When the bookmakers released the odds for the 2021/22 NHL season, there was one team everyone was curious about: the Seattle Kraken.
Shortly before the start of their very first season and even before signing an NHL player, the Kraken opened at +5000 to win the Stanley Cup in 2022 at FanDuel. Those odds put them in 21st place between Winnipeg (+3700) and Chicago (+6000) and imply they have a 2% chance of winning the Stanley Cup. Odds of 50 to one and an implied odds of 2% make the Kraken a longshot by NHL standards, but those odds still seem a bit high for an expansion team. There are 11 teams among them on the board.
While it’s impossible to gauge an expansion team’s “real odds” prior to drafting, I think it would be fair to suggest that a fair number for Seattle should probably be in the triple digits. But any bookmaker will tell you there is more going into setting odds than just hanging a team at the “real price”.
So why did some bookmakers give the Kraken a premium when they are very unlikely to make a run in the first year?
The Vegas Golden Knights Effect
The most obvious reason Seattle isn’t sitting at the bottom of the board with the rest of the longshots is what happened to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017/18.
As is well known, the Knights were listed up to 200/1 during their expansion draft offseason. While we now know that Vegas knocked it out of the park with its draft strategy, there wasn’t anyone at the time who thought the Knights were on their way to something special right outside the gates. Most people, myself included, viewed the Golden Knights’ inaugural list as a mix of underdogs. Their three-digit Stanley Cup odds and 67.5 point over / under basically made sense to everyone, and the only people betting on the Knights were avid Sin City fans.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Knights put together a miracle run and made it to the Stanley Cup Final, which puts the bookmakers in a precarious position.
“This situation with the Knights was obviously unique as they are an expansion team set in Las Vegas,” Jeff Sherman of the 2018 Westgate SuperBook told The Action Network. “A lot of people in our area came and wanted a souvenir ticket. ”
The Kraken isn’t going to attract the same type of betting support as the Knights in 2017, but Seattle is a monster sports city and you can be sure that when Kraken fans visit Vegas or any other legal betting state they will be greeted with a “You just never know “Bet on your new favorite team. By opening Seattle at an inflated price, some bookmakers are doing their best to protect themselves from yet another (albeit unlikely) miracle season from an NHL expansion team.
The way into the postseason
The “Vegas Effect” may be a hard-to-quantify, narrative reason for bookies to be careful with the Kraken, but there is solid reason to be a little optimistic about the Kraken’s 2021-22 odds, even before you have one only NHL player on their roster.
Playing in the Pacific Division in their first season, the Kraken join Vegas, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. If Seattle were in a different league, I would say the chances of a surprise run into the playoffs are slim. But the Pacific projects are said to be incredibly soft as only two teams (Vegas and Edmonton) made it to postseason last season and four clubs have higher odds than Seattle at the time of writing:
- San Jose Sharks +6000
- Vancouver Canucks +7000
- Anaheim ducks +7000
- Los Angeles Kings +8500
Even the tip of the Pacific is doubtful at best. Vegas is the clear favorite but could step back due to some wage cap issues. Edmonton has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but the rest of its roster is missing and the Oilers got worse by trading against Duncan Keith. And Calgary is stuck in no man’s land and could probably benefit from tearing things down for a proper rebuild. If the Flames were on a different set, they’d be in big trouble. This is possibly the most bottom-heavy league the NHL has seen in a decade.
With the NHL returning to its normal playoff structure for next season, arguing that the Kraken have a path to success in the Pacific wouldn’t be considered insane. The top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the postseason and the last two places go to the top two teams from the rest of the conference. That means Seattle only needs to beat four bad teams to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in its first season. And as we’ve seen time and time again in the NHL, all bets are as soon as you get into the tournament.
Dave Sandford / NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Ron Francis
Salary limit hell
For the foreseeable future, the NHL’s tough salary cap will stay at $ 81.5 million. That means there are multiple teams that will have to fight some contract fights between now and October. I’m sure many general managers fighting the cap call Ron Francis to try and navigate their way through salary cap hell.
