It becomes official Friday. The Seattle Kraken are scheduled to make their final payment to the NHL, making them the league’s 32nd franchise.
The NHL awarded Seattle a franchise in December of 2018, and the team has moved forward with hiring staff and preparing for the Expansion Draft in July. But paying the remainder of its $650 million expansion fee represents the final hurdle for the Kraken becoming official members of the league.
So, what does this mean?
For 30 other teams, it means they get their cut of the expansion fee sent to them – the Vegas Golden Knights are not eligible to receive a portion of the fee. More importantly for the Kraken, the payment means as an official NHL franchise they can sign free agents and have a say in league-wide decisions.
There are undrafted college players, and soon CHL players, that will have completed their seasons and can be signed by NHL clubs. We have already seen a flurry of college players signed and while on the surface it feels like maybe the Kraken missed out, general manager Ron Francis says Seattle would not have been a destination for those players even if they were allowed to sign them.
“The college ones are a little more challenging,” Francis said two weeks ago. “It’s not so much the payment happening later. A lot of times with those big college free agents and what the agents and the players want is to burn this season (of an entry-level contract), which is this year. We can’t burn this year and would have to start next year, so that takes us out on a lot of those negotiations.
“We’re looking at that and we’re certainly looking at the Ontario League, the Western League, and the Quebec League and free agents in Europe that we might be interested in signing.”
By contrast, the Vegas Golden Knights signed their first player in March of 2017, seven months before their first NHL season. They signed Reid Duke from the Brandon Wheat Kings as his WHL season was ending. Junior leagues are nearing a conclusion over the next few weeks and the OHL didn’t play at all, so there are players that the Kraken could consider bringing into the fold.
The final payment also means that the Kraken can now weigh in on league decisions, GM meetings, and Board of Governors’ issues. Previously, the franchise had no say in these choices and just watched as the league dealt with restarting the playoffs last year and shortening the current season.