NHL Insider: Seattle Kraken will be ‘difficult to play against,’ still have valuable flexibility
The Seattle Kraken are officially in business as the team has completed its expansion draft and now has 30 players on the roster.
Someone who was on top of the Kraken’s expansion draft coverage on Wednesday was Frank Seravalli, a writer for the Daily Faceoff and the president of the National Hockey Writers Association. Seravalli broke the news of many of the Kraken’s picks on Wednesday before they were made official Wednesday night.
Seravalli joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Thursday morning to discuss the Kraken’s picks, and one of his first thoughts from looking at Seattle’s roster is that it will be a team that’s not too fun to play against.
“I think one of the first indications we got with this team was that they’re going to be difficult to play against when you bring in guys like (defensemen) Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson on the back end,” Seravalli said.
There’s also a young forward who Seravalli thinks can thrive with the Kraken as a go-to scoring option.
“I think there’s room for growth. Mason Appleton is a guy who’s going to come in and be one of their guys who’s a burgeoning star,” he said. “… He’s going to be one of those guys who takes a giant leap in his career.”
And as far as the totality of picks that the Kraken made, Seravalli thinks the team has put itself in a great position when looking ahead to the future.
“I think the key word that comes to mind for me is flexibility. This team has loads of it moving forward,” Seravalli said. “Not just on the trade front but also on the free agent front. I think there’s a pretty clear process in place here. There’s room for growth, there’s flexibility, and as much as Seattle has in terms of the players on its initial roster, in a lot of ways, (general manager) Ron Francis still has a blank canvas.”
Some more maneuvering is expected Thursday as the Kraken can officially begin making trades. One deal that Seravalli has heard is happening is Seattle trading forward Tyler Pitlick to the Calgary Flames for draft picks. He also expects the Kraken to trade defenseman Vince Dunn at some point as he’s a pending restricted free agent and Seattle loaded up on quality defensemen in the expansion draft.
With that financial flexibility comes the ability to be a major player in free agency. Seravalli thinks the Kraken may wind up adding players that they had preliminary discussions with during the expansion draft process, such as St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who Seattle passed on to select Dunn.
“They decided to go with Vince Dunn, more of a sure thing under team control,” Seravalli said. “That gives Schwartz and the Kraken the opportunity to revisit things in six days and say, ‘Hey, we liked the initial conversations we had should we continue down this path.’ And I think there’s other guys in the same position.”
Danny O’Neil asked Seravalli why the Kraken didn’t follow the same “model” in the expansion draft that the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who made the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, did a few years ago. Seravalli said that Seattle didn’t have the opportunity to because opposing general managers at that time were willing to overpay Vegas to protect players and assets. He doesn’t think that was the case this time around with Seattle.
“My question is, was the ask from the Kraken too high? Should they have readjusted expectations in terms of maybe not having teams overpay, but just pay to protect?” Seravalli said. “I think that’s where it maybe leads itself to some interesting selections and some unexpected selections. I think as they reassess and go through the process again, what would Ron Francis’ revisions be? Would he look at things a little differently in that sense?”
But even with those reflection-based questions, Seravalli doesn’t see anything wrong with how the Kraken have set up their roster going forward, especially as it pertains to the salary cap.
“I don’t think you can ever go wrong in having the flexibility they have moving forward, with all that cap space and so few long-term contracts they’re going to be pretty nimble, especially next season at a time where the salary cap is going to remain flat again,” he said. “Next year is going to be the biggest cap crunch in history and there’s only one team in the Seattle Kraken that are going to be uniquely positioned to take advantage of all that.”