Monday, July 26, 2021

Working through a week of expansion moves, blockbuster trades and draft surprises

Well that was a week.

Seven days ago, we were mulling over the just-released protected lists for an upcoming expansion draft, and trying to figure out how many teams had already cut side deals with the Kraken. One week later, we’ve seen what Seattle did (and didn’t do), watched an entry draft, and seen about a half-dozen legitimately big trades. It was not a boring week.

Are you surprised? That’s always a fun question at this time of year, because while big moves always happen, they’re often expected. But every now and then, something catches us completely off guard, and those are often the moves that end up being the most memorably.

So today, let’s break out a gimmick we used a few years ago, back in the before times: the Surprise Scale, where we go through some of the biggest stories of the last few days and try to figure out how shocking each one actually was. As the hockey world takes a breath and gets ready for more action in the week to come, here are the stories from the last week that may or may not have caught you off guard.

The Kraken (mostly) avoid the big names

There was plenty of star power available to Seattle, at least in terms of name value. They had a shot at Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mark Giordano, plus early access to unrestricted free agents like Gabriel Landeskog and Dougie Hamilton. The Flyers dangled James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, while the Predators offered Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene. Jonathan Quick, Matt Murray and Braden Holtby were options in net, and Max Domi or even P.K. Subban were possibilities. If you wanted to, you could have put together a dream roster of big names.

Ron Francis apparently didn’t want to, because he didn’t take any of those players except for Giordano. Other than plucking the Flames’ captain, the biggest names from Wednesday’s draft were probably Jordan Eberle and maybe Yanni Gourde. Several players taken were guys some of us had never heard of.

Was that a surprise? A little bit, sure – our final mock draft had Seattle rolling the dice on Landeskog and van Riemsdyk. But the Kraken were never going to go crazy on big names, especially when most of them are long past their peak. Recreating the 2016 all-star team doesn’t help you much in 2021 and the Kraken were too smart for that plan, even if it would have been all sorts of fun for the rest of us to watch them try

Surprise scale: 30/100. And besides, we all knew that the real value in the expansion draft would come from all the teams Seattle would squeeze in their side deals…

The Kraken don’t make any side deals


Yeah, I just don’t get this. I’ve ranted a bit on Twitter about it, and I’ve heard the counterarguments. The rest of the league was always going to learn some lessons from Vegas, and wouldn’t want to overpay like they did in 2017. The timid teams were going to be so scared that they wouldn’t even pick up the phone when Francis called. And with years to prepare, smart teams had already positioned themselves well, so they weren’t scared of losing a player.

All of that is true enough, and it was a good reason to expect that the Kraken weren’t going to be able to reap the kind of harvest that the Golden Knights did. There wasn’t going to be a Shea Theodore available. They weren’t going to swing side deals with ten different teams.

But… zero? Not one? That just doesn’t make sense. And when you mix in just one minor post-draft deal – Tyler Pitlick to Calgary for a fourth – it all feels like a major missed opportunity for Seattle. The expansion draft is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for your franchise, and working the trade front is a big part of that. It sounds like Francis misread the initial market, then couldn’t (or wouldn’t) adjust.

Surprise scale: 90/100. It’s too early to pass judgment on the Kraken overall, because they still have a ton of cap space and we need to see how they use it. If we get to Wednesday and they’re announcing the signing of guys like Hamilton or Landeskog (or both), or weaponizing their cap room to land big picks or prospects from teams that are desperate for space, great. Nobody will care that they didn’t get midround picks on expansion day. Let’s give them some credit and see how it plays out, but for now the lack of trade action is surprising.

Oh, one more expansion point…

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