On Wednesday night, the NHL’s Seattle Kraken put together a roster of unprotected players from every other NHL franchise except the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Kraken became the 32nd team in the NHL and the latest expansion team of the Big Four U.S. sports in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.
Expansion isn’t a new thing to leagues. In fact, it has been going on for several decades, but hit a boom in the late 1980s.
The List Wire, which is a part of USA Today, stated that over the past 30 years, the number of teams across the Big Four have gone up by 20 percent.
Since 1990, the MLB has welcomed four teams (Colorado Rockies and Florida (now Miami) Marlins in 1993) and the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just Rays) in 1998); the NBA has welcomed three teams (the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors in 1995 and Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets) in 2004); the NFL has welcomed five teams (the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 the Cleveland Browns revival in 1999 and the Houston Texans in 2002); and the NHL has welcomed 11 teams (San Jose Sharks in 1991, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now Anaheim Ducks) and Florida Panthers in 1993, the Nashville Predators in 1998, the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) in 1999, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000, the Golden Knights in 2017 and the Kraken in 2021.
Technically, since the New Orleans Pelicans have allowed the current iteration of the Hornets to use the history of the original Hornets, the Pelicans are considered an expansion, much like the Ravens moved from Cleveland and allowed the Browns to use their previous history when they returned, the Ravens are considered an expansion team.
Expansion teams generally have a list of unprotected players from other teams in the league to choose and build their budding franchise.
For some, it means a long wait until that team is competitive, while others are successful right from the jump.
For the purpose of this column, I want to take a look at some of those teams that competed right off the bat.
Now, it’s too early to decide if the Kraken are going to be a good team right away after Wednesday’s expansion draft. Many think the Kraken roster is not too strong, but they have nearly $30 million in cap space as of this writing Thursday afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Kraken, they may be compared to how the Golden Knights entered the league four years prior.
Vegas won the Pacific Division in its inaugural season and played for the Stanley Cup, but lost to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights have continued to be one of the league’s top teams, losing in the conference finals each of the last two years.
Though odd, that kind of success from an expansion team hasn’t been an anomaly.
The Diamondbacks found success quite early as well, acquiring top pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling as well as having Luis Gonzalez, who hit 57 home runs, in 2001 to win the World Series in three years of playing their first game.
The Marlins operated similarly, winning the World Series in 1997, four years after coming into the league, and won a second World Series in 2003, making two titles in 10 seasons.
The Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 after moving to Baltimore in ‘96 from Cleveland.
The Florida Panthers made a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals three years after playing its first game in franchise history, but lost to the Colorado Avalanche.
Prior to the teams mentioned, the Milwaukee Bucks won their first title three years after the franchise started.
The St. Louis Blues came into the NHL in 1967 and immediately played for the Stanley Cup in the franchise’s first three seasons, but failed to win the Cup until the 2018-19 season.
It remains to be seen if the Kraken will be good, but they could be the last expansion team we see in the Big Four for quite some time.
The NFL and NHL now sit comfortably at 32 teams, while the NBA and MLB have 30.
Quebec may get another NHL franchise, but that seems more like a relocation move at this point.
Conversations have also been held about a Canadian as well as UK team joining the NFL.
Talks have been on the table for both NBA and MLB to have expansion teams join the league in the future, though.
Seattle and Las Vegas are frontrunners for NBA franchises, but a possible $2.5 billion expansion fee looms for NBA expansion.
As for the MLB, a return to Montreal seems like a logical choice, while Portland and Charlotte have been seen as other options for expansion.
However, $2.2 billion expansion fee as well as issues with the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays stadiums could potentially halt MLB expansions for the time being.
Oakland could be on their way to Las Vegas, while talks about Tampa Bay splitting time in Florida and Montreal have recently been in talks.
I personally find expansion fun. I don’t know that leagues need to grow too much more for the sake of watering down competition, but it’s always fun to see rebrands or new identities in sports.