Early winners, losers from Seattle Kraken expansion draft

Early winners, losers from Seattle Kraken expansion draft
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Whether you found out thanks to a stream of reports or during the NHL’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft show, the team’s 30 picks have been revealed.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean we now have a complete view of the Kraken’s opening-day roster. (Reports indicate we might know the 2021-22 schedule for the Kraken and other NHL teams by Thursday, though.)

For one thing, we could see side deals. The Kraken maintained salary cap throughout this expansion draft, so don’t be surprised to see “sweeteners” and other types of trades. That robust cap space also opens the door Kraken to be big players in 2021 NHL Free Agency. You know … if they want to.

So, take these early Seattle Kraken “winners” and “losers” with appropriate grains of salt. Things could change as far as the Kraken’s makeup, and also how the Kraken affect other NHL teams, in the days, months, and even years following this expansion draft.

But here are some early winners and losers nonetheless. Click here for the full roster reveal.

Seattle Kraken expansion draft: Early losers

Being that every other NHL team (except those lucky Golden Knights) needed to lose a player, why not start with “losers?”

Loser: the Kraken expansion draft reveal show itself

Love surprises? Did you want to drop your jaw as the Seattle Kraken announced their 30 expansion draft picks? *Cough* Well, hopefully you avoided social media/the Internet in general.

If you wanted the closest thing to suspense, you’d really need to stretch. According to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, it merely took time for the Kraken to contact Dennis Cholowski as their Red Wings pick.

Plenty of reporters did great work (or annoying work, if you’re ESPN and/or hate spoilers). Daily Faceoff’s Frank Servalli chiseled out so many leaks, he became something of a meme magnet.

That said, the show did its best to make it fun. There were plenty of familiar faces, including other sports stars in Marshawn Lynch, Gary Payton, and Shawn Kemp. So, maybe you knew what gifts you were getting, but at least the wrapping paper was nice.

Losers: Lovers of splashy moves, pizzazz, chaos

Here’s a bold take: the Kraken, a mythical sea creature, likely splashed around a lot. During the expansion draft, we didn’t get many splashy moves from the Kraken, though.

Maybe that actually softens the blow of a lack of surprises? After all, a surprise can quickly downgrade to a disappointment. Just think of all of the times your younger self whined about getting socks as holiday gifts.

(As an old? Socks are pretty elite gifts, honestly.)

Instead of picking big names like Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko, the Kraken emphasized cap space, defense, and flexibility.

In the grand scheme of things, the Kraken might be smart in doing so. From a “sports are actually entertainment” perspective, those of us who crave chaos instead got socks. Sorry, socks.

Side deals

Could there be post-expansion draft trades? Something else that surfaces? We’ll see.

For now, it seems like NHL teams opted against side deals with the Kraken after making several before the Golden Knights’ expansion draft.

As much as it smarts for Flames fans to lose captain Mark Giordano, GM Brad Treliving said the price was simply too high to keep him. That may have been a trade. (Or teams just didn’t want a repeat of the Golden Knights heartache.)

Stay tuned at PHT for possible movement after the expansion draft, however.

Leaking Oilers

In time, maybe the Oilers will look like the smartest people in the room. Perhaps Duncan Keith will be so good as to prove critics wrong.

It sure doesn’t feel that way, though.

Losing Adam Larsson makes that Keith move look shakier, and only turns the knife in deeper about Edmonton possibly giving huge term to Zach Hyman. The Golden Knights likely made it more desirable to sign with an expansion team, but Larsson essentially picking the Kraken over the Oilers?

Ouch.

Blues, Flyers, generally anyone who wanted to save some money

Here’s where the “early” part is important in considering losers.

Following the expansion draft, the Kraken could still offer up their cap space to take on problem contracts — for a price. During the expansion draft announcements themselves, the Kraken weren’t exactly handing out a lot of “get out of salary cap jail for free” cards, though.

Seattle passed on the risk-reward decision of picking Vladimir Tarasenko. If the Flyers hoped to get James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, or even Shayne Gostisbehere off of the books, they were out of luck.