It feels like the Kraken could get a major graduate degree or two with teams that are under pressure. The Lightning, Islanders, Golden Knights, Penguins, Capitals, and Maple Leafs are all within $ 10 million of the salary cap at the time of writing, and there are plenty of other teams willing to give up some assets to tempt Seattle to choose – or stay away from – a specific player in the draft. We saw this scenario in 2017 when some teams traded assets to get the Golden Knights not to pick certain players.
The Minnesota Wild have reached an agreement with the Knights to choose Erik Haula over Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba. That cost Minnesota its best AHL contender, Alex Tuch, who has become a great winger for the Knights.
Not only did the Florida Panthers lose Jonathan Marchessault in the Expansion Draft, but they also worked out a deal with Vegas to get Reilly Smith and his $ 25 million deal off the books. Smith, Cloth, Marchessault and William Karlsson, who picked Vegas after picking a deal with Columbus in return for not picking a goalkeeper Joonas Korpisalo, are all still producing and giving the Knights great depth in midfield behind theirs Top. the players on the list.
While I don’t expect general managers to make the same mistakes they did in 2017, there are many competing teams desperately trying to lose bad contracts. Don’t be surprised if Seattle comes out with a high-profile player or two this summer.
James van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek could end up in Seattle’s squad. Photo credit: Bill Wippert / NHLI via Getty Images
How bad can they be?
Even if Seattle isn’t maneuvering in the shade to swing a big minor matter, the expansion design is designed so that, unless nothing goes wrong, the Kraken will be much closer to the center of the field than to the bottom. A lack of star power left many in doubt about the Golden Knights in their first season, but Vegas built its success by putting together an extensive roster and filling it with high profile youngsters (Shea Theodore, Nate Schmidt) who didn’t succeed at Fair Shake her last stop.
I think we’re going to see a similar strategy from the Kraken who could build their squad around a strong middle six that could be armed with players like Warren Foegele, Joonas Donskoi, Yanni Gourde, Mason Appleton, Alex Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok. From there, the Kraken can get some shots with players with high ceilings like Kieffer Bellows and then top off the top of the roster with reliable producers like Evgenii Dadonov and James van Riemsdyk.
The defensive figures are similarly safe and healthy, with names like Mark Giordano, Calvin de Haan, and Jeremy Lauzon being twirled around. From there, you can see Francis placing bets on high rear guards like Vince Dunn or Jake Bean.
The biggest difference between the Vegas expansion draft and this one is that there won’t be a Marc-Andre Fleury for the Kraken to pick up. Even so, there will be a lot of reliable goalkeepers in the draft. Coming out of the draft in a tandem with two of Jake Allen, Anton Khudobin, Chris Driedger and / or Vitek Vanecek would give Seattle a better goalkeeping position than many other teams.
Just like Vegas, I think it’s okay to assume that Seattle will emerge from the expansion draft with a decent collection of strong RPG players, but with no established high-end talent. There are many teams out there making sure that this type of roster creation works well enough to enter the postseason or to be close to it. Good quality depth is important in the NHL and should provide the Kraken with a stable foundation on which to build.
In other words, the cap might not be that high, but it feels like a pretty safe bet that Seattle won’t be a royal mess in its opening campaign.
The bottom line
If you look at this from a simple value perspective, the Seattle Kraken at their current prices is likely a bad bet (some sportsbooks have Seattle at 100/1 or 75/1 so have a look around if you’re looking to get down on the Kraken) . Despite what we saw at Vegas in 2017, it’s hard to imagine Francis and his team putting together a real competitor right from the start.
That said, betting is supposed to be fun and I’m not here to stop Kraken fans from supporting their new team to work a miracle just because the odds makers have overstated their numbers. You don’t have just one chance to bet on an expansion team to win the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season.
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