TAMPA, Fla. — The NHL’s expansion to 32 teams will start to take shape tonight. That’s when the all-new Seattle Kraken will select their first players in the Expansion Draft. This may significantly impact the rosters for other teams, including the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Kraken will pick 30 players — one from each team except for the Vegas Golden Knights, who are exempt because they entered the league four years ago. The Kraken will have to select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies; the other four spots are their choice. Twenty of the players they select must be under contract for the 2021-22 NHL season.
For the Lightning, it won’t mean the loss of captain Steven Stamkos or star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Bolts protected them from being picked; each team protected eight skaters and a goalie. The Kraken also won’t be able to take Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonaugh or Mikhail Sergachev.
Lightning forwards Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat are among the top unprotected players available to Seattle. Other big-name players up for grabs include Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Calgary Flames defenseman and team captain Mark Giordano, and legendary Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.
It’s highly unlikely the Kraken will be able to select all those stars. The big reason: the salary cap. Seattle cannot exceed that $81.5 million total. They must, however, get to at least 60% of that number, which will be the “salary floor” for 2021-22.
Once the Expansion Draft ends, the Kraken will still be able to add players through free agency, trades and the NHL Draft, which begins Friday. It’s likely they’ll leave some salary cap room open to explore such options.
The NHL Expansion Draft starts at 8 p.m. Eastern in Seattle.
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