Taxi squads are a brand new concept in the NHL. A shortlist of players who travel with the pro team presents an opportunity to make an impression. How could the Seattle Kraken benefit after a taxi squad season?
During the 2020-2021 NHL regular season, every franchise will carry a taxi squad of players. These players are technically a part of the main pro roster but not included in the lineup. Most of the taxi squad players include useful talent who would otherwise be in the AHL or an occasional player that the team knows won’t be claimed off waivers.
If a member of the pro roster is placed on the taxi squad, they must clear waivers. The same goes for a player recalled from the taxi squad to the pro roster. Between transactions from the taxi squad to the main roster, or vice-versa, franchises will steal players from one another. In doing so, the potential protected lists could be altered from the beginning stages of 2020-2021 to the final product.
Two examples of players who were placed on waivers, who may represent value to another team, are Corey Perry and Tyler Johnson. Today, they both cleared waivers. The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning could have lost very capable players to another team.
The Edmonton Oilers weren’t as lucky. Anton Forsberg was a waiver-wire casualty, claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes. Forsberg is a goaltender that would have been more valuable to the Oilers than the Hurricanes. Next season, Edmonton will only have Mikko Koskinen under contract as Mike Smith likely finishes his career. Now, Forsberg could be an option for an extension in Carolina.
Kraken Need to Adapt
Adapting their available player pool over the course of the season is academic. While the Kraken could keep the same draft philosophy, the players filling those needs will change. If Seattle wanted to select a goaltender from the Hurricanes, the priority just changed. Say Petr Mrazek was on the radar, which isn’t likely, maybe Forsberg is now. A waiver claim from a taxi squad maneuver could wind up in the Kraken’s system.
Diving deeper into analytics, Seattle could consider building a penalty-kill team designed to strengthen their defense. Luca Sbisa, a good penalty killer in his own right, was claimed by the Nashville Predators from the Winnipeg Jets. Perhaps the Kraken was considering a forward from the Predators. Sometimes, it makes sense to select a defenseman who will play on the third pair but offers quality special teams minutes.
The identity of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will change drastically before the end of the season. If the Kraken is as intelligent as they sound, they’ll analyze every taxi squad transaction along the way.