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Deal the Kraken? Francis can’t make official trades — yet

Just because the NHL can’t release the Kraken until October doesn’t mean Seattle wasn’t in the mix at the trade deadline. General manager Ron Francis can’t finalize any transactions until ownership makes its final expansion payment to the league, but there’s precedent for him making a handshake deal or two. That’s what George McPhee did at the deadline four years ago with Pittsburgh, setting the table for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to be the face of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise.

If Francis made an arrangement with another team, he’s not saying, though Seattle was tuned in to the moving and shaking at the deadline and the rest of the league had the Kraken in mind with the expansion draft coming up in July. “You always have the capability of having those discussions and reaching those agreements if both sides agree to it,” Francis said Tuesday, roughly 26 hours after the deadline. “We’re like everybody else on that trade deadline day: We’re watching it, we’re analyzing things. When trades happen, we’re updating our list and seeing how that affects (how) we were thinking on certain teams.”

Francis said nothing at the deadline surprised him, and little directly affected Seattle because so few players signed beyond this season were traded. Maybe scratch off the available list defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler following a trade from Washington to New Jersey and forward Scott Laughton because he re-signed with Philadelphia, but nothing was earthshattering.

Maybe that’s because executives learned a lesson. Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong said teams are less likely to let Francis be the “puppet master” manipulating the league like McPhee did. “I think everyone was a little more conscious of what was coming up at the expansion draft,” Armstrong said.

“When you’re looking at if you’re going to protect three defensemen, seven forwards, OK, if I acquire this player, what’s the acquisition price, and then am I going to be able to protect him and what’s it costing me on the other side?’” The Flyers were willing to risk that with Laughton, so perhaps big forward James van Riemsdyk and his sizable contract are on the board for Seattle. After Vegas took very few high-dollar, long-term agreements, Francis

won’t share his philosophy other than to say he’ll evaluate on a case-by-case basis. He also knows his colleagues have a longer runway to this expansion draft than before Vegas to figure out how to minimize the talent left to be claimed. But they didn’t think the salary cap would remain flat at $81.5 million for multiple seasons because of pandemic-related revenue losses, and the Kraken could seize on those opportunities.

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