Welcome (Officially) to the NHL, Seattle Kraken

What’s Kraken, Seattle (sorry not sorry for the pun)? After making their final payment today, it’s official: the Kraken are a full-fledged NHL franchise. And now, the real work can begin. Let’s take a look at everything they can do now, and what’s to come before the puck drops in October.

The Seattle Kraken Finally Have a Voice in League Operations

The Seattle Kraken gained two major things today: the ability to have a say in league operations and make signings and trades (more on that later). Now that they’re a fully-fledged member of the NHL, they can appoint a governor (which, in this case, is a fancy way to say representative) to the Board of Governors. That means that they will now be able to join those meetings, which usually occur twice a year and revolve around all things that impact the league. The main thing discussed is usually changes to the rulebook. But, topics can also include the salary cap as well as the purchase, sale, or possible relocation of a team. 

Perhaps most importantly (at least this year), the Board of Governors also discusses proposed changes to the schedule structure. We know those are coming this year. Slight changes were happening anyway because of the Kraken’s arrival. But, the league is now considering doing more than that after seeing how the strictly divisional play worked out this year. You can read about both proposals here (see thought 19). But anyway, the fact that the Kraken will now have a say in this vote is huge considering it obviously directly impacts them (as well as every other team). 

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis will also now be attending GM meetings. These occur annually and revolve around the state of the game. Rule changes are also proposed, recommended, and evaluated at these meetings. All rules changes and issues discussed are then presented to the Board of Governors to consider and possibly votes on.

They Can Now Make Signings, Trades

A voice in league operation is great, but the Kraken gained something even more important today. Now that they’re officially part of the NHL, they can sign any unrestricted and/or undrafted free agents. They can also now make trades with other teams. So, a little over 28 months after being approved as an expansion franchise, the team is finally going to start taking shape. 

I would expect the Kraken to sign their first player in franchise history somewhat soon. They’ve been able to scout players for a while, so they undoubtedly have their eye on a few. They have an edge on all other teams, especially playoff-bound teams. They have nothing else to focus on. So, they have the pick of the litter so to speak, and should take advantage of it. Doing so will also help further drum up excitement for the team since fans will finally have some players to root for. 

As for trades, I don’t think we see any happen until at least the end of the regular season. But, expect there to be a lot between now and the expansion draft. The Kraken could not be coming into the league at a more perfect time from a leverage standpoint. They have $81.5 million to spend while most other teams are struggling to stay under the flat salary cap. I fully expect them to weaponize that, and use it to pry good players or high draft picks out of teams in exchange for taking on money. The Vegas Golden Knights certainly did, as they got Marc-Andre Fleury and Shea Theodore (among many others) through pre-draft trades, and they didn’t even have a flat salary cap to deal with. So, Francis and Co. are certainly going to have some fun with other teams before they even draft.

What’s Still to Come

While today was a big step forward for the Seattle Kraken, there’s still a lot to come. Obviously, there’s the expansion draft this summer. But, then there’s also the NHL entry draft a few days later, and they have the third-highest odds to get the first overall pick. In addition to that, construction is still underway at both Climate Pledge Arena, which will be their home for games, and the Seattle Ice Center, which will host their practice and training facilities. So, they have that official opening of those to look forward to as well. Then, last but certainly not least, there’s a puck drop, which is currently targeted for October 12th, which will also likely be the first-ever NHL game broadcast on ABC, which adds to the excitement.

New Details Emerge on the Expansion Draft

Today also saw the emergence of new details as to how the expansion draft is going to work on July 21st. With construction at Climate Pledge Arena not expected to be completed until the fall and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they will unfortunately not be able to have a full arena for it as the Vegas Golden Knights did. However, the team is working hard alongside the NHL and local authorities to finalize plans. Based on what came out today, it seems like it’s still going to be amazing.

As things stand now, the plan is currently for a live, made-for-TV event. It will be broadcast from multiple places throughout the city (likely including the Space Needle and Seattle Center). The event will likely also feature some pre-recorded segments filmed throughout the rest of the Pacific Northwest. All of this will allow the team and league to showcase all that the city and region have to offer. That’ll help fans get a better feel of what the franchise will be all about, which is great. Most locations will be outside with the hope being that at least some fans can attend. But, that possibility won’t play a factor in finalizing plans. They also want to have celebrities with local ties as part of the broadcast.

In addition to all this, the Kraken are also hoping to get some players involved, either in-person (which is preferred) or over Zoom. The Golden Knights were able to have Fleury there since they had already agreed to pick him before draft day. The Kraken hope to be able to pull something like that off too. But, they also recognize the opportunities that Zoom presents. It will allow them to incorporate players into the broadcast even if they don’t know who they’re picking very long in advance. So, I expect to see a little bit of both.

All in all, while this expansion draft will look different than Vegas’, it’ll still be special. I’m sure they’d love to have an arena full of fans, but a made-for-tv event showcasing some of the region’s coolest places isn’t exactly a bad option either.

Here Come the Seattle Kraken

Even though we’ve known the Kraken were coming for over two years now, it’s exciting to see them finally become an official member of the NHL. Watching a team be built from the ground up has been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see the final product on and off the ice this fall and beyond. It’s nearly time to release the Kraken, Seattle (not sorry for this dad joke either)! T-minus 165 days until projected puck drop!

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of @NHLSeattle_/Twitter.

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