The Seattle Storm were quiet in the early going this free agency but have made some big moves in recent days that ensure quite a different look for the roster in 2021.
Of the departures, Alysha Clark left via free agency to the Washington Mystics and Natasha Howard, whose rights were owned by the Storm through the Core Designation, was traded to the New York Liberty. The Storm also traded restricted free agent Sami Whitcomb in exchange for the rights to Stephanie Talbot, who is listed on the “Suspended/Contract Expired” list.
From its four transactions on Wednesday, Seattle acquired two players: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (from the Minnesota Lynx) and Katie Lou Samuelson (from the Dallas Wings).
Seattle was able to re-sign Epiphanny Prince to a two-year deal and also added veteran Candice Dupree on a one-year contract.
Sue Bird is expected to sign in a few days now that the Storm have their 2021 cap situation sorted out.
By the numbers*
2021 Free Agents (type) (salary)
- Sue Bird (Unrestricted) ($215,000)
- Alysha Clark (Signed two-year deal with Washington)
- Epiphanny Prince (Signed two-year deal with Seattle)
- Sami Whitcomb (Rights traded to New York)
- Total salary of free agents: $215,000
- Total team salary (not including Sue Bird, includes contracts for newly signed/acquired players): $1,101,215
- Cap space: $237,785
Our original scenario:
With the assumption that Whitcomb and Howard are back with the Storm in 2021, the team will have some decisions to make about its remaining free agents. There is a way to clear some cap space as the Storm only have two protected contracts in 2021. By releasing Morgan Tuck ($115,000) and Crystal Langhorne ($105,000), the Storm could push their cap space to nearly $550,000 which would allowed them to potentially sign all of their free agents. Tuck and Langhorne are paid quite a bit for the little they provide to the club.
It is assumed that Sue Bird is coming back for another season and with the Storm looking like a team set to contend for another title, there is no reason to think she will be retiring. Bird likely is on another supermax contract in 2021, leaving around $328,550 left.
Clark is likely to receive near max offers from other teams, which means she may not be back in Seattle next season. Prince is quite possibly gone as well, in the interest of having money available in 2022 when four players, including Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, will become free agents.
The Storm could look at other options in free agency but if they want to contend in 2021, they will need to create the cap space needed to sign players that can help them now.
Clark was worth more than Seattle could pay her and Howard took the security of having a four-year, guaranteed deal now instead of playing on a big single-year contract and risking injury before cashing in on a big, longer-term payday.
The Storm, additionally, gained a roster spot from Crystal Langhorne’s retirement.
While Clark and Howard are in their prime, Seattle is clearly thinking about next year when Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd become unrestricted free agents. Herbert Harrigan and Samuelson are early in their careers and command less expensive contracts, enabling Seattle to sort out its cap space issues for this year and get a jump start on next year’s free agency. They will be given every opportunity to contribute to a team that has developed a winning culture.
Epiphanny Prince signed a two-year unprotected contract and will provide good depth in the backcourt. Candice Dupree will turn 37 in August but has shown the ability to contribute massive minutes at this stage in her career.
The Storm have managed to put together a formidable roster for this season and will have a lot of cap flexibility in 2022.