Dooley: 3 reasons why the Seattle Kraken will be competitive right away

Jul 27, 2021, 12:43 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2022, 4:35 pm
Seattle Kraken...
The Seattle Kraken have plenty of financial flexibility after the expansion draft. (Getty)

With both the expansion draft and the 2021 NHL draft in the books, Seattle finally has a roster of Seattle Kraken players to root for.

The Seattle Kraken Core: The 6 players who will be household names

General manager Ron Francis chose to steer clear of big names with injury concerns in the expansion draft and built a team that’s strength is defense, with promising goalies and the need for a bit more depth at forward.

The roster has been met with mixed reviews. Some have questioned the Kraken’s conservative approach and felt it was underwhelming in comparison to what the Las Vegas Golden Knights did back in 2017.

Ron Francis told reporters following the draft that there was good reason for that. The Kraken were in a different position than Vegas because teams were more prepared for them.

“Last time, GMs were more willing to, in a sense, overpay to protect certain assets,” Francis said. “This time they learned from that and they weren’t willing to make the same mistakes.”

The Kraken may not have had the element of surprise that the Golden Knights did, but they do have some unique advantages moving forward and this roster is far from complete.

Don’t let anyone rain on your hockey parade because of first impressions. We’ve been waiting for this team for a long time and there is plenty to be excited about.

1) They are not done roster building

The Kraken are still building this roster. They have nearly $30 million in cap space and are barely over the cap minimum ($49.8 million) that was part of the NHL’s expansion rules at $54.4 million. Francis may have played it conservatively in the draft, but now he has deep pockets to work with in shopping a ridiculously stacked free agent class and it sounds like he plans on doing just that.

“We’ve been keeping to our strategy of trying to keep a lot of our powder dry, not only for free agency but as you progress through the summer,” Francis told Linda Cohn on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “Teams have to get cap compliant for the start of October. Worst case scenario, we’ve got that cap space as we head into the season and free agency next summer as well.”

Francis can avoid that “worst-case scenario” by putting some of that cap money towards improving up front. There are some very talented options available in guys like Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog, Lightning center Blake Coleman and Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri if Francis is willing to spend a little more lavishly now that the core of the roster is in place.

There is also the potential for trades and the possibility that they could circle back around to guys they couldn’t quite reach deals with in the expansion draft like Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, who is reportedly coming to the Kraken.

2) They have a big advantage when it comes to the salary cap

The Kraken are smart for being cautious with their spending thus far, as cap space is a precious commodity in the NHL right now. The NHL salary cap remained flat at $81.5 million for the 2021 season following revenue losses due to COVID-19.

Unlike the NFL, who recovered quickly enough to expect a cap increase in 2022, the NHL expects the cap to remain flat for several years. This could create an even bigger advantage for the Kraken over teams that recently signed players to big deals expecting the usual rise in salary cap and are now looking to unload salary to get cap compliant. It could also mean that free agency could be more of a bargain than usual with fewer teams in a position to offer top of the market value.

Frank Seravalli of The Daily News joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant to discuss the Kraken and that advantage was one of his biggest takeaways.

“A year from now is going to be the biggest cap crunch in NHL history,” Seravalli said.” “There’s only one team, in the Seattle Kraken, that are going to be uniquely positioned in order to take advantage of that.”

So, while the Kraken aren’t done making moves this off season, it’s understandable why they want to leave themselves a bit of a nest egg for next year when they can really maximize it.

3) They are in a very weak division

It’s unrealistic to expect the Kraken to go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Golden Knights did in their first season, but it is reasonable to expect them to make the playoffs. Even if they continue to take the conservative approach and don’t make many waves in free agency, the Kraken could make the playoffs due to the weak division they are in.

They will be a part of the Pacific division, which is newly realigned after some temporary changes due to the pandemic. When you look at the divisions as they stand now, the Pacific would be the only division with just two teams that won 30 or more games last year in the Golden Knights (40) and the Oilers (35). Every other division has at least four teams with 30 or more wins in 2021.

When it comes to points, even if you generously spotted the Pacific division the highest points total of 2021 with 82 to fill the Kraken’s empty spot, they would still be 17 points behind the next closest division, the Atlantic.

The Kraken will not have to be amazing right off the bat to be competitive in this division and the NHL playoff format allows for three division winners, plus two wild cards.

There is room for Ron Francis to plan for the future and still have a very successful inaugural season.

Follow Maura Dooley on Twitter.

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