We have a schedule — for the preseason, anyway.
Starting just a little later than usual, the Vancouver Canucks announced Tuesday that they'll hold their training camp in Abbotsford from Sept. 23-25 before embarking on a seven-game preseason slate which kicks off with the first-ever game for the Seattle Kraken.
Details on fan access for the training camp sessions are still to come. Here's the preseason schedule:
Sunday Sept. 26 - 6 p.m. - Canucks @ Kraken in Spokane
Monday Sept. 27 - 7 p.m. - Flames @ Canucks in Abbotsford
Friday Oct. 1 - 7 p.m. - Canucks @ Flames in Calgary
Sunday Oct. 3 - 4 p.m. - Canucks @ Jets in Winnipeg
Tuesday Oct. 5 - 7 p.m. - Kraken @ Canucks in Vancouver
Thursday Oct. 7 - 7 p.m. - Canucks @ Oilers in Edmonton
Saturday Oct. 9 - 6 p.m. - Oilers @ Canucks in Vancouver
Word is that the NHL will release the full regular-season schedule on Thursday — with the Olympic break included, even though nothing has yet been settled on that front.
With the opening of the Tokyo Games now just a few days away, it's understandable that Olympic organizers haven't prioritized the issue of having NHL players at the Winter Olympics, six months from now. If the whispers about this schedule strategy are true, it gives everybody a chance to see how things go in Tokyo, then take a deep breath and start thinking about what Beijing might look like, especially once quarantines and other logistical issues are taken into consideration.
To me, it still looks like a big mountain to climb. But for the players' sake, I hope something can be worked out.
Meanwhile, we're closing in on Wednesday's expansion draft, which will take place at 5 p.m. PT in Seattle, broadcast on Sportsnet One. Once again, we're reminded that when you've got legendary Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer in your ownership group, there is bound to be some spectacle attached. Good move on their part to be inviting Seattle sports legends like Gary Payton, Lenny Wilkens, Marshawn Lynch and Sue Bird to be part of the festivities. And Macklemore!
I'm a bit disappointed that there isn't any grunge representation, although I have it in my head that Eddie Vedder is a Blackhawks fan. What about Sir Mix-a-Lot?
As for the draft itself, if you want to try your hand at assembling a roster, CapFriendly
has you covered with their 'Draft a Team' tool, which takes salary, position and contract requirements into account.
NHL.com just posted their draft list on social. They've got Braden Holtby going to the Kraken from Vancouver — and not Carey Price.
The whole situation around the draft is still fluid, of course, as teams try to lock in side deals and possible trades.
On their latest podcast, Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor of Daily Faceoff both reveal their expansion draft lists.
There's quite a bit of overlap with the list above, but Seravalli's list is particularly interesting because he said he built it off what he was hearing from three well-connected NHL sources, rather than his own personal choices and preferences.
From him, there was not a word about Holtby. He said that two of his three sources believed the Kraken would select Kole Lind from the Canucks, and the third picked Matthew Highmore.
Jason Gregor's selection was Zack MacEwen.
For goalies, they were high on Vitek Vanecek from Washington and Kaapo Kahkonen from Minnesota — and made the very good point that in addition to having had a solid rookie season in Minnesota last year, Kahkonen is also still waiver exempt for another 26 games, which would allow Seattle more roster flexibility.
And yes, Chris Driedger from Florida is still a target. But Seravalli believes that since the Kraken are confident that they can sign him as a free agent, they'll use their expansion draft to select Frank Vatrano, then also grab Driedger on the 28th.
As for Carey Price — Seravalli said that Price is on his way to New York to get checked out by a specialist on Wednesday. But the results from that examination won't be available till Friday. So if the Kraken go for it, they'll be flying blind.
I can totally see both sides of the argument. If they select him, they've got a massive P.R. win — a future Hall of Famer with huge name recognition — and who could potentially burnish his reputation even more if he goes to Beijing and tries for a third gold medal with Team Canada in February. And if they don't choose him, they're avoiding a big financial albatross, which would be on their books for another five seasons.
I will point out, though, that "He has been average in the regular season for years" is not really an honest narrative. Just two seasons ago, in 2018-19, he posted a .918 save percentage and 2.49 goals-against average while leading the league in minutes played. He also led the league in minutes played in the 2019-20 season, before the pause. His almost 34-year-old body might be a bit worn down from all the cumulative game action over this career, but he has still been able to turn it on in the postseason for the last two years. Let's not forget how good he was in the bubble, too, when the Habs had no business eliminating Pittsburgh in the play-in round.
I think he's still got it. And both Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller are recent examples of netminders who played big minutes in their younger days, but have still gone on to have long careers and play very well past their mid-30s.
A couple of other interesting tidbits that Seravalli threw out:
• He thinks the Kraken are set to sign Dougie Hamilton to a free-agent deal at $8x8.
• He also thinks Seattle will grab Phillip Danault as a free agent.
• He thinks Vladimir Tarasenko is a no-brainer selection, but he could get flipped to another team; mentioned that the Flyers could be dangling Jakub Voracek (and his big contract) plus a first-rounder in exchange for Tarasenko.
• The Lightning are another fun team to watch. Yanni Gourde seems to be the player drawing the most attention from drafters, but Seravalli says Julien BriseBois could have something up his sleeve — and that he wasn't entertaining any trade offers before the roster freeze last Saturday.
Through the early stages of their franchise evolution, the Kraken have become known for keeping their business very buttoned down. I can't wait to see how many of these rumours become reality on Wednesday — and in the days that follow.
One final note before I sign off today — since we've got the regular entry draft starting Friday, as well.
TSN's Bob McKenzie finally released his final draft ranking on Monday — always a useful tool since it's an aggregation of scouts' individual rankings, which offers a real sense of what's going on among the teams themselves.
There's some shuffling here compared to some of the earlier lists we've seen, with Mason McTavish making a big move up.
Again, this list doesn't account for team preferences or needs, but Bob has Port Moody's Kent Johnson in the No. 9 slot.
Is this market ready for another go-round with a local kid as a top prospect?