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Lightning Round: Seattle Kraken officially became the 32nd NHL team

Will Tyler Johnson return home?

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Future Home Of NHL Team Seattle Kraken Climate Change Arena Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

As the NHL confirmed yesterday, the Seattle Kraken have officially joined the league after making the final payment of their $650 million expansion fee, which allows them to make trades and sign free agents ahead of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21.

The Kraken’s general manager Ron Francis has already been able to talk to his colleagues around the league and is now officially allowed to attend General Manager’s meetings. According to Francis, he and his staff have been actively looking at potential signings in all three major junior leagues as well as in Europe. The team is also looking at potential college free agents, however per Francis, it’s more challenging because they usually want to use first year of their entry-level contracts in the NHL.

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will have exactly the same draft rules as the 2017 expansion draft. The NHL teams can protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie (the Vegas Golden Knights will be exempt). The teams also have to expose at least two forwards and one defenseman, who played at least half of the total games during the 2020-21 regular season and under the contract for the 2021-22 season. One goalie also should be exposed. The list of protected players should be submitted on July 17 and the Kraken will be able to negotiate with pending free agents and sign them between this date and the expansion draft itself on July 21.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are entering the expansion draft with some serious cap crunches – the team is currently $3.5 million over the cap with just 14 players signed for the next season – and they clearly will use the expansion draft to create some space under the cap. As it was speculated for a long time, a Spokane native Tyler Johnson is the most obvious candidate to be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft. However, as the previous offseason showed, a 30-year old forward isn’t exactly the most desirable commodity and this regular season wasn’t very impressive either. The Bolts also might choose an option to ship him to Seattle in a some sort of side deal as a package with the 2022 first-round pick or with another Lightning veteran, Alex Killorn, which will create $9.45 million of cap space.

As potential protected players the Lightning will most likely choose Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Ryan McDonagh is the most likeliest candidate for the last protected spot, however given his $6.75 million cap hit, he could be considered as a second option, if Tyler Johnson’s deal won’t work as planned.

The Lightning will probably wait as much as they could and the upcoming postseason can also make some impact on their final decision.

Lightning Links

The Lightning made a couple of transactions on Friday, sending defenseman Cal Foote to the Syracuse Crunch and adding Ben Thomas and Spencer Martin to the taxi squad.

Geo analyzed Alex Barre-Boulet’s performance on the Lightning top line [Raw Charge]

Realistically, I feel like I have to go back to Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to find the last big offensive forward prospects that got a big role early in their careers. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov both had to start on the third line and didn’t become big time producers in the top six until their second full NHL seasons. Jonathan Drouin had a similar story of starting out on the bottom end of the line up and having to, the hard way, earn his way up the line up

Steven Stamkos hasn’t started to skate with the team yet and probably won’t make his return until the end of the regular season. Both he and Nikita Kucherov should be ready for the playoffs [The Athletic]

Cooper said that with the extra time before the playoffs, both Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov should be ready to go. Stamkos won’t have played in a game in a month and a half, and Kucherov in nearly eight, but they’d rather have them as healthy as possible.

The Orlando Solar Bears fell to the South Carolina Stingrays on Friday night.

It was the Orlando Magic night at Amway Center.