The NHL now has 32 teams. On Friday, the Seattle Kraken made the final installment of a $650MM franchise expansion fee and was given official NHL standing. That means the team immediately gains the ability to sign free agents, make trades and vote on league proposals. They have a seat at the table, so to speak. Commissioner Gary Bettman released a short statement:
On behalf of the Board of Governors, I am delighted to officially welcome the Seattle Kraken to the NHL as our 32nd Member Club. Congratulations to David Bonderman, the Bonderman Family, their partners, the entire Seattle Kraken organization, the city of Seattle and Kraken fans as the Club continues on its exciting journey towards puck drop in October.
In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights were given official standing on March 1 and just five days later signed the first player in franchise history. Reid Duke, a free agent junior player who had originally been drafted by the Minnesota Wild but never signed, inked an entry-level contract with the Golden Knights. Two months later they would sign Vadim Shipachyov out of the KHL to a two-year, $9MM deal. A few weeks before the expansion draft, they would add Czech forward Tomas Hyka to an entry-level deal.
None of those players made a big impact on the Golden Knights and similarly, though the Kraken can now sign contracts of their own, don’t expect their pre-expansion signings to be any key players. Still, even though the college free agent market has been picked clean, Francis could potentially still nab some undrafted junior players. He told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that they are looking at some OHL and WHL players, along with some free agents from Europe. The true fun will happen for Seattle when the draft approaches and teams around the league are forced to make side deals, protecting extra assets or convincing Kraken GM Ron Francis to take some bad money.
Welcome to the NHL, Seattle.