The Seattle Kraken will finally put player faces to their team name on Wednesday, when they complete the expansion draft.
For months, speculation has surrounded whether Spokane native Tyler Johnson will be on that roster. Johnson, who turns 31 on July 29, won a second-consecutive Stanley Cup this summer with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But he’s not the only local connection who might don the Kraken sweater during their inaugural season this fall, or possibly a few years down the road. Here’s a look at four Eastern Washington-North Idaho hockey players and how they could potentially end up with the Kraken.
The biggest name of the bunch and unprotected by the Lightning, Johnson is the most tenured as well, with 589 NHL regular-season games and another 116 in the playoffs. He also carries the biggest contract, with three years remaining on a seven-year, $35 million deal.
That might be too steep a price for the Kraken to select him outright – many mock drafts predict the younger Yanni Gourde, whose cap hit is nearly the same as Johnson’s – but they might do so if the Lightning sweetened the deal and threw in a draft pick or another player if the Kraken agreed to take Johnson.
The Lightning already tried waiving Johnson after the 2020 season, but after he went unclaimed he ended up back with Tampa. He has played his entire nine-year NHL career with the Lightning and last season scored eight goals and added 22 assists in 55 games. He scored four goals in each of the Lightning’s two Stanley Cup runs.
Johnson’s best regular season came in 2014-15, when he had 72 points in 77 games. He also had 23 points in 26 postseason games that year, when the Lightning lost to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The former Spokane Chiefs player and Spokane native Ryan has carved out a role as a third- or fourth-line center in the NHL, where he has played the last five seasons after starting his professional career in Europe.
Unprotected by the Flames, the 34-year-old Ryan is an unrestricted free agent after playing the last three seasons in Calgary. So while the Kraken could negotiate a deal with him and select Ryan in the expansion draft, they could also wait and pursue him in free agency, along with the rest of the NHL’s teams, on July 28.
Ryan missed 12 games with a finger injury last season but otherwise has been durable. He has played 345 regular-season games in the NHL and has 96 assists to go along with 53 goals. He has also won better than 52% of his faceoffs each season.
For now, at least, Yamamoto is unlikely to wear a Kraken sweater. The Edmonton Oilers protected their 2017 first-round draft pick Yamamoto, who will turn 23 in September.
Yamamoto’s production dropped last season: He had 21 points in 52 games, down from a nearly point-per-game pace the previous year, when he had 26 points in 27 games. Still, the former Spokane Chiefs’ standout forward is only 105 games into his NHL career.
Yamamoto is a restricted free agent heading into next season.
The Post Falls native and Spokane Chiefs forward just turned 20 in May, and as an unsigned draft selection by the Washington Capitals, Hughes is not eligible to be taken in the expansion draft. But by virtue of his age and proximity to the NHL, Hughes is the next most likely player from the area to someday land with the Kraken.
Hughes remains under Capitals team control as a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, and they retain his rights. But a lot could change in the next few years: The Capitals could choose not to sign Hughes to a contract, or they could trade him.
After playing in the United States Hockey League on loan last season, Hughes is eligible to return to the Chiefs as one of their three overage players this fall.
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