In less than a week the Seattle Kraken will begin piecing together their roster in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. In a normal expansion year expectations would be quite low for the league’s newest team as it would historically take at least three or four seasons to build a playoff contender.
The 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights changed all of that.
The combination of expansion draft rules that made better talent available, a lot of NHL general managers messing up, and a little bit of luck (okay, maybe a lot of luck) turned the Golden Knights into an immediate Stanley Cup contender that reached the Cup Final in their inaugural season (they lost to the Washington Capitals in five games).
They have been one of the league’s best teams ever since.
That is probably going to set an unreachable high bar for Seattle because expecting that sort of lightning to strike twice seems a little unrealistic. But there are still some lessons the Kraken, and the rest of the NHL, can take from that 2017 expansion draft.
Let’s examine them
1. For the rest of the NHL: Do not overthink this
Every NHL team (outside of Vegas, who is exempt) will lose one player to Seattle. In some cases, depending on the overall depth of the roster, it might be a good player. Maybe even a very good player. But it is not going to be a player that is going to damage their chances. It is, in almost every case, going to be a player that you can replace.
What got teams into trouble in 2017 is a lot of them completely panicked and lost their minds about losing a third-line forward or second-pairing defenseman — or saw it as an opportunity to dump bad contracts — that they had to make side deals with Vegas.
A lot of those side deals ended up costing them more talent, and in the process helped build Vegas into an immediate contender. Vegas got multiple players and draft picks from several teams that helped turn them into an immediate success. Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith from Florida. Erik Haula and Alex Tuch from Minnesota. William Karlsson and a first-round pick (used on Nick Suzuki, who was later traded for Max Pacioretty) from Columbus.
Seattle should be smelling blood in the water right now at the thought of extracting assets from desperate teams looking to dump a contract (Vancouver) or to protect specific players (teams that do no want to lose players they deem too valuable). Do not let them take advantage of that.