Seattle Kraken: The impact of NHL key dates on planning for 2021-22 debut

The Seattle Kraken now have a clearer picture of what lies ahead, after the NHL announced their plans for the 2020-21 season.

The Seattle Kraken and their fans got an early Christmas present of sorts, when the NHL announced their key dates for the upcoming season. While the Kraken will not be taking part in the 2020-21 campaign, they now have a clearer of what lies head, as they prepare for their NHL debut in roughly nine-months time.

The NHL’s condensed 56-game regular season will begin on Jan. 13, with the last possible date for the Stanley Cup Final being July 9 to accommodate the start of the Olympics. However it’s the key dates which have been announced following the season, that are of particular importance to the Seattle franchise.

As per Tracy Myers of NHL.com, 2 p.m. PT on July 17 is the deadline for teams to submit protected lists for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The only exception are the Vegas Golden Knights, who were themselves an expansion franchise in 2017.

The actual expansion draft will take place on July 21, starting at 5 p.m. PT. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had previously talked about holding the event in Seattle, although you now have to take into account the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kraken will select a player from each NHL team except the Golden Knights, to create a roster which includes at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. Who Seattle actually select is open to debate until we know which seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender each team protects.

Regardless, there are several potential names to keep an eye on. These include; blue-liner Kevin Shattenkirk of the Anaheim Ducks, center Tyson Jost of the Colorado Avalanche, winger Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers, center Chris Tierney of the Ottawa Senators and goaltender Branden Holtby of the Vancouver Canucks.

The Kraken won’t have much time to catch their breath, as just two days later the NHL will hold the first round of the 2021 entry draft. The draft will be concluded the next day on July 24, with rounds two through seven.

What’s interesting at this stage, is that we don’t know yet where the Kraken will pick in each round. At the time of writing, the NHL had not confirmed their lottery odds for the 2021 draft.

As such, all we can do for now is use what happened with Vegas as a basis for any assumption. For the record, they were given the third-best odds to win the first overall draft pick in 2017, but ultimately fell to sixth place.

Following the draft, the Seattle Kraken will once again have little time to relax. This is because the restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period starts on July 28, at 9 a.m. PT.

Fortunately for the Kraken they already have their general manager in place to make all the key decisions. Ron Francis was officially hired as GM in July 2019, so has had plenty of time to prepare for what will come next year.

On the flip side Seattle has yet to hire their inaugural head coach, but there are some intriguing names to consider including; Gerard Gallant, Mike Babcock and John Stevens. While Francis has indicated he is in no rush to fill the position, he should look to make a decision sooner than later, especially while there are still excellent candidates available.

Seattle will join the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, alongside Vegas, Edmonton, Vancouver and Anaheim, as well as the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Certainly, it has the makings of an interesting division with plenty of intriguing storylines.

These storylines include a natural rivalry with Cascadia rivals the Canucks and potentially the Golden Knights, due to the own recent addition to the NHL as an expansion franchise. Facing the Oilers’ Connor McDavid, who is arguably the NHL’s best player, will also provide an instant draw for Seattle hockey fans.

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