It was a much different world back in December 2018 when the National Hockey League awarded Seattle the 32nd league franchise. Back then a kraken was still a mythical sea creature and the 2021-2022 season seemed light years away.
The Seattle Kraken officially joined the NHL last April but July 21, 2021 may have been the day the Kraken finally became a team. It started in the morning when the Kraken officially submitted to the league office a list of the players they were selecting in the expansion draft.
Things culminated in late afternoon at Seattle’s Gas Works park when an enthusiastic crowd cheered the announcement of the new Seattle players, some of whom were in attendance. Icons like Lenny Wilkins, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Bobby Wagner and Macklemore were warmly greeted and like most fans, Seattleites jeered NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (who promptly mispronounced Kraken coach Dave Hakstol’s name).
A few questions may have been answered as well.
WILL SEATTLE SUPPORT ICE HOCKEY
The enthusiasm for the Kraken has been overwhelming lately. Only spectators with tickets were allowed in the main seating area at Gas Works Park but there were also fans sitting on the surrounding hills and even a few kayakers in the water listening via the public address system. Several restaurants and bars around the city also had Kraken viewing parties.
Whether it was the Kraken or ESPN which televised the event, a strong connection was forged between the team and the city. Besides the celebrity selections, the big screen TV showed selections by medical teams at Virginia Mason, maintenance workers at the refurbished Climate Change Arena, the staff at the Space Needle, youth hockey teams, a guy who climbed to the top of Mount Rainier, and (of course) the guy who throws the fish at Pike Market.
WHAT KIND OF TEAM WILL THE KRAKEN HAVE?
The Kraken went after young, big, defensemen and forwards with potential. Seattle clearly eschewed high-priced veterans like Montreal goalie Carey Price and St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Mark Giordano, a 37-year-old defenseman from the Calgary Flames, is a notable exception. He should provide veteran leadership as the odds-on favorite to become the first Kraken captain. Seattle awarded new contracts to defensemen Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak but it’s still well below the $81.5 million salary cap at $54 million. That leaves room for more free-agent signings and possible trades.
Other players to watch – goalie Chris Driedger also signed before the draft. The former Florida Panther should start in net (we won’t say between the Krack pipes) ahead of Vitek Vanecek and Joey Daccord. The latter two combined make less than Carey Price. Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde will probably play on the Kraken top line although Gourde, who won two Stanley Cups in Tampa, may not be ready at the start of the season due to an injury. Forward Brandon Tanev was also at the draft and according to ESPN commentator Dominic Moore, should be a crowd favorite because `he hits everybody in sight.’ Seattle also has the second pick in the NHL entry draft on Friday. A player selected that high could be an NHL regular the following season.
WHAT WHERE THE DRAFT SURPRISES ?
When the Las Vegas Golden Knights came into the league in 2017, Knights GM George McPhee made ten trades on draft day. This year, there were no trades. There was some speculation that the Kraken might get draft picks from the Islanders for not picking Josh Bailey, Columbus for not drafting Max Domi and Montreal for passing on Price. None of those trades reached fruition. It would be a shocker however, if Kraken GM Ron Francis doesn’t make some deals in the near future.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
Kraken fans already knew the team’s first regular season game would take place Oct. 12 at Las Vegas. At the draft, the league announced that the first Kraken home game at Climate Pledge Arena will be Oct. 23 against their Northern neighbors – the Vancouver Canucks. The pre-season begins Sept. 26 when Seattle and Vancouver square off in Spokane. The Kraken play six preseason tilts with `home’ games, Oct. 1 versus Edmonton in Everett and on Oct. 5 the Kraken meet the Calgary Flames in Kent.