Dennis Cholowski has been taken by the Kraken, even if it took a while for the franchise to get its tentacles on him.
The expansion draft was basically over by 1 p.m. Wednesday, if not for the prolonged mystery of Seattle’s pick from Steve Yzerman’s Detroit Red Wings. The Cholowski pick was not leaked until after 5 p.m. and apparently that’s because Seattle couldn’t get ahold of him all day (?).
Then we were treated to a draft we already knew the results for, which was awkward at first, but ended up quite entertaining as we got to know the NHL’s newest team. They also had an octopus help reveal the Detroit pick during the league’s first big event with new broadcast partner ESPN. That went OK despite some audio issues on stage. The octopus did a great job, too.
According to CapFriendly, the Kraken are $29 million under the cap right now. They did draft a couple unrestricted free agents and several restricted free agents (Cholowski is one of them), so that number could go up. I think what we’re looking at is a very cap-aware management team wanting to build a roster that can compete now but has opportunities to foster for the future.
The chances of Seattle succeeding like Vegas in their first few seasons is very unlikely, but Seattle appears positioned to ice a decent team come October (that can still get better through trades and free agency) with room to grow and be sustainable for seasons to come.
I think some people expected them to be much more aggressive with some of these picks. They passed on Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko, for instance.
Here are the Seattle expansion draft picks:
Anaheim: D Haydn Fleury
Arizona: F Tyler Pitlick
Boston: D Jeremy Lauzon
Buffalo: D Will Borgen
Calgary: D Mark Giordano
Carolina: F Morgan Geekie
Chicago: F John Quenneville
Colorado: F Joonas Donskoi
Columbus: D Gavin Bayreuther
Dallas: D Jamie Oleksiak
Detroit: D Dennis Cholowski
Edmonton: D Adam Larsson
Florida: G Chris Driedger
Los Angeles: D Kurtis MacDermid
Minnesota: D Carson Soucy
Montreal: D Cale Fleury
Nashville: F Calle Jarnkrok
New Jersey: F Nathan Bastian
New York Islanders: F Jordan Eberle
New York Rangers: F Colin Blackwell
Ottawa: G Joey Daccord
Philadelphia: F Carsen Twarynski
Pittsburgh: F Brandon Tanev
San Jose: F Alexander True
St. Louis: D Vince Dunn
Tampa Bay: F Yanni Gourde
Toronto: F Jared McCann
Vancouver: F Kole Lind
Washington: G Vitek Vanecek
Winnipeg: F Mason Appleton
Cholowski goes to Seattle
I made it clear I believed defenseman Troy Stecher would be the one going to Seattle. He seemed like a strong, relatively cheaper addition for GM Ron Francis’ new team. But Francis was nothing if not a bit stingy with this roster, as described above. He means business. The theme of the night was “team player,” “hard worker” and guys who will sacrifice for the team.
One thing that is abundantly clear when looking at that list of players: Cholowski is in no way guaranteed a spot on this roster. Seattle has 12 defenseman right now, of which eight max will make the actual roster. He’s competing against some very good players for a spot with the Kraken come October.
But he has potential, and we can’t say he doesn’t at this point in his young career. He’s only 23. Yes, he was a first-round draft pick in 2016 (20th overall), and yes perhaps he could be called a first-round “bust,” but I think that’s a premature label right now.
Cholowski played 52 games with the Red Wings in 2018-19, scoring 7 goals and 9 assists with some strong possession metrics to boot. Since then he has struggled to maintain a spot on Detroit’s roster, splitting time between the Red Wings and the Grand Rapids Griffins. With more time and opportunity, perhaps he can start to hit his stride and get back his confidence at the NHL level. A change of scenery could be just what he needs.
Cholowski is a native of British Columbia, meaning he’s headed closer to home in this move to Seattle.
The Red Wings can’t complain too much. Yes, it stinks to lose a former 1st-round pick in an expansion draft, but I look at it this way: He’s not one of Yzerman’s guys. I think it’s easier to see this happen since Cholowski was selected by the Ken Holland regime.
I’m happy the Wings get to keep Stecher on the roster right now. He has the one year left on his contract. I can see him getting traded, perhaps, or whatever. It’s just a positive to have him remain part of this organization right now. He has real value.
Coming up -- Thursday insanity, then Friday, Saturday draft time:
1 p.m. Thursday, July 22: The trade freeze lifts. Seattle has been the only team able to make moves since the weekend, but all teams will be able to do so starting Thursday afternoon.
This has the potential to commence pandemonium across the league. With the draft being held less than 48 hours later on Friday night, 1 p.m. Thursday could be the levee breaking way for a flood of trades. Obviously we have to assume the Red Wings could be very, very active Thursday.
Remember, they have a full list of draft picks both this year and next to use in this scenario. This is where Yzerman could make, dare I say ... an aggressive move. Or maybe he works at helping facilitate other trades and pick up more draft picks, as we’ve seen him do. I don’t know, I have a feeling this could be a little different.
6 p.m. Thursday: NHL schedules are released
Friday/Saturday, July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft -- Here’s where Red Wings are set to pick. This could all change in the 30 hours before the draft start time at 8 p.m. Friday.
Wednesday, July 28 -- Free agency begins -- and this promises to be off the charts.