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Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/SeattleKraken

Can Seattle Match Vegas?

The Seattle Kraken organization believes it will compete in the Pacific division this coming season. Ownership has given GM Ron Francis the green light to assemble a roster that could come close to the $81.5 million salary cap. Francis and the Kraken could add many high-priced options in the expansion draft tomorrow.

Will they take Carey Price?

Frank Seravalli reported on Monday’s DFO Rundown podcast (there was a lot of juicy tidbits in that podcast) that Seattle will sign goalie Chris Driedger. Elliott Friedman reported yesterday afternoon that Driedger would sign for $3.5m. Montreal went to the Stanley Cup Final with $14m committed to Price and Jake Allen. Vegas had over $12m committed to Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, while Tampa had almost $11m in salary for its goalies.

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Adding Price and Driedger at a combined $14m wouldn’t be unprecedented.

There are many other high-priced players available, and I suspect Seattle will take a few of them. Marc Giordano seems like a lock. Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5m AAV for two years) has had shoulder issues, but he’s also one of only seven players in the NHL who has scored 37+ goals three times in the past eight seasons. Alex Ovechkin (6), Auston Matthews and Joe Pavelski (4) and Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Seguin and John Tavares have done it three times.

Tarasenko is one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL. He’d be hard to pass up. At worst Francis could draft him and then trade him to another team for more assets.

The one challenge Seattle faces is that teams are more aware of the errors they made in the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, and will be less likely to make similar deals.

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Here is a list of who Vegas drafted. I included in parenthesis any additional players or picks that Vegas received, or had to give up, as part of trades ensuring Vegas picked a specific player. Players in bold are still on Vegas’ roster today.

Forward:
ARI: Teemu Pulkkinen
BUFF: William Carrier. (2017 6th round pick. Vegas selected Jiri Patera).
CAR: Connor Brickley. (2017 5th round pick. Vegas selected Jonathon Dugan).
CBJ: William Karlsson. (2017 1st rounder (Vegas traded pick to WPG), a 2019 2nd round pick and David Clarkson).
DAL: Cody Eakin
DET: Tomas Nosek
FLA: Jonathan Marchessault. (Reilly Smith for a 2018 4th round pick, that Florida traded later on).
MIN: Erik Haula. (Alex Tuch for a 2018 third rounder. Minnesota selected Connor Dewar).
NSH: James Neal
NYR: Oscar Lindberg
PHI: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
STL: David Perron
TOR: Brandon Leipsic
WPG: Chris Thorburn. (Swapped 2017 first round picks, #13 (Nick Suzuki) for #24 (Kristian Vesalainen) and a 2019 third round pick, which Vegas traded later).

Defence:
ANA: Clayton Stoner. (Shea Theodore.)
BOS: Colin Miller
CGY: Deryk Engelland
CHI: Trevor van Riemsdyk
EDM: Griffin Reinhart
LA: Brayden McNabb
MTL: Alexei Emelin
NJD: Jon Merrill
OTT: Marc Methot
SJ: David Schlemko
TB: Jason Garrison (2017 2nd round pick (Vegas traded pick to acquire Keegan Kolesar), a 2018 4th rounder (Paul Cotter) and Nikita Gusev.
VAN: Luca Sbisa
WSH: Nate Schmidt

Goalie:
COL: Calvin Pickard
NYI: Jean-Francois Berube. (1st in 2017 (Erik Brannstrom), a 2nd in 2019 (traded this pick later for Tomas Tatar), Mikhail Grabovski and Jake Bischoff.
PIT: Marc-Andre Fleury. (2020 2nd round pick. Vegas traded this pick to Chicago for Malcolm Subban).

Post draft transactions:

Traded van Riemdyk and 2018 7th rounder (Massimo Rizzo) to Carolina for a 2nd round pick in 2017 (Jake Leschyshyn).
Moved Schlemko to Montreal for a 2019 5th round selection (Marcus Kallionkieli).
Traded Methot to Dallas for Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 2nd round pick. (Traded that pick as part of Mark Stone deal).
Traded Emelin to Nashville for a 2018 third. (Vegas traded this pick later).
Dealt Pickard to Toronto for a 2018 6th rounder (Peter Diliberatore) and Tobias Lindberg.

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Brickley, Thorburn and Berube were all UFAs and never signed with Vegas.

I’d be surprised if Seattle is able to gain as much trade capital as Vegas did in 2017. This year teams exposed proven NHL players due to their heightened cap hits. This year it seems teams are more willing to just accept they will lose a player, rather than give up two or three assets to retain one. But that could change once Francis starts negotiating.

IS MATCHING VEGAS REALISTIC?

Vegas had the greatest inaugural season of any expansion team in North American pro sports. It won three playoff rounds before losing the Stanley Cup Final to Washington. Vegas had so many things go right to reach the final, that I think it is almost impossible for Seattle to match its success.

Karlsson had a career year scoring 43-35-78. He hasn’t come close to that before or since.
Marchessault had a career-high 75 points.
Smith had a career-best 60 points.
They became one of the best lines in the NHL.

David Perron had a career-best 66 points.
Haula scored 29 goals and 55 points. His career highs prior or since are 15 goals and 34 points.
Neal scored 25 goals, which wasn’t a major surprise considering it was his ninth consecutive 21+ goal season.

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Five of their top-six scorers had career years.

Vegas needed four goalies to start games due to injuries: Fleury (46), Subban (19), Maxime Legace (14) and Oscar Dansk (3). The latter three had a combined two career starts prior to playing for Vegas, and despite Fleury’s injury Vegas still went 22-11-3 with three rookies splitting the crease. Ridiculous.

They caught lightning in a bottle and skated all the way to the Cup final. It was amazing, but Seattle shouldn’t expect the same.

The Pacific division is wide open after Vegas and Edmonton, so being competitive right away is plausible, and I’m curious to see who Seattle selects tomorrow evening.

EXPANSION DRAFT PICKS?

Seattle has lots of proven scoring options if it wants them, but Tarasenko, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter, Evgeni Dadonov, Jason Zucker, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson all come with a cap hit over $5 million.

Could they entice a free agent like Gabriel Landeskog to sign? I doubt it, but Seravalli reported Seattle will make a strong push to sign UFA Dougie Hamilton.

Seattle will be aggressive to ensure they ice a competitive roster. Will teams be desperate to protect a player and give up two solid assets like Minnesota, Florida and Columbus did in 2017?

We’ll find out tomorrow and I can’t wait for the chaos to begin.

Which player(s) do you think Seattle will or should select?

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