2021 NHL Expansion Draft

Brent Seabrook Blackhawks travel return to play salary cap LTIR
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Brent Seabrook won’t travel with Blackhawks; future and salary cap impact unclear

Brent Seabrook won’t travel with the Chicago Blackhawks during the next stage of the NHL’s Return to Play. It also seems unclear if Seabrook will suit up with the Blackhawks again.

Brent Seabrook won’t travel to Edmonton hub; Blackhawks won’t suffer much of a loss

Coming off of significant surgeries, Seabrook explained that he isn’t ready to return to play for the Blackhawks as the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers approach.

“I just don’t feel comfortable yet, just not as comfortable as I want to be,” Seabrook said, according to Scott Powers of the The Athletic.

As uncomfortable as this is to say, the Blackhawks aren’t losing much by missing Seabrook. The 35-year-old defenseman simply is far removed from his most productive days. Consider how lowly Seabrook ranks on this GAR Chart from Evolving Hockey, even relative to Blackhawks teammates who generally don’t score very well:

Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks GAR Evolving Hockey
Brent Seabrook and Blackhawks GAR chart via Evolving Hockey

Of course, many realized that Seabrook began a pretty steep decline quite a while ago. You can see that in his historical isolated impact charts at Hockey Viz.

Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks historical impact Hockey Viz
Brent Seabrook historical impact with Blackhawks via Hockey Viz

Seabrook began his career as a positive influence both on offense and defense. As the years went along, Seabrook’s defense slipped, but he was still able to contribute offensively for the Blackhawks. Then his play dropped off the map in both areas.

Seabrook admits he’s not sure about future

Then again, Seabrook might argue that he could at least make a bigger impact now that he’s healthier. If nothing else, it’s great to hear the veteran defenseman rave about an improved quality of life post-surgeries.

“Now I feel incredible,” Seabrook said, via NHL.com’s Tracey Myers. “Helping my kids tie their shoes has been nice. Tying my own shoes has been nice, getting out of bed, things like that.”

Despite that improved bill of health, these times leave Seabrook wondering about his Blackhawks future.

A trade or LTIR trip to buy salary cap breathing room?

For years, salary cap-interested people have wondered if the Blackhawks might wiggle out of Seabrook’s contract.

Even now, it’s staggering to look at it. Seabrook carries a jarring $6.875 million cap hit through 2023-24. Yikes. Over the years, it’s also been tough to tell if the Blackhawks had the option to trade Seabrook and his problem contract. After all, Seabrook negotiated for a no-movement clause. Could there have been trades shot down behind the scenes? Maybe ones barely discussed because of that NMC? For the most part, we can only speculate.

Yet, after hearing Seabrook wonder about his own future, it sounds like he’d be more likely to waive that clause. (Note: it turns into a modified no-trade clause starting in 2022-23, for whatever that’s worth.)

The tricky part is finding a trade partner. For one thing, would Seabrook be willing to go on LTIR? He stated that he believes he can still be an “impact player,” yet such a trip to LTIR wouldn’t be without credibility. Seabrook’s accrued plenty of bumps and bruises stemming from long Blackhawks playoff runs.

Sadly, Seabrook would likely be more compelling trade fodder if his $6.875M merely went to LTIR. His salary doesn’t dive as dramatically as some of the “loophole” contracts that prompted recapture penalties, but his cap hit will be larger than his actual salary going forward.

A rebuilding team might be willing to eat that salary cap headache, especially if the Blackhawks dangled Seabrook after paying off one of his larger signing bonuses.

With what’s still a pretty snug salary cap situation, the Blackhawks might be willing to bribe a rebuilding team to take Seabrook’s contract off of their hands. Looking forward, maybe it would be worth it to convince the Seattle Kraken to do so during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Either way, it’s fair to wonder about Seabrook’s future with the Blackhawks. But we at least know he won’t suit up against the Oilers during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers during the NHL Return to Play.

More on Blackhawks, NHL Return to Play

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.

Seattle Kraken announced as NHL expansion team name; jersey design released

Seattle Kraken
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Introducing the Seattle Kraken, the expansion franchise that will push the NHL to 32 teams. The Seattle Kraken also shared their logo and team colors on Thursday.

Seattle Kraken is the name for NHL expansion team; Check out logo, jerseys

After COVID-19 prompted a delay or two, we now know that the Seattle NHL expansion team will be known as the Kraken.

Take a look at the three logos:

Seattle Kraken logo, color scheme
via the team

Early responses appear positive for this look at their sweaters:

Seattle Kraken jersey sweater uniform team name
via Seattle Kraken/adidas

If all goes to plan, the Seattle Kraken will debut during the 2021-22 NHL season. Logically enough, the Kraken will play in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes will realign to the Central Division.

Climate Pledge Arena will serve as the home arena. (Yes, that’s the renovated and renamed Key Arena.)

With the salary cap expected to be flat (or close to flat), the Kraken figure to mop up at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The NHL will use the same expansion draft rules as the Vegas Golden Knights did.

Naturally, this expansion club will face a significant challenge in trying to parallel the smash success of the Golden Knights. It would probably be wiser to temper expectations to somewhere between the instant success of the Golden Knights and the lengthy struggles of past NHL expansion teams.

(But, again, financial realities open up plenty of possible opportunities for this upcoming team. Their analytics-friendly perception only makes such hypothetical situations more fun to imagine.)

Hockey fans must feel a sweet release in learning the team name is the Kraken.

So, what do you think? Is there a different name that would make more sense to you?

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.