As it stands, the Seattle Kraken are on track to make their final payment to the NHL by the end of April. Finishing that last bit of business will make them a full-fledged league member that can officially make deals.
It just so happens that one of those transactions could be a side deal that would become public knowledge well after the fact.
Many NHL general managers have said they learned their lessons from the Vegas expansion draft. And while that may be true, the flat salary cap is the biggest difference between what happened four years ago and what could go down in July. The flat cap has forced executives to get creative by essentially trading draft picks to purchase faux cap space. It’s likely some GMs will use the expansion draft to offload contracts or just do a general roster refresh. But only if the Kraken can get something tempting in return.
Finding and taking advantage of their leverage over teams could have a massive impact on what the Kraken do in the short- and long-term. The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark and Pierre LeBrun spoke with league sources to find what teams could potentially be in play for a side deal when the expansion draft arrives July 21.
LeBrun: What might have been a situation to exploit for the Kraken I don’t think will end up being much of anything when it comes to the Hurricanes. Ron Francis is too classy a guy to hold a grudge, but it would have been fun theatre if the Kraken GM could hold the team that fired him ransom through this process.
But the stalled Dougie Hamilton contract negotiations appear to put an end to that scenario. There was an offer made by the team earlier this season as the front office and the agent for the pending UFA star defenseman tried to find middle ground on an extension, but the reality is that both sides disagree on contract comparables. They were not close. So both sides agreed to shelve negotiations until after the season.
Now, this is just me, but if you’re waiting until after the season to resume talks, why the hell would you sign Hamilton before the July 21 expansion draft?
What I believe Carolina will do here is wait until after the expansion draft to make another offer to Hamilton so that they can protect Jake Bean, along with no-brainers Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
Then if you’re Carolina you’ve got a week between the expansion draft and the opening of free agency on July 28 to get Hamilton re-signed. And if they can’t? That’s a possibility I think the Canes are ready to live with even though they really do want to sign him, and I personally believe Hamilton really wants to stay.
Two other things to think about here:
First, that Seattle might swoop in during its July 18-21 exclusive UFA/RFA interview period and sign Hamilton to make him part of its expansion draft selections.
Second, that the Kraken select Brady Skjei in expansion. Carolina would certainly rather keep Skjei, but the Canes won’t spend an asset in a side deal to prevent Seattle from taking him. He’s got three more years on his deal at a $5.25 million AAV, so the betting here is that Seattle doesn’t take him.
What didn’t help Seattle’s cause was Carolina trading Haydn Fleury to Anaheim on trade deadline day last week. He certainly would have been an expansion draft option given that Francis drafted him in Carolina.
But all in all, providing Hamilton doesn’t re-sign before the expansion draft, Carolina doesn’t have much to sweat with Seattle.
Clark: The Avalanche are expected to explore a potential trade of one of their forwards as long as they can receive something substantial in return. The belief is that the Avs are also open to having a discussion with the Kraken about their needs before further evaluating what Colorado will do.
Essentially, it comes back to what the Avalanche can do with their defenseman. The expectation is that the front office thinks it will not be an issue to get veteran defenseman Erik Johnson to waive his no-movement clause. Doing that allows them to protect Devon Toews.