The Seattle Kraken took a bite out of the Bruins’ back end and kicked off their night by selecting defenseman Jeremy Lauzon on Wednesday in the NHL expansion draft.
Boston didn’t lose a major piece off its roster, but Lauzon, 24, showed in his first full NHL season that he could have a future as a physical, left-shot penalty-killing defenseman.
Lauzon, 6 feet 1 inches and 204 pounds, made a name last year as a penalty-kill specialist. He played more minutes on the PK (125 total, 3:05 per game) than anyone on the Bruins, who ranked second in the league in kill rate (86 percent). Only Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were on the ice for more Bruins shorthanded goals (seven) than Lauzon (five).
New Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach, who coached Lauzon for three years and 126 games in Providence, is familiar with him. One of the Kraken’s goals will be to wring more offense out of Lauzon, a second-round pick (52nd overall) in 2015.
He is signed for one more year at $850,000, a budget-friendly deal that no doubt helped make the Kraken’s decision. The other options on the Bruins’ unprotected list were pricier. Right-shot defenseman Connor Clifton, still a bargain, has two years left at $1 million. Left wing Nick Ritchie, an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, is likely to sign for more than his qualifying offer of $2 million.
With Lauzon’s departure, Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jack Ahcan, all left shots, may get longer looks when camp begins in September. But the Bruins remain on the hunt for a top-four, left-shot defenseman who can push players of that caliber to the fringes of the lineup.
Following the lifting of an expansion-week roster freeze, NHL teams are permitted to re-sign free agents beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday. Free agency opens for the league July 28.
A source with knowledge of the Bruins’ business confirmed to the Globe that Taylor Hall and the club are moving toward a contract extension. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli said the deal is approximately four years and $24 million, or $6 million a year.
There was no update on David Krejci, the other high-priority free agent the Bruins want to immediately re-sign. Krejci is mulling whether to leave the NHL and play in his native Czechia, or continue his Bruins career.
The Bruins do not have to sign Tuukka Rask, an unrestricted free agent like Krejci and Hall, until he is healthy. Rask (hip surgery) is not expected back until the second half.
Observations from the Kraken’s draft:
• The Kraken submitted their picks to the NHL on Wednesday, a group that included few impact players.
OK, fine. Maybe there are a bunch of breakout candidates on that roster, and they’ll pull a Vegas by making the Stanley Cup Final. GM Ron Francis has more moves ahead — no draft-night deals were announced Wednesday — but for now, his initial roster has plenty of cap space.
• Not including four restricted free agents, Seattle used approximately $44 million of cap space to select its first 30 players (Vegas is exempt). Ex-Calgary captain Mark Giordano ($6.75 million), former Islander Jordan Eberle ($5.5 million) and Lightning castoff Yanni Gourde ($5.17 million) are the most expensive Kraken so far.
• Gourde, the best available center, was an easy call. He had more points (36) than any other new teammate, and tied Joonas Donskoi in goals (17). Donskoi, the perennially underrated Colorado winger, could battle with Eberle for the No. 1 right wing spot.
• The rest of the forward group showed Francis’s bargain-hunting ways. Rather than take high-priced veterans James van Riemsdyk or Jakub Voracek, whom Philadelphia exposed, Seattle chose left wing Carsen Twarynski, a three-year AHLer. Francis passed on big-ticket Nashville forwards Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene and scooped up defensive winger Calle Järnkrok, who makes $2 million against the cap, or $6 million less than either of his former teammates.
• There’s a versatile, defensive-minded bent to the group. Checking winger Chris Tanev (Pittsburgh), left wing-center Jared McCann (Toronto) and Winnipeg right wing Mason Appleton are solid middle-sixers. Morgan Geekie (Carolina), Tyler Pitlick (Arizona), Nathan Bastian (New Jersey) and North Andover product Colin Blackwell (New York Rangers) could find their way onto scoring lines in the future. Winger Kole Lind (Vancouver) and Alexander True (San Jose) are interesting prospects. Kurtis MacDermid (Los Angeles) will drop the gloves.
At worst, the Kraken’s defense should be solid, and with 10 selections, some of them may be dealt.
• Giordano, who turns 38 in October, skated 22:57 last year for the Flames and could be the Kraken’s first captain. The Kraken reached free agent deals with ex-Edmonton assistant captain Adam Larsson (four years, $16 million) and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak (five years, $23 million). The latter, 6-7 and a left shot, was of mild interest to the Bruins. Those two, Lauzon and Carson Soucy (Minnesota) will bang bodies.
Vince Dunn, who couldn’t crack St. Louis’ top four, slots in on Seattle’s second pair and will likely run the power play. Seattle grabbed young depth in Dennis Cholowski (Detroit), brothers Haydn Fleury (Anaheim) and Cale Fleury (Montreal), Will Borgen (Buffalo) and Canaan, N.H., product Gavin Bayreuther (Columbus).
• The Kraken may have two Fleury brothers, but they won’t have their version of Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Carey Price is staying in the Atlantic Division, Seattle opting to leave the veteran (and the next five years of a $10.5 million cap hit, owed until he is 38) in Montreal. They also left Minnesota’s potential future starter, Kaapo Kähkönen, on the table.
• Goaltender Chris Driedger, who had a breakout contract year in Florida, signed for $10.5 million over three years. Backing him up for Team No. 32: Washington’s Vitek Vanecek and Ottawa’s Joey Daccord, of North Andover.