Carson Soucy had heard the speculation that he could be scooped up by Seattle in the expansion draft, but the defenseman still thought he'd probably stay on with the Wild.
"It never sinks in that it could be you until it actually happens," Soucy said.
Rumor became reality last Wednesday morning when Wild General Manager Bill Guerin called Soucy to let him know the Kraken selected him, the start of a new chapter in Soucy's career after meaningful strides in Minnesota.
"It's going to be hard to leave," Soucy told the Star Tribune over the telephone. "But it's still exciting to start somewhere new and start with a new team."
Soucy debuted with the Wild in 2018 after getting drafted during the fifth round in 2013, recording eight goals and 23 assists in 120 games that included 12 playoff appearances, but hockey brought Soucy to Minnesota years earlier.
The Alberta native played four seasons at Minnesota-Duluth and was an assistant captain his senior year when Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Frozen Four, falling to Denver in the championship game.
After a full season with Iowa in the American Hockey League, Soucy earned a regular role with the Wild in 2019 and was a fixture with the team ever since – including last season when he skated on a third pairing next to veteran Ian Cole.
In 50 games, Soucy set career highs in assists (16) and points (17) while continuing to emerge as a steady defender who brings size and grit to the blue line.
But Soucy's season was cut short by a rib injury that also affected his chest.
In Game 3 of the Wild's first-round playoff series against Vegas, the 6-foot-5 Soucy had an awkward run-in with a Golden Knights player and although he was sore, Soucy continued to play. But on his last shift of Game 4, Soucy shot the puck out of the zone and "overextended it."
Even though he skated ahead of Game 7, Soucy wasn't close to suiting up and would have needed at least a couple of weeks to get back in the lineup.
Now his return to action will come under the spotlight of Seattle's inaugural season.
Already, the Kraken has reached out with resources to help Soucy make the move, and the feedback he's heard about the facilities and the city has been positive. Soucy has been to Seattle only a few times, to watch the Blue Jays play the Mariners.
"I know they have a really nice baseball field," Soucy said. "That's my knowledge for Seattle pretty much."
He called it an honor to be picked in an expansion draft, and no doubt what Soucy accomplished in Minnesota – during college and with the Wild – helped set him up for this opportunity.
"It's been special being here, and I've loved every minute of it," said Soucy, who turns 27 on Tuesday. "It's going to be hard to leave, but it's still exciting to start somewhere new and start with a new team."
Five players qualified
The Wild extended qualifying offers to forwards Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov along with minor-leaguers Will Bitten, Brandon Duhaime and Mason Shaw ahead of Monday's deadline.
Dmitry Sokolov was the only player the Wild didn't qualify, making Sokolov a free agent.
By issuing a qualifying offer, the Wild retains a player's negotiation rights.
Fiala, Bitten, Duhaime and Shaw are all restricted free agents, while Kaprizov is in a unique category where he doesn't meet free agency requirements and can only sign and negotiate with the Wild. Kaprizov also can't receive an offer sheet from another team.
Fiala and Duhaime have arbitration rights. The deadline for player-elected arbitration is Aug.1
The Wild isn't hosting a development camp this year for its prospects, but the team will participate in a rookie tournament in September at Tria Rink in St. Paul with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wild re-signed goaltender Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 in the NHL and $200,00 in the AHL.
Hammond, 33, spent most of last season on the Wild's taxi squad as the team's third goalie and did not play. He went 16-12-3 with a 2.53 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 games with Rochester in the AHL in 2019-20 and is 27-15-6 in 56 NHL games with Ottawa and Colorado.