It was reported earlier on Wednesday that the Seattle Kraken had selected Chicago Blackhawks forward John Quenneville in the NHL expansion draft, but that move was made official during the league’s selection show.
By all accounts, the move caught NHL observers and fans by surprise. Quenneville, who is set to hit free agency in less than a week, did not appear in a single game for the Blackhawks during the 2020-21 season, playing in 16 games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. In those contests, he had one goal and one assist.
With several other players with gobs of NHL experience available, why did the Kraken take Quenneville? There are several potential theories as to why Seattle went in his direction.
For starters, the Kraken could be trying to save up a precious resource: salary cap space. Per the reports on which players the Kraken had selected from each of the 30 teams they were permitted to choose players from, the team is barely going to crack the league’s salary cap floor, giving them plenty of flexibility should they choose to add veteran talent to their roster.
Whether that’s a free agent like defenseman Dougie Hamilton (who they declined to pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in the draft) or a veteran player on another team, the Kraken will have plenty of cap room after this draft, and that could put them in prime position to make some serious moves after the league’s trade freeze ends this week.
It is also possible that the Blackhawks and Kraken worked out a trade to steer the team towards the Quenneville pick. No other trades have yet been announced, but with the sheer number of trades that the Vegas Golden Knights made during the expansion draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the Kraken made a few moves of their own.
In all, the Golden Knights made deals with a staggering 10 teams prior to the expansion draft in 2017, landing several key players including William Karlsson, Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore, among others.
The Knights also flipped several players after the draft, including Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot.
Finally, it could just be that the Kraken weren’t interested in the particular players that the Blackhawks exposed for the draft. Ryan Carpenter is a strong penalty killer and a decent fourth line center, but he is 30 years old. Calvin de Haan has a modest cap hit for next season at just over $4.5 million, but he has dealt with a series of injuries in recent years. Nikita Zadorov has been unable to reach an agreement on a new deal with the Blackhawks, so perhaps the Kraken weren’t willing to pay him what he is asking for.
This all remains speculation at this point, but what is clear is that the Kraken went in a much different direction than many experts expected that they would, and it will be fascinating to see how the team’s future plays out in the coming days, with the NHL Draft and the start of free agency both around the corner.