The Seattle Kraken only needs to win three games at the least in the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals to debut better than the Vegas Golden Knights. To accomplish that nearly impossible feat, Ron Francis and Dave Hakstol must decide on a draft philosophy. Do they manage the salary cap to leave enough room while acquiring players to develop into stars, or do they draft to use the cap room to “win now?” Furthermore, how does their approach affect the Philadelphia Flyers?
Ron Francis must be savvy when making trades on the day of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights built their near championship foundation through bargains as much as the players they drafted. It’ll all make for an intriguing NHL debut because Vegas doesn’t need to worry about protecting players, and the Kraken will draw comparisons to them. Seattle must also be wary of player performances and contracts throughout the pandemic. Poor performances across the league won’t tell an accurate story given normal circumstances, and Francis knows he’ll be able to leverage that to his advantage during a flat cap era.
Players who are currently disgruntled with their team amidst contract negotiations become a topic of interest. Some franchises, like the Buffalo Sabres, have all but fallen out of grace with superstar players. Expect Francis to make a deal to gain Jack Eichel, then select another from the unprotected roster.
These transactions could feature the Kraken retaining more contract value in a trade from other franchises while purposely drafting young, cheap players. It’s a tactic many franchises will play for, especially in the current NHL economy.
How does this kind of philosophy affect the judgment Seattle has when picking from the Flyers litter?
Developing Talent From Philadelphia
When the Seattle Kraken hired Dave Hakstol, the perception of how the Philadelphia Flyers could be affected changed. Hakstol has an affinity for wanting to develop players. Ones on the Flyers with Hakstol’s fingerprints are Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier. Alain Vigneault is still trying to trigger what Hakstol unlocked in Shayne Gostisbehere.
Already, there is one player of interest for the Kraken. Under Hakstol, Gostisbehere had two good seasons. In comparison, 2020-2021 was a step in the right direction from 2017-2018. Hakstol likely notices this trend and isn’t afraid to get in Ron Francis’ ear about poaching him from a depleted Philadelphia defense. It would be fitting that Hakstol damages the Flyers by capitalizing on a potential career renaissance aided by Vigneault.
Another route towards drafting a team to develop talent would feature Nicolas Aube-Kubel as a selection, but maybe James van Riemsdyk in a trade negotiated by Francis and Chuck Fletcher. Philadelphia would alleviate cap space, but Seattle walks off with an elite powerplay scorer.
Angling for a potential selection and trade would mutually benefit the Flyers and Kraken. Philadelphia has aspirations of landing a top-pair defenseman this offseason. Without some wheeling and dealing, the Flyers won’t have the cap space to take the necessary actions in retooling the lineup.
If this isn’t the philosophy Seattle takes, then they’ll be doing Philadelphia a favor by only aggressively selecting a robust contract and the talent coming with it.
Using Philadelphia To Win Now
Jakub Voracek is another forward that alleviates a ton of cap space for the Philadelphia Flyers. That’s far-reaching, especially considering the cap hit, his age, and his value to performance metrics. Most franchises building from scratch won’t search for a 32-year-old winger underperforming an $8.25mil pricetag.
But, could the Seattle Kraken make an exception for James van Riemsdyk? If they selected van Riemsdyk straight away, the Flyers could keep a solid bottom-six forechecking winger like Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Most of all, Philadelphia wouldn’t be tasked with the possibility of retaining any of the $7mil van Riemsdyk makes. A clean $7mil off the books means negotiating for Dougie Hamilton is possible. Perhaps a trade for Ryan Ellis or Adam Larsson is plausible now that the Flyers could comfortably afford them because of the Kraken selecting van Riemsdyk.
Dave Hakstol has a brief history in coaching van Riemsdyk. In 2018-2019, he scored the most points (48) of his second stint in Philadelphia under Hakstol.
What’s The Move?
To copy the Vegas Golden Knights blueprint, the Seattle Kraken needs point production in season one. From the Philadelphia Flyers, Shayne Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk make sense.
As we’ve already highlighted, both of those players thrived in a short time under Dave Hakstol. As long as the Kraken can shave their team salary as close as they can to the minimum, they’ll be able to make a play for vital contributors. One has to think that, because of Hakstol, the Flyers could alleviate cap space relatively effortlessly.
If Philadelphia can trade Nolan Patrick before the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, the risk in selecting him for cheap to develop under Hakstol disappears. It also highlights Nicolas Aube-Kubel and either Jakub Voracek or van Riemsdyk as the big contract left unprotected. Seattle won’t miss an opportunity to fleece the Flyers. Expect them to select for development while negotiating for stars.