With the final payment in the books, the Seattle Kraken have officially become the NHL's 32nd franchise. Puck drop is scheduled for October but there's going to be a lot going on before that.
What today represents however is the chance for Seattle and GM Ron Francis to start making calls and making moves that will lead to the very first Kraken roster.
Needless to say, the massive days approaching on the calendar will be coming in July. First, on the 17th, the Kraken will receive the protected lists from the 30 teams (excluding Vegas) participating in the expansion draft, with the expansion draft itself happening on July 21. In between those two dates, Seattle can negotiate with pending free agents and if the Kraken decide to sign any of them, those players will serve as the selection for their old team in the expansion draft (so if the Kraken sign a Bruin, then Boston can't lose another player in the draft).
After the expansion draft, the NHL entry draft comes fast, with the first round slated for July 23 and the other six rounds on July 24. The league-wide free agency start is July 28.
So it's going to be a busy summer, but an incredibly fun stretch for Seattle fans as well. Now the fun starts: Who will be the first player in Seattle Kraken history?
When Vegas came into the league in 2017, the Golden Knights' first signing was major junior free agent Reid Duke of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings. There was some obvious comfort in that choice, since then-assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon (now the GM) was the long-time GM and owner of the Wheat Kings.
Duke has yet to play for Vegas and currently skates with the AHL's Henderson Silver Knights, but the excitement of having a player officially signed to the organization was great at the time – especially because it happened months before Vegas had its first drafts. I have no idea if they're interested, but the Kraken could go local for their first free agent with a member of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. Right winger Keltie Jeri-Leon is the best unaffiliated player on the roster, as he was a point-per-gamer as an overager this year.
While the OHL season was wiped out this year, the WHL actually has a few options for the Kraken when it comes to unsigned free agents and a lot of NHL teams have made hay in the past with late-bloomers.
Medicine Hat's Cole Clayton is coming off an awesome season for the Tigers that saw the overager lead the league in scoring by a defenseman. Clayton, who is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, put up 30 points in 20 games while contributing to the power play and scoring shorthanded.
Meanwhile in Brandon, overage right winger Lynden McCallum is attracting interest from NHL teams already thanks to his breakout season. McCallum potted 21 goals in 22 games for the Wheat Kings.
Seattle missed out on most of the NCAA's top free agents this year simply because of timing. As Francis noted during a recent online press conference, those college players tend to want to play at least a game in the NHL right away and with no games to play this season, the Kraken were at a disadvantage.
Having said that, University of Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann just announced that he would be leaving the Wolverines in order to pursue professional opportunities and while the timing may have been coincidental, it is pretty tempting to connect the dots.
Mann was spectacular as a junior this season, putting up a .930 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average in 21 games. His five shutouts tied for tops in the conference and he was also great for Michigan as a sophomore.The 22-year-old doesn't have ideal NHL size (he's six-feet-tall if you like him), but he is a gamer. And since the Kraken have to select at least three goaltenders in the expansion draft, Mann would be a perfect depth guy - and someone for other prospects to shoot on at rookie camp.
Seattle will have to share an AHL affiliate next season and that's not ideal, but Francis is estimating the Kraken will have about 10 players in the minors to start. Now with the final check cashed, we can start to speculate about who some of those prospects may be.