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Kraken Hint Expansion Draft Strategy: Price, Trade Deals Being Looked At

Ron Francis may have provided a strong hint as to which direction he’ll take with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft selections.

There’s one thing the Seattle Kraken have on their side heading into the NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. That’s an abundance of salary cap space few other teams have. The NHL’s newest team is bound to get a few really good players based on the talent left unprotected by 30 other NHL clubs, but the big names may not all be selected. Could the Kraken take Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk, Mark Giordano, Max Domi, Erik Johnson or P.K. Subban? Sure. Will they? It seems unlikely.

Related: All 30 NHL Teams Protected Lists Ahead of Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft

30 other teams gave the Kraken something to think about on Sunday. That said, based upon comments made by Kraken general manager Ron Francis, the team may have given the league and its fans an indication as to which way they’ll be leaning. The organization needs to get to 60% of the salary cap, so they’ll certainly be selecting a few players with cap hits that aren’t ideal. That said, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Francis noted: “The one thing we think is extremely, extremely valuable in this environment is cap space.”

In other words, just because the Kraken can pick some big tickets and make a splash, doesn’t mean they will. Furthermore, according to Francis: “Ownership has given us a green light to spend toward the [NHL salary] cap, if we so see fit. We’ll look at the team that we’re able to draft … then we’ll look at the needs that we think the team has … when free agency hits.”

Again, “when free agency hits” is a massive hint that the Kraken aren’t about to load up on players teams made available via their protection lists. Instead, the Kraken might be targeting a few key free agents that they’ll have an exclusive limited window to talk with before they make their selections. Could Gabriel Landeskog wind up being Seattle’s selection from the Colorado Avalanche? It might be a long shot, but perhaps Francis would prefer to spend some of his available funds in that way.

Players Kraken Look At, But Likely Don’t Take

The Montreal Canadiens took a calculated risk by exposing goaltender Carey Price. It’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s been one of the better goaltenders in the modern era of the NHL. He’s struggled a bit of late in the regular season, but he had a great playoff run with the Habs in 2020-21 and he’d be a massive name for the Kraken to select. Jerseys would fly off the shelves. Still, that $10.5 million per season over the next five seasons goes against every strategy Francis has hinted his club will take.

It seems unlikely the Seattle Kraken select Carey Price even if they consider it

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun writes:

It’s a hefty contract to be sure, but I’m told the Seattle Kraken are taking a deep dive internally on whether or not to take Carey Price in the expansion draft. My guess is they don’t in the end, but I do think there’s a better chance of it than I first thought. Intriguing.

Instead, what the Kraken might do is select a couple of players and immediately flip them. With the lists officially in, some NHL franchises will also take a closer look at the unprotected lists and call Seattle to propose potential trades. This could include some salary retention post the expansion draft. It would allow other teams to pick up big names for less than their current cost, allow Francis to pick up other assets while retaining a little salary in the deal and provide the Kraken with a boat load of additional draft picks in future years.

Next: Flyers Looking at More Moves Beyond Adding D Ryan Ellis

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