Kraken expansion project will be a milestone for Seattle
When the calendar switches to this time of year, there is normally a mixture of anger and resentment for sports fans in this part of the country.
Not this year. Not with one of the biggest moments in the creation of the new NHL franchise set to take place on Wednesday night with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, in which the team will lay the groundwork for its first training.
“I’m emotional about it, but three and a half years ago the fans took this huge leap of faith,” Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said. “And now it’s time for recovery.”
In a bizarre synergy of the schedule, pandemic changes to the NHL season landed the expansion draft at a time that brings back painful memories to sports fans in Seattle.
It was 15 years ago this week – July 18, 2006, to be exact – that the NBA SuperSonics were sold to owners outside the region. A two-year fight ensued that ultimately led to the relocation of Seattle’s first professional sports team to Oklahoma City.
Seattle will finally have a replacement for professional winter sports with the Kraken debut in October. Unless it secured the franchise in December 2018 and the completion of its original arena, the expansion project is the biggest milestone for Seattle and fills the void of what was lost over ten years ago. years.
“It’s really about the players and the fans and tomorrow is the meeting of those two things,” said Leiweke. “It’s just powerful. Some fans think it’s a long time coming. For me, it’s been three and a half years, I’ve had gray hair because of it. But I think the fans are going to really like what they see.
The unveiling of the Kraken selections will be a quintessential Seattle event. It is broadcast from Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union with scenic shots of the skyline in the background. Fans will be in the park, but the team has requested a flotilla of fans to assemble on boats, paddleboards and kayaks on the water.
The NHL has recruited local sports celebrities to help announce the selections, including a nod to the SuperSonics with the inclusion of Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Hall of Fame member Lenny Wilkens.
Marshawn Lynch and Sue Bird are also participating. The Kraken jersey will be unveiled for the first time.
And yes, there will be a discarded fish at Pike Place Market to reveal one of the selections.
“The goal here is to show Seattle and show the team not only to hockey fans around the world, but also to sports fans,” said Steve Mayer, NHL content director. “It’s a cool time.”
While the night will include a lot of pomp and circumstance, the future of the team ultimately depends on decisions made by GM Ron Francis and the rest of the Kraken front office. The 669 players left unprotected for the expansion draft created plenty of avenues for Seattle, ranging from trying to match Vegas’ success since its inaugural season to becoming younger and cheaper and looking to grow long. term.
Seattle needs to take at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders, and spend at least $ 48 million of its $ 81.5 million salary cap space.
The biggest decision could come from the goalkeeper. Montrealer Carey Price, fresh out of a playoff race, is available but at a cost of $ 10.5 million a year for five more seasons and questions about his health. Price would be an instant face of the franchise with significant ties to the Pacific Northwest, but his salary could limit Seattle’s handling.
There are also big names like Vladimir Tarasenko, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Giordano, Ryan Johansen, Max Domi, Tyler Johnson and PK Subban who are all floating out there as potential selections if Seattle wants established veterans to anchor their roster.
“I certainly think there will be good players available,” said Francis. “Hopefully when they’re selected here we can get them to town and get on stage and they can kind of become the first faces of our Seattle Kraken lineup and the fans identify with them as well. “