On Saturday, the Kraken announced the team’s final round of training camp cuts, reducing the active roster to 22 players. This is one below the active player maximum of 23 players.
First, the Kraken announced waiver-exempt young players Ryker Evans and Shane Wright would be reassigned to the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the AHL. Then, the team announced forward John Hayden, defenseman Cale Fleury, and goalie Chris Driedger were being waived for the purpose of being reassigned to the AHL as well. Every other NHL team will have the opportunity to claim these players. We will know whether any of the three were claimed by 11:00 am PT Sunday.
On Friday night in Edmonton, the Kraken coaching staff deployed what looked like a dress rehearsal lineup for the opener in Vegas on Tuesday. Those groupings stayed together during Saturday morning’s skate at the Kraken Community Iceplex, with the notable addition of Vince Dunn as a full-practice participant. This suggests to us that we may very well see an opening-night lineup that looks like this:
What else did we learn from Saturday’s roster maneuvering? Here are a few quick notes on the last few players to make and miss the Kraken roster and Seattle’s approach as we near the regular-season opener.
Kraken roster at 22 players
The Kraken could have kept one of the five players moved off the roster on Saturday and remained at the 23-player roster maximum. Instead, the team decided to reduce the roster to 22 players. Why? Reducing to 22 players now potentially gives the team added flexibility at the 23rd roster spot to move waivers-eligible players in and out of that position. After a player passes through waivers once, the player can be moved back-and-forth from the AHL and NHL without being put on waivers again if the player has not played in 10 NHL games or been on the NHL roster for 30 days.
The team may have viewed waiting to waive an additional player as risky. I haven’t seen research confirming this, but there is a common line of thinking that it is relatively easier to sneak a player through waivers at the end of training camp when the wire is inundated with alternatives than it would be four weeks into the season, for example, when the waiver wire is more scarce and roster needs and injuries have started to mount across the league.
It is entirely possible the spot is filled before opening night if, for example, Vince Dunn isn’t ready to go that night. If the spot remains open for a while, the advantage of keeping only 22 players is that the team will accrue additional cap space that could be utilized later, as needed. (See this article from last year on how cap accrual works.)
Last players in
Kartye played his way onto the team, plain and simple. Before camp, there was a thought that the best way to preserve Seattle’s depth would be to send Kartye down to begin the year. But, as camp progressed, it became clear that the Kraken would be a worse team without the versatile Kartye on the ice. He appears primed to start the season on the fourth line, but don’t be surprised if he fills many different roles over the course of the year.
Yamamoto had a solid preseason, showing offensive instincts and puck-handling skills. It seems he may be the forward scratch on opening night, but he should draw into the lineup quickly. Like Kartye, he has versatility to fill various lineup spots as needed.
Megna is a great fit as the team’s seventh defenseman. He’s on a minimum contract, and if you need to draw him into the lineup for a game, he’ll provide solid defense and value on the penalty kill. He is also an established veteran likely at the top of his development arc. The team doesn’t need to be concerned that it is harming any further progress by keeping Megna inactive, as long as the others on the blue line are performing. (This was our concern with keeping Cale Fleury in this role.)
The story of Joey Daccord making the team is similar to Tye Kartye’s tale. A strong 2022-23 postseason run paired with a strong 2023-24 preseason made it difficult to deny that he deserved the shot on the NHL roster. Daccord still has not established himself as an NHL-caliber backup goalie, but he has earned the opportunity to make that jump this season.
Last players out
Wright’s official reassignment to the AHL confirms the earlier reported agreement between the Kraken, CHL, and NHL waiving certain eligibility requirements in the CHL-NHL transfer agreement. This was the common-sense solution, and we’re glad to see it. Wright had a solid preseason in our eyes, but we like the idea of him receiving heavy minutes in all situations as a top-nine option in Coachella Valley. This is a big year for Wright, and we will be watching closely.
The reassignment of Ryker Evans makes us think Vince Dunn will be a go for opening night. As for Evans, there is little doubt in our eyes that he is one of Seattle’s six most talented defensemen. But he had difficulty managing a handful of defensive situations during full NHL-speed gameplay in each of the last few preseason games. This underscored to us that there is still some work he can do. If there is a long-term injury to a left-shot defenseman this season, we think Evans is the primary option, above Megna.
Fleury also had a solid camp, showing improvements over last year. But given his age and development, as well as the rest of Seattle’s depth chart on the blue line, waiving him makes sense to us. He played sparingly last year, relegated to inactive status for the vast majority of the 2022-23 season. This is less than optimal for a (then 23-year-old) defenseman you believe may have an NHL future.
If Fleury clears waivers, it will give him a chance to take regular top-four minutes with the Firebirds early this year, and he’ll remain a top option if there is a long-term injury on the right side. If Fleury is claimed, Seattle’s earlier successful waiver of Connor Carrick ensures that Seattle will still have a righty blueliner capable of filling a top role with the Firebirds.
If Hayden clears waivers, we think he has the inside track for a short-term fill-in role on the fourth line or as an extra skater, should injuries strike. He brings sturdy, physical play and a positive presence in the room. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him back with Seattle soon. For now, it makes sense to put him through waivers and await a need to have him with the NHL club.
We don’t think Driedger lost the backup job so much as Daccord won it. The economics of Driedger’s contract also factors in here, since it is relatively unlikely another team will claim Driedger and his $3.5 million AAV contract for this season. Few teams even could do that. Playing as the main goaltender in Coachella Valley will be a good thing for Driedger, as he looks to reestablish himself after the ACL injury that cost him most of the 2022-23 season.