This afternoon, the news came out through Chris Johnston of Sportsnet that the Seattle Kraken took Nathan Bastian from the New Jersey Devils in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. It was formally announced during ESPN’s broadcast of the Seattle Kraken Expansion with Kevin Weekes asking a craftswoman to open a book to reveal Nathan Bastian’s name in a nice looking font.
Based on who was exposed, Bastian may have been the best option for the Kraken to take. While someone like Andreas Johnsson or P.K. Subban could possibly handle a bigger role on the team, their contract (Subban) and recent play (Johnsson) may have led the Kraken to look elsewhere. Bastian is much easier to fit with any roster approach. Bastian is on a cheap contract - re-signed for two seasons back in June - and can fit in a fourth line right winger role. He played pretty well in that role last season and Michael McLeod, one of his best friends from major juniors through to the NHL, will certainly miss him a lot. Ditto Miles Wood. He will likely need to compete a bit for a spot on this roster depending on what other moves Seattle GM Ron Francis makes between now and training camp.
As far as the New Jersey Devils go, they will need to replace Nathan Bastian’s spot. This may not be too hard to do. Finding a bottom-six right winger is not a difficult thing to do on the open market or in a trade. Free agency begins next week, so the gap in the roster may not be open for long. And while they necessarily do not play like Bastian, the door is temporarily open for someone like a Nick Merkley (maybe the closest to Bastian’s style?), Tyce Thompson, Marian Studenic, or even Fabian Zetterlund to make a case for themselves should that roster spot be open in September.
A lot of the intrigue over tonight’s Expansion Draft was removed as just about the entire draft was leaked throughout this afternoon. This was a result of Seattle needing to submit their roster to the NHL and informing the players who were picked, the agents of those players, and the teams that had the players. With so many people “in the know,” it would only take one to become a “source” to an insider, who would (and did) distribute the information. Frank Seravalli alone revealed a huge chunk of the roster revealed on ESPN tonight. While there was talk of deals being revealed during the broadcast, no trades apparently were made. I can understand hockey fans who are connected online being a bit miffed that they had little reason to watch the Expansion Draft tonight.
I did watch the whole special. If you did not, then you did not miss much. For the first NHL broadcast on ESPN in nearly two decades, this was not a very good first impression. Some of the guests were used to announce picks while others threw it back to GM Ron Francis to announce them - which begs the question of why they were involved. The guests themselves did the best they could and a couple of them would have been far better hosts than what we got. The taped announcements were pretty good (highlight: An octopus named Licorice revealed the pick from Detroit), but there was a lack of cohesion in the production. While the hosts for the evening were announced to be Chris Fowler, Dominic Moore, and Kevin Weekes, only Fowler and Moore were on stage live with Weekes having handled the majority of the pre-taped segments. And that was the weakest part of the show.
Moore was very much an uncharismatic commentator. He did not bring a lot of energy. Some of his talking points were OK but a lot of generalities were given for players that were not very well known. It was if the producers ran through cliches, which does not help introduce a roster to a live and TV audience that may not know them well.
But the real faulty one was Chris Fowler. This is a surprise to me as Fowler has years of experience hosting College Gameday and calling college football games, including the National Championship. This is a man who has dealt with thousands of players, hundreds of narratives, hundreds of schools, and countless randomness that makes college football endearing. Tonight, Fowler came across as flustered and tripped over his words much more than I would expect from a seasoned host and announcer. It was if he was thrown off by something or the production was unsure about which direction to take this show or even that he was not comfortable enough with hockey. Hence, he struggled in interviews with the Kraken selections who were on stage, his banter with Moore was messy, and he managed to blurt out some errors like the “Anaheim Mighty Ducks,” the “Carolina Panthers,” and introduced the Devils pick as “one of the three New York teams” prior to a commercial. Yeah, it was noticeable:
Only one struggling tonight is Fowler. pic.twitter.com/6jrQzL3CHn— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 22, 2021
The calmest Fowler sounded was when he was making some digs at the poorer hockey teams. Personally, I do not mind that. If, say, the Devils want to be respected more, then the first step to do that is to stop being a bad hockey team. Still, as the 90-minute broadcast went on, I was wondering how Fowler could have been this poor on camera and on the mic. I was also wishing Kevin Weekes was the actual host instead. He would have done a great job; at least far better than Fowler this evening. I do not know if this was an ESPN production, a NHL Network production with ESPN’s help, or what. But even with the picks already known, it made the broadcast even less interesting to watch. Chris Fowler’s performance was that rough. Again, if you missed it, then do not worry about it.
Hopefully, ESPN’s second ever broadcast of NHL activity for the first time in nearly two decades goes better. That will be on Friday for the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. ESPN will be involved before then as the 2021-22 NHL schedule will be released during the 6 PM ET edition of Sportscenter. We shall see if it is leaked ahead of time, but there is room for growth. The first step may be to try someone other than Fowler as a host.
Anyway, Bastian is now a member of the Kraken for at least this moment. Good luck to Nathan Bastian in Washington. We will have these memories among others.
The Kraken’s inaugural roster is here from NHL.com. I do not think it is particularly amazing one, especially at forward where Francis seemed to reach for players wanting an opportunity than players who have past experience of success. However, they could make plenty of moves later and their division may be so weak that they may be able to compete a bit regardless. Now I want to know what you think. What was your reaction to the news that Bastian was taken? What should the Devils do now with Bastian gone? What did you think of ESPN’s broadcast of the Expansion Draft? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Seattle Expansion Draft in the comments. Thank you for reading.