cusp of the 30-point plateau with the Winnipeg Jets in 2018-19, Tanev’s career-high 29 points is about the most Seattle could get out of him, but that’s fine for the meat of their lineup.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

C Dylan Gambrell

24, 1 year left, $1.100 million cap hit

Be honest, did you really want to have to take anything from the Sharks?

Gambrell matched his career-high in goals (five) and set career-highs in assists (seven) and points (12) in 49 games with San Jose this season, but aside from being young, he’s still very much a fourth liner in the NHL, so the Kraken have that going for them, at least.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

RW Vladimir Tarasenko

29, 2 years left, $7.500 million cap hit

Name brand power. Seattle would assure themselves of having some top jersey sales if they’d just take Tarasenko and keep him on the roster.

Then again, he’s missed significant portions of the last two seasons and already wants out of St. Louis, so what’s not to say he won’t be disgruntled about going to a completely new franchise and any growing pains?

With 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21, and 442 points in 531 career NHL games, it’s probably worth at least being in control of his next destination– whether that’s the Kraken or elsewhere.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

C/LW/RW Yanni Gourde

29, 4 years left, $5.167 million cap hit

Gourde is an affordable player to build a brand new roster around, but just how far up the lineup can he play? Will Seattle try to make him like William Karlsson in Vegas’ first year and demand first line minutes or are they comfortable with taking a more conservative approach and, say, making him a second liner at best?

In any case, 17-19–36 totals in 56 games en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup rings with the Lightning brings the right amount of depth scoring and valuable playoff experience to the Kraken’s roster.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

LW/C Jared McCann

25, 1 year left, $2.940 million cap hit

There was a reason why the Maple Leafs went out and got McCann in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of the expansion draft, but it clearly wasn’t as an insurance plan in the event that Seattle took Alexander Kerfoot and Toronto needed a new third line center or something.

Instead, the Leafs left both available and the Kraken took the guy with the better offensive production in 2020-21, as McCann had 14-18–32 totals in 43 games with Pittsburgh, while Kerfoot had 8-15–23 totals in 56 games with Toronto.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

C/RW Zack MacEwen

25, 1 year left, $825,000

All of Vancouver’s bad contracts are coming to bite them just as everyone expected. Sure, some attractive salary cap hits were available if the Kraken needed a boost, but for the point scoring output, none of them would’ve made sense in a million years– even as a favor to the Canucks, you know, the closest geographical rival to Seattle.

Thus, MacEwen’s taking his talents and 1-1–2 totals in 34 games with the Canucks this season to the Kraken, where he’ll become intertwined with some semblance of depth.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

G Vitek Vanecek

25, 1 year left, $716,667

Yeah, there’s no way around it, really, but this is the worst thing that could happen for the Capitals short of the Kraken getting bold and taking Alex Ovechkin.

Vanecek (21-10-4 in 37 games, 36 starts, 2.69 goals-against average, .908 save percentage, two shutouts) provides a great 1A/1B punch with Ilya Samsonov as both goaltenders develop, but since Washington couldn’t get a deal done with the team that plays in Washington (state, that is), then it’s a solid grab for Seattle.

Whether or not they keep Vanecek in the mix with all the other goaltenders (or any of the other goaltenders, for that matter) remains to be seen.

WINNIPEG JETS

RD Dylan DeMelo

28, 3 years left, $3.000 million

It’s simple, draft DeMelo from Winnipeg and either end up with a decent top-4 defender or use him as trade bait a la the Vegas way in 2017.

Nine assists in 52 games won’t get you much offense from the point when DeMelo is on the ice, but his shutdown style and decent cap hit is attractive around the league.


Total Cap Hit (excluding players already on SEA roster): $80,681,666

Average age: 27.7 years old

Seattle won’t actually be spending to the cap from the expansion draft alone kind of like how the Golden Knights did in 2017, but in this mock draft, let’s get crazy.

Spend every penny and sell high, why not!?!

Yes, Price carries a hefty price tag, but that doesn’t have to be your problem if you find a team desperate enough for goaltending. Imagine trading Price to the Maple Leafs and watching all of Québec sit through the uneasiness of another Toronto-Montréal matchup in the postseason by the time his contract expires.

Or just imagine all of the possible side deals from taking a team that’s loaded with talent and stripping it down to the essentials, plus a foundation for the future.

Ron Francis is kind of good at that.