In a Q&A post with The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark today, Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said today that he’s encouraged general manager Ron Francis to spend to the salary cap, if possible, in order to build a contending roster out of the gate.
The statement from Leiweke comes amidst one of the most hectic and compact offseasons in recent history, especially considering the lack of a salary cap increase. The fact that Seattle will be able to take advantage of the full $81.5MM available to them already gives them a competitive advantage on a handful of teams for a variety of reasons. The majority of NHL teams are still dealing with either buyouts, overage penalties, or retained salary transactions that will lower their spending ceiling next season. For some teams, spending to the cap is currently impossible as they continue to suffer from COVID-related financial losses.
It also allows Seattle to add some assets to the franchise’s cupboards in exchange for helping other teams out of their cap trouble. They’ll likely be a trade partner for the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning, who currently need to clear over $5MM in cap in order to be compliant in 2021-22. A name like Yanni Gourde or Tyler Johnson could easily find themselves playing in the Pacific Northwest next season. And with some top-end free agents still remaining, the full amount of usable cap space may better enable Seattle to make a run at some big names like Dougie Hamilton or David Krejci, if they so choose.
While it’s impossible to expect a 109-point run of terror in their first season, things are shaping up to make at least a playoff berth a realistic option for the Kraken in Year One. With the Pacific Division shaping up as a weak matchup, combined with their salary cap advantages, Seattle should be a great draw out of the gate.