Jordan Eberle strode onto the stage wearing a white Seattle Kraken jersey with his familiar No. 7.
"It’s a new challenge," the former Islander said on the ESPN2 broadcast of Wednesday night’s expansion draft. "You don’t get many opportunities to be a part of a new franchise."
There’s no doubt losing a top-line right wing does leave a (temporary) hole in the Islanders’ lineup. But the Islanders now have much more financial flexibility with the remaining three seasons of Eberle’s $27.5 million deal — with an annual average value of $5.5 million — off their books.
The Kraken, who will begin play in October as the NHL’s 32nd franchise, selected one player from each of the other teams except for Vegas, which entered the league in 2017. Eberle's cap hit was the second largest the Kraken assumed. Only defenseman Mark Giordano's $6.75 million was higher.
"This is really my first time in Seattle other than juniors," Eberle said. "To see the passion of the fans is very exciting."
Eberle and fellow top-six forward Josh Bailey were the prominent players the Islanders left exposed in the draft, choosing to protect forwards Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Anders Lee, Matt Martin, Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, defensemen Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock and goalie Ilya Sorokin.
The Islanders now have approximately $17.6 million in cap space available under the flat, $81.5 million ceiling after shedding Eberle as well as defenseman Nick Leddy and forward Andrew Ladd, both who also have $5.5 million cap charges. They will also be able to exceed the cap ceiling by $6 million if Johnny Boychuk returns to long-term injured reserve.
Islanders’ boss Lou Lamoriello — showing why he’s the reigning, two-time GM of the year — traded Leddy to the Red Wings on Friday for a second-round pick in this weekend’s entry draft and bottom-six forward Richard Panik, with Detroit retaining 50% of Panik’s $2.75 million cap charge, then sent Ladd to the Coyotes the next day along with a second-round pick this year, a conditional second-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third-round pick in 2023 for no return other than the resulting cap space.
Lamoriello, of course, still has a lengthy to-do list this offseason, and losing Eberle just adds to it.
He can get back to work starting Thursday afternoon when the NHL trade and roster freeze in place for the expansion draft is lifted.
Lamoriello has identified re-signing his key restricted free agents, Beauvillier, Pelech and Sorokin, as a priority.
Protecting Martin and Clutterbuck indicated Lamoriello is also serious about re-signing fourth-line center Casey Cizikas.
And now Lamoriello must also replace Leddy and Eberle.
Re-signing unrestricted free agent Kyle Palmieri, acquired from the Devils along with fellow UFA Travis Zajac for a first-round pick on April 7, remains one option. Or, Lamoriello could pursue marquee UFA Gabriel Landeskog, soon to be an ex-Avalanche.
Trading for Blues’ sharpshooter Vladimir Tarasenko is also a possibility, though it would have been easier if the Kraken had selected Tarasenko in the expansion draft and retained part of his $7.5 million cap charge to facilitate a three-way deal.