Mark Giordano's initial surprise and emotions about leaving the Calgary Flames when he was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck gave way Wednesday to excitement about helping establish the culture of a new team.
The defenseman played 15 seasons for the Flames, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and was their captain since the start of the 2013-14 season.
"When you play somewhere for as long as I did, you never can really expect it until it actually happens," Giordano said. "It was a little bit of a shock, a little weird last night and a little bit of a crazy night. But then coming here this morning, I'm glad I jumped on that plane and got here because it's been a cool experience."
Giordano could feel the energy of more than 4,000 fans at Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union to watch the unveiling of the 30 players Seattle selected, one from each NHL team, excluding the Vegas Golden Knights, who were exempt after joining as an expansion team in 2017-18. The Kraken begin play as the NHL's 32nd team next season.
"If it's anything like the buzz of today, it's going to be a pretty special place to play," Giordano said.
Video: Kraken draft Giordano and Larsson
Giordano said he knew that being selected by Seattle was a possibility before Calgary's list of protected players was released Sunday and his name wasn't on it. The 37-year-old was in frequent communication with Flames general manager Brad Treliving throughout the process, so he said he understood the reasoning behind the decision.
"At the end of the day, it was a tough spot that he was in, I think, as far as who to protect and who not to and we knew, we both knew this could be the potential outcome," Giordano said. "So I have nothing but respect for him and that organization. They've done so much for me."
Treliving said he had talks with the Kraken about what the Flames would have to give up for them not to select Giordano but "in order for this not to happen, it was a price that we couldn't pay." That didn't make it any easier to lose a player who meant so much to the Flames on and off the ice.
Giordano won the Norris Trophy voted as the NHL's best defenseman in 2018-19, when he scored an NHL career-high 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists). He scored 509 points (143 goals, 366 assists) in 949 regular-season games with Calgary, including 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 56 games this season. Giordano led the Flames in average ice time in seven of the past eight seasons, including this season when he played 22:57 per game.
Giordano won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities on and off the ice and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey, in 2019-20. He also won the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2015-16, which was given to the NHL player who best demonstrated commitment, perseverance and teamwork to enrich the lives of people in his community. The award was discontinued before the 2017-18 season.
"We don't have enough time here today to talk about what Mark Giordano means, has meant not only to this team but to our community, to his teammates, to the fans, myself personally that have been around him," Treliving said. "He's been a tremendous leader, is a tremendous leader. I've said on countless occasions, to me he has been the moral compass of this team for a long time, and him moving on, it's the closing of a really important chapter in this franchise."
And the beginning of a new chapter for Giordano with the Kraken, potentially as their first captain.
"We get a chance to establish our culture from Day One, and that's certainly a guy we want to be a part of that for everything he stands for," Kraken GM Ron Francis said. "So we're excited about that. As far as a captain, we have to have those discussions with (coach) Dave Hakstol and see if we want to pick a captain coming out of the gate or not, but if we do that, he would certainly be in the discussion, for sure."
Video: Mark Giordano joins Seattle Kraken
Giordano, who has one year remaining on the six-year contract he signed with Calgary in 2015, said he is looking forward to getting to know his new teammates and helping them come together as a team. He knows he'll be counted on to take the lead in that area.
"It's a pretty cool experience, I think, for all of us, and I think it's unique," Giordano said. "Most years you come back to a team, there's 13, 14 guys at least that you played with the year before. This year, [not] any of us have played together, so we've got to get together as soon as we can and establish those relationships and bonds, for sure."