Go Big or Go Home: Welcome to the NHL, Seattle

If you are trying to understand the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft strategy, it can be summed up with one word: size. Seattle’s final roster following its momentous inception into the NHL seemed to establish two very clear goals when it came to the Kraken’s selections from each of the 30 teams; being to preserve cap space in a flat-cap era and to target big bodies.

Decisions to avoid selecting big contract players in Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, to name a few, became explainable when Seattle’s initial roster creation fell more than $30 million dollars under the salary cap. As one of the few teams around the league with arguably the greatest asset of all, cap space, and a team that will more than likely look different when it debuts on the ice, the Kraken have given themselves the power of a diverse list of options. Seattle can choose to use their available money to take on otherwise unwanted contracts and accumulate future picks and prospects, a model being closely followed this offseason by the Arizona Coyotes.

Alternatively, the Kraken have the ability to outbid almost anybody on any and all free agents hitting the market come Wednesday, July 28th. The idea of a fresh start with a brand new franchise in a city like Seattle may become particularly enticing to unrestricted free agents when paired with a healthy contract offer. Finally, the Kraken can utilize their cap room through deal-making. It came as a bit of a surprise to all to see so few trades be made by Seattle both before the draft in the form of side deals, and after, with the only movement being a swap with Calgary, which saw the departure of Tyler Pitlick for the return of a 2022 fourth-round pick. Perhaps the Kraken are saving their trading for bigger names post entry draft, where the team can shop their surplus of defensemen to build up their offensive prowess. Expect Seattle to target centermen, a position in which the post-expansion draft team was lacking, but that was bolstered for the future with the second overall selection of Matthew Beniers in the NHL Entry Draft.

Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press

The Kraken’s defensive core is without a doubt its strength, penning Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson to multi-year deals immediately following their selections to lead a group that is, put simply, massive. Seattle must have been watching the Stanley Cup Finals, where 11 of the 14 defensemen to earn playing time measured in at 6’2″ or higher, and picked up on the value that large, physical bodies carry when making a run for the Cup. Seattle selected 12 defensemen out of their 30 total expansion picks; 8 of these 12 met the 6’2″ benchmark. Height, clearly playing a factor, might help to explain the decision to sway in the direction of the 6’5″ Kurtis MacDermid from the Los Angeles Kings over popular mock draft choices Blake Lizotte and Kale Clague, and likely even impacted some of the forward selections like 6’5″ Alexander True from the San Jose Sharks. This is not to say that size was the only factor involved in the decision-making, though, as the Kraken have been touted for their early investment into their hockey analytics department, exemplified through the selection of Jared McCann over Alexander Kerfoot from the Toronto Maple Leafs, a positive WAR (Wins Above Replacement Percentage) player over a negative WAR player. The analytics department will likely be leaned on more heavily in the upcoming months of the offseason to evaluate potential trades and signings post roster conception. In examining their current roster, however, there is no question that size reigns supreme.

The NHL now officially consists of 32 teams and the Kraken ensured that their arrival would be huge. In an ongoing story that will be incredibly entertaining in the months to come, Seattle’s roster was clearly built to be hard to play against. While the league’s newest team still carries with it a number of question marks, one thing is certain: living up to their mascot name, the Kraken are a roster filled with big, scary monsters.

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