Gourde ready for new challenge with expansion Kraken

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Yanni Gourde is looking forward to getting started with the Seattle Kraken and potentially having a big role with the expansion team after he recovers from shoulder surgery.

After winning the Stanley Cup each of the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the forward was selected by the Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

“It’s a fresh start for everyone,” Gourde said Tuesday. “It’s going to be an exciting time and hopefully I can contribute with the team and help this team win and, at the end of the day, that’s what you want to do. You want to come in and do everything you can to help your team win and that’s what I was doing with the Lightning and that’s my plan with the Kraken.”

Gourde said he had surgery two weeks ago to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The projected recovery time is four months, so he will likely miss at least the first month of the regular season, including the Kraken’s opener at the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12.

“It’s been a complicated situation because it’s been bugging me for over 18 months,” Gourde said. “So there’s a lot of stuff in that left shoulder that didn’t work right and everything was caused by the labrum and we kind of found that out when I went to see the doctor for surgery and that’s what came out of it. I didn’t want to go through the four months recovery. I was expecting something shorter, but since it was bugging me for a long time and we needed to fix it, we said, ‘Go ahead and let’s get [it] done and get back as quick as possible.'”

Gourde said his focus was on helping Tampa Bay win the Cup again, which they did with a 1-0 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens on July 7, and not on the expansion draft.

Seattle selected Gourde instead of forwards Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Mathieu Joseph, who were also left unprotected by Tampa Bay. The four forwards that the Lightning protected were Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli.

“It’s pretty nice to know that the team wants you that bad when there’s a lot of people that are very talented that were left unprotected,” Gourde said. “So I was fortunate enough to get picked and get drafted by them and I’m super excited. It’s going to be a great experience. It’s going to be a great challenge.” 

Gourde, who has four seasons remaining on a six-year, $31 million contract ($5.17 million average annual value) he signed Nov. 2, 2018, was a key contributor for the Lightning, centering the third line with Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. The 29-year-old scored 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 56 regular-season games and seven points (six goals, one assist) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season.

With the Kraken, Gourde likely will play on one of the top two lines, but his initial concern is getting healthy.

“As soon as I’m ready, I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’ll be skating with the boys. I’ll be battling. My priority is to help this team win. Wherever I fit in in the lineup, that’s where I’m going to go and I’m going to try to work as hard as I can to help my team win. Am I going to fit in the first week exactly where they see me? Maybe not. Maybe yeah. I want to go out there and work hard and do as much as I can to help my team win and go from there.”

Gourde, who is one of two players on the roster who has won the Stanley Cup (defenseman Vince Dunn with the St. Louis Blues in 2019), sees a collection of players he believes can compete for a playoff spot.

“I think we’re going to be a very hard-working group and when you look at a hard-working group, there’s a lot of potential,” Gourde said. “That’s the first step to success. If you work hard, you’re definitely putting yourself in a good position and we might be one of the teams that play playoff hockey during the (regular) season, just hard to play against during the season. Hopefully it leads us to playing in the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens.”

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