The Seattle Kraken are now officially members of the National Hockey League.
Wait, hasn’t that always been the case since they were awarded a franchise? Well, technically no, because they had to make their final payment of the $650 million owed to the NHL on Friday, which means that the Seattle Kraken are now officially open for business and they can start to make trades and sign players.
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It was a huge moment in the short history of the Kraken and it was a significant one given that they can now march forward when it comes to constructing the first roster in franchise history, with the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and the 2021 NHL Entry Draft both on the horizon.
Of course, General Manager Ron Francis and his team will have been doing their homework when it comes to scouting prospects and drawing up a plethora of lists of players they want to target in the Expansion Draft, but now they can officially look to make trades with the 31 other teams in the NHL and they can also sign any college players that take their fancy.
Given that they are starting from scratch, the fact that Seattle can now sign undrafted free agents who play in college, major junior or in Europe is huge when it comes to starting to build a farm system and a prospect pipeline, and Francis will have the option to trade for a franchise cornerstone in advance of the Expansion Draft as was the case back in 2017 when the Vegas Golden Knights swung a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Basically, it is now all systems go for the Seattle Kraken and we tried to imagine what their to-do list will look like now that they are officially the 32nd franchise in the National Hockey League. Let’s dive right in…
Taking a look at the Seattle Kraken’s to-do list now they are official NHL members
1. Start building a farm system
GM Ron Francis and his team will have done their homework on a boatload of players and prospects ever since Seattle was awarded an NHL franchise, and all that studying should come in handy now that they can sign undrafted free agents.
Be it college players, major junior or those playing in Europe, the Kraken can now officially hold talks with any undrafted free agents and then sign them to contracts if they so wish, and it is an ideal opportunity for Francis to start laying the foundations of what he hopes will be a strong farm system.
There will be college players out there that could morph into really good NHL players with some careful development and nurturing, while there are always undrafted gems to be found throughout in Europe and Francis and his scouting department may well have already identified a couple of players that could compete for an NHL roster spot in 2021-22.
After all, the likes of Artemi Panarin, Mark Giordano and Sergei Bobrovsky were all undrafted players who went on to take the NHL by storm, so if the Kraken’s scouting department are on the money, then they could well put this team in a position to compete from day one by signing an undrafted free agent gem.
2. Hit the phones and get some building blocks
There is no doubt that the Seattle Kraken front office have been delving into Expansion Draft lists and prospect reports for months now, but that is all they’ve been able to do given that they were not official NHL members until that last payment was made.
Well, now that payment has been made, they can start to pick up the phones to the other 31 NHL General Managers and look to swing some early deals in order to start laying the foundations down for their inaugural season in 2021-22 and beyond.
With $81.5 million to play with when it comes to the salary cap, the Seattle front office have the freedom to really weaponize that cap space and they will have an added advantage this coming offseason given that a number of teams are in salary cap hell due to the flat cap in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As a result, the Kraken could look to take a big salary from another team and gain a significant player in order to help them to win now, while also obtaining a high Draft pick in order to help another team clear cap space.
We saw the Vegas Golden Knights do it on multiple occasions in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, including by trading for future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins, gaining a franchise cornerstone while helping the Pens out with cap space.
Vegas also did deals with the New York Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets that saw them net First-Round picks, and Ron Francis could look to do the same in order to really set Seattle up nicely in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft when it comes to starting their farm system with some high-end prospects.
It is also possible that Francis could look to get a head start on building the core of his roster, and he might look to swing an early deal or two in order to acquire players that can become the face of this franchise. For instance, the Seattle Kraken GM could look to help the Washington Capitals out when it comes to cap space by acquiring Washington native T.J. Oshie, who many see as a perfect potential first Captain in franchise history for the NHL’s 32nd team.
Seattle can also set themselves up for the future by taking on assets in exchange for not selecting unprotected players with the 30 teams (the Golden Knights are exempt from the Expansion Draft) allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie, while there could be an opportunity to swing a deal for a high-profile restricted free agent with arbitration rights given the salary cap situation.
Whatever they decide to do, though, the Kraken can now really start to build a team and don’t be surprised to see a lot of activity coming out of Seattle over the coming weeks as we edge closer and closer to the offseason.
3. Hire a Head Coach
Okay, so the Kraken have had the freedom for a while to be able to hire a Head Coach but now that they are official members of the NHL and with a crucial offseason rapidly approaching, don’t be surprised if the search for the first bench boss in franchise history starts to really intensify over the coming weeks.
Now able to start engaging in trade talks with other teams and also able to sign undrafted free agents, the Seattle Kraken will eventually need a Head Coach to bring a brand new group of players together and help them to mesh on and off the ice.
There are a number of intriguing big names out there, including Gerard Gallant who would be perfect for the Kraken given that he was behind the bench for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
Claude Julien, who was fired by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this year, is available as is veteran coach Bruce Boudreau, and there could also be a number of current NHL Assistant Coaches that could be of interest to Seattle, while other Head Coaches may become available come the end of the 2020-21 season.
The Seattle Kraken will have their pick of candidates, though, and as they get deeper in their roster construction for the 2021-22 season, they should get closer and closer to unveiling the first Head Coach in franchise history and it is an appointment they will have to get right if they want to enjoy similar success to the Golden Knights.