Deep down, the Predators probably didn’t expect the Kraken to rid themselves of $8M in one of Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen. It sure would’ve been nice for a team already awkwardly handling its rebuild.

More often than not, the Kraken went with short contracts, and cheap ones.

The Lightning, to an extent

Look, this offseason could hurt the Lightning. (Yes, that “could” does some hard work. There’s a fool me once …,” vibe to assuming the salary cap will actually be a probably for Tampa Bay.)

For all the warnings about not overreacting to the expansion draft, part of me wonders if the Lightning should’ve tried to bribe the Kraken not to take Yanni Gourde. He’s really good.

But the Lightning need breathing room, and if they didn’t bribe Seattle to take Gourde, then maybe it could have been worse?

Lovers of goals

Yanni Gourde has 22 and 25-goal seasons on his resume. Chances are, Jordan Eberle will be a big catalyst for Seattle’s offense.

Overall, it’s fair to ask “where are the goals coming from?” This is another foible of picking winners and losers so soon after the Kraken expansion draft, though. Could they add more scoring punch via free agency or trades?

Maybe, but right now, it looks like the Kraken might score in a way you’d, well, normally expect from an expansion team.

Really, though, the goals might be tough to come by overall, which is a nice segue to the “winners” section.

Early winners from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft

Truthfully, the biggest wins might be difficult to detect. Maybe those happen via a trade or free-agent pickup. It could boil down to the Kraken finding their version of William Karlsson, too.

That said, here are some early guesses at winners.

Hakstol’s defensive sensibilities?

One would guess that, as a “hockey man,” Dave Hakstol probably covets defense. On paper, the Kraken figure to be a tenacious opponent — and not just from the blueline.

Naturally, it starts with Mark Giordano, a veteran not that far removed from a Norris Trophy win. Larsson is another defenseman who’s proven to be an asset, maybe an elite one in his end.

Between those veterans, some intriguing mid-range options like Vince Dunn, and a handful of late-stage prospects, the Kraken could ice a nice crew of defensemen. Fans of other teams might even feel a bit jealous.

Delightfully for Hakstol and the Kraken, that strong defensive play also extends to most of their forwards. Yanni Gourde can bring offense, but it’s his all-around play that makes him exciting. Overall impact may vary, but you can basically copy-paste “two-way player” for most of the forwards the Kraken picked during the expansion draft.

Chris Driedger

At 27 years old, Driedger has played in just 41 regular-season games, and made three playoff appearances. His numbers are absolutely sparkling in most of those contexts, so don’t blame the Kraken for taking a chance on him.

But it’s understandable that people compare Driedger receiving some term and cash to a signing that may still give Ron Francis nightmares. During his time as Hurricanes GM, Francis & Co. signed Scott Darling — a player who put up nice numbers, but not over a large sample size, at a somewhat advanced age.

Does that doom Driedger by default? No, not necessarily. (It could help to have a strong defense in front of him.)

Either way, though … nice hustle from Driedger. Maybe he could have received something similar on the free-agent market, yet who knows? Instead, Driedger receives the sort of stability he probably couldn’t have fathomed even a couple years ago. Good for him.

The Islanders — if they want to make some splashes

You know that bit about teams not wiggling out of salary-cap challenges? The Islanders rank as one of those exceptions.

Now, Jordan Eberle could be missed. Still, consider that he carried a $5.5M cap hit, while the Islanders moved similar money in trading away Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd. (They even landed some futures for Leddy! Strong work.)

While Anthony Beauvilier figures to eat some of that space, Cap Friendly estimates the Islanders’ cap room at about $17.67 million.

Could they add that extra scoring talent to push them over the hump? Will they somehow add even more hitting? Get plenty of both by signing Gabriel Landeskog? Shock us all with Mathew Barzal? The possibilities were dizzying even before subtracting Eberle’s $5.5M via the Kraken expansion draft.

The Fleury family

Another expansion draft, another big night for people named “Fleury.”

The Kraken selected brothers (and defensemen) in Cale Fleury, 22, and Haydn Fleury, 25. Both bring interesting potential to the table.

But, really, even if they don’t (or only one does), moments like these are just cool.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.