SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken chose Boston defenseman Jeremy Lauzon with the first pick in their expansion draft Wednesday night.
They introduced pending free agent Chris Driedger as their first goaltender and passed on Montreal's Carey Price. Driedger agreed to terms on a $10.5 million, three-year contract to join Seattle. Driedger, the former Florida goalie who became the first player to show off the Kraken's home jersey, called it a "life-changing moment."
Price's cap hit of $10.5 — annually — for the next five seasons, plus the 34-year-old's questionable injury history, led to Seattle passing on him.
"Any time you see a name like Carey Price available, you have to consider it," Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. "Certainly we did that, we had a lot of discussions. And at the end of the day, we made the decision that we did to go in a different direction."
The expansion draft unfolded in anti-climactic fashion after all 30 selections leaked out hours before the expansion draft began.
An octopus from the Seattle Aquarium revealed the pick of Detroit defenseman Dennis Cholowski. Toronto forward Jared McCann's name was written on a piece of paper attached to a fish at Seattle's legendary Pike Place Market.
"It's a new challenge," said winger Jordan Eberle, who was chosen from the New York Islanders. "You don't get many opportunities to be part of a new franchise, and any time you get that opportunity to bring the Cup to a city that's never had it before, it's pretty special."
Seattle had the Stanley Cup once before in 1917 when the city's team was the Metropolitans.
It's up to Francis and the Kraken to try to bring it back, and the expansion strategy seemed to mimic the Vegas Golden Knights making some off-the-board picks rather than taking big stars.
Price was the biggest star not to go to the Kraken, but Driedger said that did not factor in his decision to agree to a contract.
"I had no clue who my goalie partner would be," he said. "I'm kind of just betting on myself in that situation."
Olympic participation in question: Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday the NHL schedule will include a break for the 2022 Winter Olympics even though there is no commitment the league’s players will go to Beijing in February.
“I don’t believe there will be an update on the Olympics by the time we release the schedule,” Bettman said ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. “We’ll do what we need to do under the circumstances to release the schedule, and then if things change we’ll do what needs to be done.”
Last month during the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman cast doubt on whether the league would participate, citing safety and logistical concerns along with a tightening time frame.
His tone hasn’t changed much in the weeks since and said the schedule release Thursday will have built-in mechanisms to adjust should players not take part.
Last month, Bettman said one of the only reasons the NHL is still in discussions with Olympic officials is because the league made a commitment to make every effort to participate in the 2022 Games as part of extending the collective bargaining agreement with players last summer.
“We agreed (during) the shutdown, if that’s what the players wanted (we would do it) assuming it could be done under the appropriate terms and conditions," Bettman said. "And there’s still some open issues that I know the Players' Association is working on.”
The NHL participated in five consecutive Olympics beginning in 1998 before skipping the 2018 Games in South Korea.
Bettman declined to explain how the schedule will be adjusted should the Olympic break not be needed.
“I’m not going to jump the release. Let’s put it this way: It will be self-explanatory,” he said.