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Kraken expansion draft showcases Seattle, lacks drama

Last Updated Jul 21, 2021 at 10:39 pm EDT

Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke speaks Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during the NHL hockey team's expansion draft event in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Kraken expansion draft lacked drama after all 30 picks leaked out hours before they were revealed, but it had plenty of Seattle to introduce the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

One pick was announced by an octopus from the Seattle Aquarium. Another came written on a fish thrown in the city’s legendary Pike Place Market.

As far as the players selected, the Kraken got their goaltender in late-blooming Chris Driedger, perhaps their first captain in defenceman Mark Giordano and veteran forwards Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann. They passed on big-money goaltender Carey Price fresh off backstopping Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final, choosing instead to sign Driedger to a $10.5 million, three-year contract.

“When I kind of came to terms, I had no clue who my goalie partner would be,” Driedger said. “I’m kind of just betting on myself in that situation. In the NHL there’s going to be competition wherever you go.”

Price’s cap hit of $10.5 million – annually – for the next five seasons, plus the 34-year-old’s questionable injury history, led to Seattle passing on him.

“Any time you see a name like Carey Price available, you have to consider it,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “Certainly we did that, we had a lot of discussions. And at the end of the day, we made the decision that we did to go in a different direction.”

Seattle also took goalies Vitek Vanecek from Washington and Joey Daccord from Ottawa. Driedger and Vanecek combine to cost less than half of Price.

Giordano, 37, has the biggest cap hit of any player the Kraken selected but could soon wear the “C” when they open their inaugural season at Vegas and then open Climate Pledge Arena Oct. 23 against Vancouver.

“It feels a little bit different today, but it’s been crazy last day or so,” Giordano said. “This is the first time in my career I’ve ever been drafted, so thank you to the Kraken and I’m happy to be here.”

Eberle, one of a handful of players on site at Gas Works Park on Lake Union, called it a “new challenge.”

“You don’t get many opportunities to be part of a new franchise,” said Eberle, who came from the New York Islanders. “Any time you get that opportunity to bring the Cup to a city that’s never had it before, it’s pretty special.”

Seattle had the Stanley Cup once before in 1917 when the city’s team was the Metropolitans.

It’s up to Francis and the Kraken to try to bring it back, and the expansion strategy seemed to mimic the Vegas Golden Knights making some off-the-board picks rather than taking big stars.

“I have a tremendous amount of faith in Ron Francis’ ability to build a team,” Driedger said. “He knows what he’s doing.”

Along with Driedger, Francis agreed to terms with pending free agent defencemen Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleskiak. Larsson got a $16 million, four-year deal to become the pick from the Edmonton Oilers, and Oleksiak got $23 million over five years.

Boston defenceman Jeremy Lauzon will go down in the record books as Seattle’s first expansion draft selection. Kole Lind from rival Vancouver was the 30th, and the Kraken did not announce any trades – a far cry from Vegas’ wheeling and dealing in 2017.

“A great list of guys here,” Oleksiak said about Seattle’s initial roster. “It’s a new team team and it offers a lot of opportunities for guys and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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AP Hockey Writers Stephen Whyno and John Wawrow contributed to this report.

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